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Krauser's Roster Analysis and 2014-16 Mock (starting OL p.3)
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Krauser


Joined: 20 Apr 2013
Posts: 2128
PostPosted: Wed Jan 01, 2014 4:18 pm    Post subject: Krauser's Roster Analysis and 2014-16 Mock (starting OL p.3) Reply with quote


Home of the NFC North Champions, 2016

I've said elsewhere that I think the Vikings are in the middle of a rebuilding project that started in 2011.

The previous version of the team peaked in 2009 and collapsed in 2010 despite a last-ditch attempt to extend the window one more year. Very little was in place at that point for long-term success. Only a handful of the players on the 2009 team (Peterson, Sullivan, Loadholt, Robison, maybe Greenway or Guion) are likely to be wearing purple in 2014, and very few others (Harvin, Allen, maybe KWilliams and Rice) will even be in the league anywhere else.

This has been a complete rebuild.

It started badly, too. Ponder was the wrong pick, in the wrong round. The 2011 draft was little use, only Rudolph and Fusco look like long-term starters in the league.

I think the transition got off to a bad start in part because the break with the past wasn't clear enough. Extending the TOA structure with Frazier for a year was a mistake. Having Spielman as GM and Frazier as HC both answering independently to ownership was another mistake. Whatever you think about Spielman as GM (I'm a fan), it would've been better to give whoever the GM was sole control of the team in early 2011, including hiring his own coach. I'd hold the Wilfs responsible for not turning the page more definitively when they first had the chance.

Having said that, I think there's a lot to be said for the approach that's been taken with the rebuild, even if you can fairly argue with the results. The Vikings since 2011 are following the draft-and-develop model that has resulted in long-term success for many franchises. Greg Jennings is the only high-profile FA signed in 3 years, the rest of the talent has come through the draft. Salary cap management has been solid, the team is in great shape there going forward. The current roster is young, and about to get even younger as the veteran group on defense is disbanded. They already have some very talented young players to build around.

The main goal now is to fill the remaining holes on the current team and establish a pattern of mostly homegrown starters and emerging depth/developmental players that can lead to consistent success.

A reasonable timeline for seeing that success would be 2016. Five years (2011-15) should be enough for a rebuilding project, even one of this magnitude. The Vikings should be a strongly competitive team by the time the new stadium opens, able to win the division and make some noise in the playoffs.

I'll be putting together a series of posts analyzing the current roster position by position, with a focus on the ages and contract situations of current players. This will hopefully bring into clearer focus where resources should be devoted over the next few years. I'll outline a couple of possible strategies for making improvements to each position group, then I'll put together a few draft/FA strategies (focusing more on balancing competing goals than the specific players chosen) to accomplish that.

Of course, none of this analysis will hold up to real life. The new coaches will no doubt re-imagine the team in ways that will be hard to predict. I've also excluded some of the more dramatic scenarios (trading Adrian Peterson, switching to a 3-4 defense) from this analysis.

I'll post one section every few days, linked from this post. Your comments are welcome.

...

Analysis of current roster by position group, with projected changes by 2016

p. 1: QB, RB
p. 2: FB, TE, WR
OL

DE
DT
LB
CB
S

STs

Strategies for improvement


Last edited by Krauser on Sun Jan 19, 2014 12:44 pm; edited 5 times in total
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Krauser


Joined: 20 Apr 2013
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 01, 2014 5:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Should also say that I'll rely heavily on Sportrac for long-term contract details, KFFL for FA availability, PFF for player grading, and my own memory for events. Corrections welcome.
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Krauser


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 01, 2014 5:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

QB depth chart

Matt Cassel
age 31
under contract until 2014 (option voidable on either side)
cap hit $3.7M in 2014, no dead money

Christian Ponder
age 25
under contract until 2014
cap hit $3.2M in 2014, all dead money if cut

Josh Freeman
age 25
UFA

Analysis

Start with Freeman, that's the easiest. After a great season in 2010 and several excellent games in 2012, he has completely fallen apart as a QB. One theory was that coach Schiano and the toxic (literally) situation in Tampa Bay had ruined him, but his performance in Minnesota and the unheralded Mike Glennon's reasonably productive rookie season with the Bucs makes it look like Freeman was the problem there after all.

Freeman's game against the Giants was the lowest graded PFF game by a QB (-10.8) since they started charting in 2008. He also set a record for the highest number of overthrows, missing open receivers all over the field. The Vikings reportedly were working on his mechanics, but given the recently reported problems with his work ethic in Minnesota (last to arrive and first to leave, late all the time), it seems unlikely that that coaching has done him much good.

Spielman was reportedly a fan of Freeman dating back to the 2009 draft. The Vikings will have the first chance to negotiate a new contract with him, but it's hard to believe they'll want to keep him or he'll want to stay.

Likely 2014 status: FA signing elsewhere

...

Ponder's situation is also fairly straightforward. He's a bust as a starting QB. At best, he can limit mistakes and make enough plays as a game manager to win, but his ceiling has always been low and he's been mistake-prone whenever he tries to make things happen. There might be some upside long-term if he ends up in an ideal situation (good coaching, balanced team with a good defense), but there's no reason to expect that. He should make a reasonably good backup QB long-term.

There's a persistent idea among some Vikings fans that Ponder played most of the year because of Spielman's support. I don't think that's supported by the evidence, I think Frazier was the only reason he got to start again after the Browns game. With Frazier gone, Ponder can see the writing on the wall and has been quoted as saying that he will look to go elsewhere for another chance as a starter.

How will that happen? The Vikings will need depth at QB this year and could conceivably keep Ponder around in 2014. They will obviously draft a QB this year and will need a veteran for depth, mentoring and maybe to start the year. Cassel is better suited for all 3 roles (better starter, less injury prone, more successful and experienced as a mentor). Ponder's not too expensive as a #2 but he'd be way overpaid as a #3. The only reason to keep him is if Cassel leaves (see below) and they can't add a better veteran in FA.

If Ponder's heading out, it would be far better to trade him than cut him, given the cap hit. He'd be no worse than an average backup QB, probably worth a late round pick for a team with an older or more expensive backup to upgrade that position for a year.

Likely 2014 status: Traded for a 6th round pick
Possible 2014 status: Kept as 2nd/3rd QB (particularly if Cassel leaves)


...

2013 turned out about as well as could be expected for Matt Cassel. His reputation leaving Kansas City was terrible, and would have only gotten worse by comparison as Alex Smith was given too much credit for the Chiefs improvement this year (which should have gone to their defense and Andy Reid). In Minnesota, Cassel looked good by comparison to Ponder, and very good by comparison to Freeman's flameout on national TV.

Cassel wasn't great last year but he did a few things well: made quick reads and got the ball out on time, usually accurately. He enjoyed considerable good luck with fumbles and batted balls that didn't come back to haunt him until the Bengals game. He looked overmatched against great defenses (Bengals, Panthers, Seahawks) but played well the rest of the time.

Cassel's stock may have improved somewhat, but I'd be surprised if any team in the league looks at his body of work over the past few years and imagines him as their starting QB in 2014. Any team except the Vikings that is -- there's a very good chance that they will draft a QB, but the rookie may need several games or even the first year to play as a backup to a veteran, and Cassel would be a respectable choice in that role.

Cassel will have the option of voiding the last year of his contract and seeking a new FA deal. I don't know if he'd get much more money than the $3.7M the Vikings are due to pay him (Ryan Fitzpatrick got a deal for a similar amount in 2013, and put up similar stats), but he might get another year or two of job security.

I don't see much of a good reason for the Vikings to void their side of Cassel's contract. They could conceivably try to find a different veteran stopgap (Vick might be available), but the upside over Cassel would be uncertain, and that would likely cost more money. I don't see them bringing in Cutler if he's available or otherwise paying huge money for a potential long-term starter at QB in free agency.

Best deal for both sides is if Cassel stays in Minnesota, with a plan to let him compete with a rookie as the starter. That could easily be a 2 year commitment (the Vikings are unlikely to bring in a 2nd rookie QB any earlier than 2015, maybe 2016). So I think they should negotiate a new 2-3 year deal with similar terms as the last one (voidable option on 2015 and any additional years), for a modest raise (~$4M per year).

Likely 2014 status: Competing with rookie for starting QB spot
Likely 2015-16 status: Backup QB in Minnesota

...

Summary:
2014: Cassel, maybe Ponder
2015: maybe Cassel
2016: probably none
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Uncle Buck


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 04, 2014 10:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've really enjoyed reading your posts since you joined Football's Future, Krauser. I can't wait to see what you come up with on this one. Smile
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vikingsrule


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 04, 2014 11:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Uncle Buck wrote:
I've really enjoyed reading your posts since you joined Football's Future, Krauser. I can't wait to see what you come up with on this one. Smile


Agreed, Krauser knows his stuff and puts great effort into all of his posts. Very Happy

I am looking forward to seeing what you come up with.
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Boda


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 04, 2014 12:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Agree with both UB & VR. I've been patiently waiting for the next installment in this Smile
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wcblack34


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 04, 2014 12:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I believe that trading Ponder is really wishful thinking. Heck, Anquan Boldin was only worth a 6th round pick. Granted there were salary concerns, but I don't think that anyone could argue that Boldin isn't worth more than Ponder on pretty much every level. No sense in giving up a draft pick for a bad QB in the final year of his rookie deal.

We may cut him, but I don't see any way that he's traded.
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Krauser


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 04, 2014 12:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

wcblack34 wrote:
I believe that trading Ponder is really wishful thinking. Heck, Anquan Boldin was only worth a 6th round pick. Granted there were salary concerns, but I don't think that anyone could argue that Boldin isn't worth more than Ponder on pretty much every level. No sense in giving up a draft pick for a bad QB in the final year of his rookie deal.

We may cut him, but I don't see any way that he's traded.


You might be right.

He does have some value as a cheap backup and may still have limited upside as a starter (spot starter at least).

Whoever traded for him would be position to negotiate a longer deal, and if he left after 2014, would get a comp pick in return assuming he latched on as a backup elsewhere. A team planning to go ahead with a relatively unproven young QB this year (Glennon in TB? -- why hello, Coach Frazier) could pick him up as insurance in case the young guy flames out.

Even if we have no plans to play him next year (Cassel either doesn't opt out or negotiates a new deal here, and we draft a QBOTF), cutting him doesn't help anything, though we could probably afford the cap hit. In that scenario I'd have him come to camp and keep him on the roster, maybe a big QB injury (like Rodgers this year) would suddenly increase his value halfway through the season.
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rpmwr19


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 04, 2014 1:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would not assume that Ponder would fetch a compensatory pick if he left a team as a free agent.
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Krauser


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 04, 2014 1:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

rpmwr19 wrote:
I would not assume that Ponder would fetch a compensatory pick if he left a team as a free agent.


Point gladly conceded.
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Uncle Buck


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 04, 2014 2:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Even though it may make sense to keep Ponder in some scenarios, I just really don't want to see him starting another game for us. I'm so done with him.
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CriminalMind


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 04, 2014 3:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agee with a 6th Round swap for Ponder.
Cheap backup QB who is there to be a backup.
No drama for new team & only a 1 year commitment.
Its a fair valuation.

I also agree with Cassels being on roster for 2014 (starter) & 2015 (backup) seasons
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Krauser


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 04, 2014 4:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

RB depth chart

Adrian Peterson
age 28
under contract until 2017 (he'll be 32)
cap hits: $14.4M 2014, $15.4M 2015, $15M 2016, $16M 2017
dead money: $4.8M 2014, $2.4M 2015, none in 2016-17

Toby Gerhart
age 26
UFA

Matt Asiata
age 26
ERFA

Joe Banyard
age 25
under contract until 2014
cap hit: $495K

Bradley Randle
age 23
signed reserve/future contract


Analysis

Work up from the bottom:

Randle looked quick in TC and preseason. Small guy, might eventually fit in as a 3rd down back. He'll likely be a practice squad player next year, already signed for that, details unknown.

Likely 2014 status: Practice squad

...

Banyard was also promising in preseason, had one nice run in particular. Of the backs at the bottom of the depth chart, seems the mostly likely to be a starting RB someday. Played a little on special teams as the depth chart got thinned by injuries late in the year. Already under contract, likely sticks with the team next year (I'm not a cap wizard but I think they'd have to eat the cap hit to cut him and sign him to the PS).

Likely 2014 status: On roster as backup RB

...

Asiata is a bit more complicated. He supposedly fits in as a RB/FB.

He got pressed into duty as the feature back when both Peterson and Gerhart went down. Was terrible against the Eagles, had a decent game against the Lions.

I wouldn't trust his stats in that game at all: the Vikings OL dominated against a Lions DL that looked like they'd already mailed it in for the year. I wasn't impressed with what he did as a runner, missed some open holes, wasn't explosive or elusive. He looked good because the OL dominated, that's it. By the numbers: Asiata forced only 2 missed tackles in 44 rushing attempts across the two games (~4%), contrast that with Peterson, 58 MTs on 278 attempts (~20%) and Gerhart, 14 MTs on 36 attempts (~40%). I really suggest we don't end up with Asiata as the starting RB again, as long as the games mean something.

Asiata was also bad as a pass blocker. He allowed 3 sacks and 1 hurry on 25 pass blocking snaps (pass block efficiency of 85%), tied for 14th worst on PFF's long list of ~150 RBs who pass blocked at least once this year. The other Vikings RBs were considerably better: Peterson 93%, Gerhart 95%. The other FBs were in the 90s too, except for Zach Line, who scored a perfect 100%. You might also remember Asiata allowing a sack on the red zone possession in the preseason game in Buffalo.

He didn't really get the chance to play FB. It's worth pointing out that Zach Line played that position over Asiata when Felton was unavailable at the start of the year.

Asiata did play pretty well on special teams, recording 2 tackles and 2 assists with only 1 missed tackle.

Asiata's ERFA status means the Vikings can offer him a veteran minimum 3 year deal, take it or leave it. Since he will be going into his 3rd season, that would be a contract for ~$650K.

Is he worth retaining? I doubt it. Based on this year alone, he's not good enough to rely on as a RB the next time Peterson gets injured, and he's not good enough to beat out our 3rd best FB (Felton, Ellison, Line) as a FB.

I rather suspect the Vikings will keep him and let Gerhart go, but I'll argue below that that's the wrong choice.

Likely 2014 status: Re-signed, #2 RB
2014 status I'd recommend: Not re-signed

...

Toby Gerhart is a good RB. In 2013, he finally showed the breakaway speed and power that landed him 2nd in the Heisman voting in 2010. Ended up with a YPC of 7.9, very high scores on PFF's Elusiveness Rating and Breakaway stats. Gerhart's lifetime YPC is 4.7 running behind the same line where Adrian Peterson has averaged 5.0 (NFL average was 4.2 this year). He's considerably better as a ball carrier than replacement level.

He's also a decent 3rd down back: a very reliable pass blocker (though he gave up the sack that led to the fumble return for TD in Cincinnati) and an outlet/screen receiver who knows where the sticks are.

About the worst thing about Gerhart's game has been fumbling. He has 7 fumbles on 276 carries (~2.5%); despite AP's well publicized struggles with fumbling, he's only had 31 on 2033 attempts, 1.5%.

The bad news is that Gerhart is stuck at 2nd on the depth chart behind the best RB of his generation. With his rookie contract ending, that has led to the widespread understanding that he will move on looking for a starting job.

I think the Vikings should make him a decent offer to stay.

To be more precise: as long as they plan to continue using a power running scheme (which might change with some offensive coaches preferring spread concepts), they should plan to have a 2nd legitimate starting RB behind Peterson.

Why? AP's going to get hurt again. He's missed 7 games over the past 4 seasons, and he isn't getting any younger. Peterson's under contract until 2017. Even if he stays in MN for the rest of it, a conservative estimate for the number of games we should plan on having a different starting RB would be 12. This year would have been a great example of the value of having Gerhart on the team, but he got hurt at the same time as Peterson -- bad timing.

Long-term, I think the Vikings will want to start limiting Peterson's carries, move to more of a RB by committee approach. Gerhart would be a good foil for AP as long as they stay with a similar power running scheme (and I'll argue in the TE/FB section that they probably will). It'd be no surprise if Gerhart has at least 4 years left, he's the same age as Asiata and only 1 year older than Banyard.

What would it cost to keep him?

He may not attract much of a contract offer elsewhere. The RB position continues to be devalued, and there's a glut of available FAs, many of them also coming off their rookie contracts (though most with more of an injury history).

I think it'd be worthwhile offering him ~$2M a year plus incentives (a similar value to what we paid Simpson and Sanford this year). By making the contract as long as Peterson's (4 more years) and including more guaranteed money (and whispering that we'll be planning to give him 8-12 carries a game in the seasons ahead), he might find it attractive to stay.

The trouble is, with Peterson's big contract, there's no way to justify paying the backup RB more than any other backup RB in the league. As long as someone wants to give him a better deal with a chance to start, he's gone.

Likely 2014 status: FA signing elsewhere (despite my wishing otherwise)

...

I'm not going to say too much about Adrian Peterson. The smart take is that he's already just about over the hill, and if he isn't overpaid yet, he will be soon. The possibility of trading him has been coming up often.

The fact is, he's the face of the franchise. I'd put the chances of him being in the starting lineup on opening day 2016 in the new stadium at >95%.

Peterson's contract will be a problem going forward, but not soon. Barring multiple splashy FA signings (which would run against the draft-and-develop approach we're following), the Vikings won't start to get into trouble with the cap until 2016, when the very successful 2012 draft class will need extensions (definitely Kalil, Smith and Walsh, probably Wright, Ellison and Cole, possibly Robinson, Blanton or Childs).

One reason why it might be good to keep Gerhart as a 1A and try to establish a RBBC is that it might be easier to limit Peterson's mileage and stats in a way that would justify renegotiating him for his last year or two. If he becomes a 250 carries for 1200 yard back (while Gerhart gets 120 for 500), it would make sense to rework his deal for less money, all guaranteed, so he can retire a Viking. AP would also stay healthier in that scenario, might be able to play an extra year or two at the end of his career.

Likely 2014-17 status: Starting RB

...

Summary:
2014: Peterson, Asiata, Banyard
2015: Peterson, ??? (depends on development)
2016: Peterson, ??? (depends on development)

Ideally:
2014: Peterson, Gerhart, Banyard
2015: Peterson, Gerhart, RB3
2016: Peterson, Gerhart, RB3


Last edited by Krauser on Sat Jan 04, 2014 8:09 pm; edited 2 times in total
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rpmwr19


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 04, 2014 4:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tiny nitpick but Banyard's contract it's guaranteed. There is no dead money in it.
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Krauser


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 04, 2014 4:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

rpmwr19 wrote:
Tiny nitpick but Banyard's contract it's guaranteed. There is no dead money in it.


Maybe I misunderstand dead money, but wouldn't his full contract amount count against the cap if cut? That's what I was trying to convey.
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