Reggie Ragland helped lead Alabama to the National Championship, and could provide another piece of the defensive puzzle for the Minnesota Vikings.
NFL Network chattering cranium Mike Mayock opened a few eyes with his remarks from the combine about what the Vikings should do with the #23 overall pick in April’s draft.
According to Mr. Mayock, the Vikings would do well to once again target a linebacker. And yes he has a specific linebacker in mind , Reggie Ragland of Alabama (via Vikings.com):
"“Reggie Ragland to me is a top 20 pick. What you have to do in today’s NFL…you’re in sub packages 70% of the time. So your nickel (CB) is a starter. Who are you taking off the field? Are you taking a defensive tackle, are you taking an inside linebacker? Who’s coming off the field? Reggie Ragland rushes the quarterback well enough and can cover well enough that I don’t think he’s coming off the field.”"
Mayock appears to be absolutely in the tank for Ragland and will not stop talking about him.
Before you go shooting down the idea of drafting a linebacker in the first two rounds for a third straight year, consider this:
Eric Kendricks showed flashes last season but still struggled in coverage and was not the most reliable tackler in the world. Reggie Ragland also has sideline-to-sideline range, is a reliable tackler and has shown the ability to cover. Kendricks possesses more raw speed.
Prior to Kendricks being inserted at the Mike, head coach Mike Zimmer noted that the linebacker probably figures best as a Will. Reggie Ragland can play the Mike and is best-suited to the Mike. Drafting him would let you slide Kendricks to the Will, likely his ideal spot.
The Vikings’ biggest defensive weakness last season was in run defense. Reggie Ragland is viewed as a potentially very good run defender who hits hard.
Ragland was trained at Alabama, a place that knows a few things about developing defensive players, and is regarded as a good leader.
Surely you can make a case that linebacker is not the biggest need for the Vikings, but if Ragland is the best value pick available at #23, the Vikings may elect to go that way. A linebacker corps of Anthony Barr, Reggie Ragland and Eric Kendricks with Ragland taking over nickel duties could be very formidable indeed.
One additional tidbit: Peter King has also signed off on Ragland, calling him one of the few NFL-ready talents he’s seen at the combine.