1. Which Minnesota Viking draft pick were you most excited about and who do you think will bring the most immediate impact in the coming season?
JJ Benz: It’s hard not to answer Dalvin Cook for both of these questions. But for conversation sake I will go a different way. I am pretty excited to watch Bucky Hodges play this year. A TE that runs a 4.5 40 should present a lot of mismatches and at 6’6” he could be an instant red zone target. The player that I think will have the most immediate value this upcoming season is Zach Elflein. The Vikings had to play musical chairs last year with the O-line and a guy like Elflein has the versatility to fill any of the interior line needs.
Kras: I would have to say that JJ Benz take is pretty spot on here except I’m going to stick with Dalvin Cook for the first part of this answer. Cook was a projected 1st rounded and even top 10 pick in some cases up until the week of the draft. Although trading up likely wasn’t on most Vikings fans’ wish lists, I think it was the right move to get a guy who can help start to fill the void left by Adrian Peterson’s departure. The person who figures to have the most immediate impact in year 1 will be Zach Elflein. With all the injuries and inconsistencies the Vikings had last season on the O-line anyBODY will help. If Elflein can be a staple on the o-line for this club this season, it will be a major step in the right direction. Elflein along with the Mike Remmers and Riley Reiff should be the start of a much more productive O-line for the Purple.
2. How would you grade Rick Spielman and the job he did in the 2017 NFL Draft?
Nate Leer: I’ll give Spielman a B+ for the draft. I was not a fan of moving up because it meant giving up picks in a talent laden draft. That said, the Vikings did not have to give up a lot to move up and grab Cook, a 1st round talent most years. Spielman was also able to trade up in the 3rd round to get a quality interior O-lineman in Elflein who could start right away at C or G. Spielman made a total of 7 trades that netted the Vikes 11 total picks. In a deep draft. That meant they were able to get players who may be able to contribute at many “need” positions this year including excellent values in TE Hodges and DL Jaleel Johnson. I would have preferred to get better talent at DB and even LB but a team is rarely able to fill all of its needs in one draft and the upside of Cook makes this a good looking draft.
JJ Benz: I would have to give Rick Spielman a B for the job he did in the 2017 draft. I believe they filled most of their needs. However, I believe that every franchise should draft a QB in every draft and we didn’t take one. I would have taken Chad Kelly with one of the 7th rounders just because it’s such low risk but has the potential to be a great asset. We will see in around 2 to 3 years what the true grade will be.
3. Is Miguel Sano blossoming into a superstar?
Kras: I think it is safe to say that Sano is the closest thing this team has to a superstar and I believe he is on the cusp of doing great things for the Twins. Sano has been electric over the span of this season so far and even more so in the past couple weeks. For every problem that Byron Buxton has ran into to start this season, Sano has found something to improve his game. I believe his more serious and ready approach entering the season coupled with his move back to 3B has made for the perfect storm for Sano to step in and have a huge season. One huge season in what should be one of many moving forward for the young star.
Nate Leer: Yes! The player Sano is most often compared to is Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera. That comparison is looking more and more accurate. Like Cabrera, Sano is a big 3B who has to keep his weight in check if he wants to continue to play that position. He has struggled at times early on in his career both on the field and off, particularly being moved to the OF last year and struggling with the transition to being famous and having money, both situations Cabrera went through. Now for the positive comparisons: Sano is becoming a more selective hitter which accentuates his tremendous power and is learning to use the whole field like Cabrera. Sano looks to be developing into the kind of power hitting star the Twins desperately need. Here’s hoping the man continues to mature personally and professionally.
1. Which team do you feel did the most with their picks in the 2017 NFL Draft?
Kras: I am going to make the case for Cleveland and their brass on doing the most with their draft picks. It sure did help that they ended up having 3 picks in the 1st round but it was still up to the ownership and management to make quality choices, which I felt they did. I was happy to see them select Myles Garrett #1 overall versus taking a QB there. The gamble in my opinion is too great to take the risk on one of the QBs in this draft. I was equally impressed and jealous about them landing versatile DB Jabrill Peppers. Overall, Cleveland filled some major holes on the D side of the ball while also adding a viable QB option in Deshone Kizer with their 2nd round pick. Cleveland has a long road to travel before we will know for sure how these guys will pan out but, on paper, it looks like a productive weekend for Cleveland and their fans.
Nate Leer: I think the clear winners are the 49ers. Being able to move back 1 spot from #2 overall to #3 netted them extra picks this year and next. That was a great move on their part. Then they got lucky and capitalized on it by watching LB Reuben Foster fall to the end of the 2st round and trading back up to get him. With #3 overall pick DL Solomon Thomas, Foster and 3rd round DB Ahkello Witherspoon, San Fran has jump started the rebuilding of their D that was elite not too long ago but has fallen on hard times. GM John Lynch handled the draft process like a veteran front office person by not reaching for a QB as a couple other teams did and taking the best talents available. Looks like the 9ers are on the upswing.
2. Who is one player that went higher than you expected and one player that went lower that expected in the 2017 Draft?
Kras: For me the player that went higher than I anticipated would be QB Mitchell Trubisky. This has more to due with the fact that I didn’t think the Bears would trade up to get him than it does Trubisky’s abilities to play football. The player that I was surprised to see fall and that went lower than expected was RB Dalvin Cook, who fell all the way to the 41st pick, the 9th of the 2nd round. I think the Vikes got a great talent at a great value. That said, Joe Mixon was pick #48, which was the pick the Vikes traded out of to move up and get Cook. It will be interesting to watch both those guys play it out this season to see who got the better first year value.
Nate Leer: Kras nailed it with both of his examples so I will go to the next guys in my mind for each: QB Pat Mahomes (higher than expected) and LB Reuben Foster (lower). I like Mahomes talent but was surprised that he went in the top 10, especially to the Chiefs. It will be cool to see how Mahomes develops learning under head coach Andy Reid and veteran QB Alex Smith. Mahomes couldn’t ask for a much better situation. However, the Chiefs had to give up a lot to move up from #27 and they could have used all that ammunition to build up a team that looks like a competitor. As mentioned previously, Foster’s fall landed him in San Fran at great value. Foster has some baggage but nothing too severe. His talent should have gotten him drafted much higher.
3. With a 2-0 series lead over the Washington Capitals, are the Pittsburgh Penguins the new favorite to win the Cup?
JJ Benz: I really don’t think that you can name the Penguins the favorites until they have taken care of the Capitals. On the other hand, the Penguins have looked like the most dominate team in the postseason and are the defending champs. Year after year, teams that win the Presidents trophy (most wins in the regular season) get bounced early in the playoffs. I am beginning to think that the regular season should be treated much like the preseason – win enough games to make the postseason and rest guys.
Kras: Given the 2-0 series, lead I would personally think it is the Penguins Cup to lose. The Pens have made Braden Holtby look average so far this series and have had the best play of any of the Eastern Conference teams. Outside of the Ducks in the West, I think the Pens have a fairly clear path to another Cup barring a brilliant comeback by the Capitals. When Matt Murray went down, it seemed like it might be a problem for them but Marc Andre-Fleury has stepped in and helped out while allowing the rest of the team to get to full strength. From this point forward, advantage Pens.