The NFL Draft Daily continues its coverage today on the Minnesota Vikings, just a day after paying out a huge contract to one of their own, it is time to now determine their approach in May’s draft. Not many fans in Minnesota expected to see their team fall to the bottom of the division after a playoff appearance the year before, but Sunday’s are unpredictable every season. The 2012 reigning Most Valuable Player, Adrian Peterson, sputtered all season long, fighting off nagging injuries throughout the whole year. The quarterback position took the Vikings fans on a roller coaster ride as starter Christian Ponder was underwhelming under center, Josh Freeman had one of the worst Quarterback Ratings ever when he played the Giants, and Cassel proved to be inconsistent with his performances. Rest assured though, their offense was not the only issue on the year.
The Minnesota Vikings defense ranked dead last in points allowed, and ranked second to last in pass defense. Not too mention the defense allowed four game winning drives in the final seconds for opposing teams. The division winning Green Bay Packers won the division with a 8-7-1 record; if the Vikings had not allowed the game winning drives, they might have been atop their division. Minnesota needs to fill holes on all phases of the defense. The only defensive tackle remaining on the roster is Sharrif Floyd, the remaining are now all free agents. The linebacker core is in question, with young talent trying to fill the voids, with Chad Greenway the only liable starter on the strong side. The secondary for the Vikings was decimated by injuries last year. Potential star safety, Harrison Smith, was knocked out half the year with a turf toe injury; while starting corners Chris Cook, Josh Robinson, and Xavier Rhodes all missed time throughout the season. Minnesota must find consistency and productivity in the secondary in order to compete in the NFC North division.
The key position in the NFL has haunted the Vikings for years on end. Minnesota has not had a productive quarterback since Brett Favre, and have not drafted a productive one of their own since the likes of Daunte Culpepper. They signed the grizzled veteran, Matt Cassel, back to the team with a two year deal, which may allow them the needed time to coach up a potential drafted quarterback. With Teddy Bridgewater going to Jacksonville and Johnny Manziel being drafted before the Vikings select previously covered in NFL Draft Daily’s recent articles, there is only one more quarterback remaining from the top three, and that is Blake Bortles. Bortles has the prototypical size of a QB standing at 6’5, and reminds many experts of a young Ben Roethlisberger. His ability to extend plays is non coach-able, and his arm strength is good enough as long as he can improve on his reads and progressions. Bortles impressed many with his mentality to compete at the combine, something that neither Bridgewater or Manziel chose to do. Traits General Manager of the Vikings, Rick Spielman, has stated that he likes to see out of these young men, competition.
Minnesota has many options going forth in the later rounds if they chose to go with Blake Bortles in the first. An upgrade at the strong safety position would be nice, and/or a defensive back if the Vikings chose not to address that position in free agency. Kyle Fuller out of Virginia Tech or Bradley Roby out of Ohio State could be decent options at the corner position. Another sleeper in this draft at the safety position is Deone Bucannon out of Washington State. The hard hitting safety is known for delivering punishing blows to running backs and receivers alike, while also being a natural ball hawk in the secondary, having collected 14 interceptions in his four years in college. Either way for the Vikings they have key positions to fill before Mike Zimmer’s team can compete in the division. Making noise during the free agency period is one thing, but drafting the right players for your scheme is another. The Vikings have drafted extremely well in the past two years, and many Minnesota fans can almost guarantee another.
NFL Draft Daily is a daily series which provides analysis, insight, and predictions leading up to the NFL draft and beyond.
Commentary by Justin Huffman