Vikings aim to once again strike gold in NFL Draft
The 2013-2014 season was one to forget for the Minnesota Vikings. Coming off of a playoff season, with a 2,000 yard running back, the downfall was a true disappointment for Vikings fans.
The team went 5-10-1 in a season that forced Leslie Frazier to lose his coaching job.
With a next to last pass defense that could not close a game last season, and a head-scratching quarterback carousal, Minnesota should be foaming at the mouth this coming draft.
The Vikes have the 8th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, and are rightfully optimistic about their options and goals for the season.
New head coach, Mike Zimmer, brings a tenacity that Frazier lacked. The Vikings are clearly looking for a more vocal coach this time around.
Zimmer is all about defense, coming from a much improved Cincinnati D that he led over the past years. Since his hiring, Zimmer has been prepping the defense for the coming year.
The addition of cornerback Captain Munnerlyn from Carolina will surely help out the depleted Vikings’ secondary. Munnerlyn should be a great teacher for the other young corner in Minnesota, Xavier Rhodes.
One of the draft needs that the Vikings will be scrambling to fill is also that linebacker position. This league now requires solid linebackers to both stop the run and cover the pass.
With a large assortment of options to choose from with the 8th pick, one possibility could be drafting linebacker C.J. Mosley from Alabama. Mosley would definitely compliment Pro Bowl leader Chad Greenway at the position.
Of course, the loss of Jared Allen is something any team would struggle with. Allen was undoubtedly the go-to pass rusher and sack leader for the team. With Allen crossing over to the dark side of Chicago, the defensive line takes a serious blow.
If the Vikings do not acquire DT Aaron Donald from Pittsburgh, they may address that need in the later rounds. Either way, a linebacker and pass rusher are top targets on coach Zimmer’s wish list.
If the Vikings decide to wait until a late round for a defensive lineman, all is still well. The contracts given to Brian Robison and Everson Griffin solidify a solid future for the Vikings’ front line. The added lineman would simply strengthen the young group. With rumors of 12-year veteran Kevin Williams considering retirement, the defensive front line is absolutely on Zimmer’s radar.
Take note, this draft pick up would not be an insult to DT Sharrif Floyd. Floyd was drafted in the first round last year by the Minnesota Vikings. The team is still helping Floyd mature and strengthen his ability on the line. This offseason, Floyd has been working out intensely and dropping serious weight.
While the defense continues to beef up from a year of mediocrity, the offense needs just as much work in key areas.
The draft can catapult this young Vikings squad into the postseason if the picks fit into the system.
While no one in the NFL doubts that All Day Adrian Peterson is the best runner in the game, injuries are always prevalent. Even Adrian has had his fair share of bumps, bruises, and breaks.
New offensive coordinator Norv Turner has always enjoyed two back running systems, behind a solid quarterback. With Toby Gerhart moving on to the Jaguars, the need for a number two behind Adrian is evident.
Even though this year’s draft is more wide receiver heavy than running back, there are still some good 2nd and 3rd round options for a legitimate back.
Thankfully, for the Vikings’ sake, the team is not looking for a starting back. Auburn’s Tre Mason or Florida State’s Devonta Freeman are both guys that look as if they could fit into Minnesota’s system with Turner at the helm.
Then comes the elephant in the room. Arguably the biggest reason the Vikings have been unable to make that Super Bowl run. The need for a franchise quarterback has reached desperation mode.
The Vikings and their fans know they cannot keep plugging in an old veteran quarterback, hoping it will work for a couple years. The quick fix has to go. So does Christian Ponder.
Ponder was given the past season and a half to prove himself, and he has failed. Early in the week it was announced that the Vikings will not pick up Ponder’s 2015 option.
Therefore, when it comes to the draft, the Vikings organization has understandable anxiety when the thought of taking a QB with the 8th pick comes up. After all, Ponder was the 12th pick in the 2011 draft.
General manager Rick Spielman desperately wanted Ponder to work out as the franchise QB, but it just does not look promising. Spielman is notorious for making other great draft picks however.
Recent studs like Matt Khalil, Kyle Rudolph, Harrison Smith, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Blair Walsh are some of the premiere names that Spielman lobbied for.
With experts note that there really is no immediate franchise QB in this year’s draft, uneasiness inevitably stirs within the organization. Matt Cassel is not the long term answer. And it is disrespectful to Adrian Peterson by wasting the best years of his talent without an offensive leader.
The best possible option for the Vikings, when addressing the quarterback need, would be Alabama’s AJ McCarron. If the dominos fall in place for Minnesota, McCarron could fall to them in the second round.
It would be a longshot in my mind to think the Vikings would take a shot on Johnny Manziel or Teddy Bridegewater. However, if the Vikes do take a QB with the 8th pick, it would most likely be Blake Bortles if the opportunity presents itself. The buzz around Minneapolis shows that Bortles is the clear favorite among the best QBs available in this year’s draft.
Keep in mind, with all these needs, the Vikings know it will not all come from the number 8 pick. Minnesota is absolutely open to falling back some spots in the first round if it means picks in the later rounds. Minnesota has been great in recent years in capitalizing with late round picks.
No matter the order, expect these positions to be filled by the Vikings in the draft.