Speaking of that final goal, AP is convinced that the Vikes are a legit Super Bowl contender this season. “We are going to have a good chance to win it this year — win everything,” he said. “Sit back and watch. Sit back and watch. You can be like, ‘I thought you guys were at least a couple of years away.’ Nope. You sit back and watch, this year.”
Minnesota finished last season 11-5, good enough to win the NFC North. They lost to the Seahawks in the first round of the playoffs, though. Apparently, adding Alex Boone in free agency, getting back Phil Loadholt and John Sullivan back from injury, and drafting Laquon Treadwell and Mackensie Alexander (among others) in the draft is enough to make Peterson think his team can get over the hump.
Dallas’ best fit: DE Charles Tapper, Oklahoma, No. 101 overall
With Greg Hardy no longer wanted and young edge rushers Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory facing four-game suspensions to start the season, the worst secret in the NFL prior to the 2016 draft was that the Dallas Cowboys needed help at defensive end.
As such, Ohio State’s Joey Bosa was a frequently projected pick for Dallas with the No. 4 overall pick. When the San Diego Chargers pulled the year’s first big surprise by nabbing him one pick earlier, however, the Cowboys opted to fill other positions of concern first, waiting until their fourth selection of the draft to address arguably the biggest hole on the roster with Tapper.
The 6-foot-3, 271 pound Tapper earned All-Big 12 accolades from conference coaches each of the past three years with First Team honors coming after the 2013 and 2015 seasons. He started 38 of 39 games during that time, recording a total of 136 tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks, setting career-highs in each category (50-10-7) as a senior.
While some have criticized Tapper’s production at Oklahoma, it is important to note how the Sooners used him. Oklahoma frequently asked Tapper to take on two blockers to create playmaking opportunities for the Sooners’ speedy linebackers rather than allow him to truly pin back his ears and attack. Assuming veteran defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli sticks with the relatively traditional 4-3 alignment he has used in the past, Tapper will likely be given this freedom off the edge, where his exceptionally long arms (34 3/8 inches) and explosive speed (4.56 in the 40-yard dash) could help him prove more of a disruptive presence in the NFL than he was ever was in college.
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett agrees.
“You could always count on Jerry Jones f–king things up,” the GM said. “That isn’t happening any longer. That’s a Super Bowl-caliber team now.”
OK, “Super Bowl-caliber” might be a bit much — the team is coming off a 4-12 record — but remember, 12 months ago, the Cowboys had finished 12-4, won the NFC East, and beat the Lions in a playoff game. The difference, of course: Dallas was without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant for much of 2015. But both will be healthy for training camp — and if it stays that way, there’s every reason to think the Cowboys will again be in the mix to win their division.
The GM agrees.
“Health is obviously the key for them,” he said. “If Romo can stay healthy, that’s an 11-win team.”
Meanwhile, Stephen, whose fingerprints are all over rebuilding the Cowboys’ offensive line into the league’s best — and who also kept Jerry from drafting Manziel two years ago — is earning respect from his peers.
“He was seen by a lot of people in football as a trust fund baby masquerading as a football guy,” the GM said. “Now he’s just an excellent football guy.”
Jerry Jones agreed. Here’s what he told the Associated Press in 2015.