Every time I write a piece about the Vikings regarding their 2011 season, they all have one thing in common: missing pieces to the puzzle.
The 2011 season, as we all know, was nightmarish for Vikings fans. A 3-13 record was the worst since the early 1980s; it just seemed the Vikings could never pull a win together.
As I have mentioned before in previous pieces about the Vikings, their 2011 team wasn't nearly as bad as their putrid 3-13 record portrayed.
There is a wealth of young talent on this team, but there are certain pieces to the puzzle that are just missing; pieces that are essential to winning games.
With the the NFL draft less than four weeks away, Vikings GM Rick Spielman better draw up an excellent game plan to put together a good draft class, because it could make or break the Vikings in 2012.
Here are the round by round crucial positional needs of the Minnesota Vikings in this year's draft.
Well, who better than left tackle Matt Kalil out of USC?
It's been reported by multiple media outlets that the Rams are planning to trade their second overall pick in the draft, which doesn't come as a major surprise considering they already have a young QB in Sam Bradford.
The Vikings are aching badly for production on the left side of their offensive line. Charlie Johnson certainly under-performed last season, which came as a surprise with how successful he used to block for Peyton Manning.
With the Rams potentially trading their second overall pick, then Kalil will almost assuredly be available. The Colts are highly projected to select Andrew Luck with the first overall pick, and whoever the Rams trade their second pick to is likely going to select QB Robert Griffin III.
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder displayed great mobility and accuracy at times last season, but was often under duress from his blind side (Charlie Johnson).
No if, and's or but's here, Johnson needs replaced at the left tackle spot. Considering an offensive tackle is a great need of the Vikings, a good decision would be to draft Kalil third overall.
The one thing that the Vikings were hurting so badly from last season was more offensive playmakers.
Needless to say, Percy Harvin was the Vikings offense in 2011. Adrian Peterson was plagued by injuries and bad offensive line play, so Harvin was the go-to-guy.
If you don't believe me, Harvin caught 87 passes last season. The next highest total to that was 38 passes caught by Michael Jenkins.
Not only does Christian Ponder need a new left tackle to prevent him from eating dirt every other play, he needs another playmaker that he can utilize and trust to make plays.
In the second round, many premier receivers will be off the board, so I can only assume who will be available.
LSU wide receiver Rueben Randle comes to mind as a potential player in the early second round that will still be available.
Randle has very good size at 6'3", 210 lbs. Many projected him as a late first-round pick, but disappointing showings in the 40-yard dash (4.55) and vertical jump (31 in.) may drop him into an early second-round pick.
In my opinion, those workout numbers shouldn't have a lasting effect on a player's stock. Rueben Randle is a talented football player; if he's available in the early second round, choose him.
The Vikings had one of the worst pass defenses in the league last season, largely due to a combo of injuries and a highly inexperienced secondary.
Even with a healthy Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin coming back, they've both shown proneness to injury, and it doesn't exactly help Winfield that he'll be 35 this year.
With that said, a cornerback is of high priority.
I debated for the longest time whether the Vikings should seek out a corner in the second round rather than the third, but ultimately I feel another receiver is needed more than a corner at this current moment in time.
If available in the third round, the Vikings should select Brandon Boykin out of Georgia.
Boykin is quite underrated as not only a corner, but as a return specialist. In his senior season, he recorded nine pass break-ups, three interceptions and two forced fumbles. He also had three touchdowns offensively.
Boykin doesn't have a lot of size at 5'9", 182 lbs., but he is very scrappy and can provide very tight coverage. As previously mentioned, as well, he is a special teams beast. In three seasons at Georgia, he averaged 25 yards per kick return along with four touchdowns.
The Vikings currently have a relatively young core of linebackers, with E.J. Henderson and Chad Greenway leading the way defensively.
Henderson, although, is a 31-year-old unrestricted free agent who has battled injury for quite sometime now. It is unknown whether Henderson will return in 2012.
With that, the Vikings may want to add a linebacker via the draft. If Henderson is gone in 2012, the Vikings don't have anyone of substance to replace him with.
Tank Carder from TCU would be a logical choice, that is if he's available when the Vikings pick in the fourth round.
Carder has good speed and size for a linebacker. In 2011, he had a slow start to the season with the Horned Frogs, but picked up his game and finished with 70 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss.
He was named 2011 Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year.
Carder would fit very well as a middle linebacker in a 4-3 scheme, which is what the Vikings run defensively. With his excellent size, and great tackling technique, he would be a good replacement for Henderson.
After safety Husain Abdullah suffered his fourth concussion in two years last season, he contemplated retirement after being placed on IR in late November 2011.
Doctors assured Abdullah that his latest concussion wasn't career-burdening, so Abdullah (as a free agent) has shown interest in returning to Minnesota.
The Vikings lack a lot of talent at the safety position, so after Abdullah went down last season, there wasn't a reliable safety that could patrol the deep secondary.
Firstly, the Vikings need to re-sign Abdullah, he is the clear-cut best safety Minnesota has. He recorded 49 tackles and an interception before going down last season.
After the Vikings re-sign Abdullah, they need to plan to select a safety with a mid to late draft pick, because guys like Tyrell Johnson and Jamarca Samford aren't going to cut it.
If available, the Vikings should look at safety Tavon Wilson out of Illinois.
As a Big Ten football fan, I understand what Wilson brings to the table, and really his numbers speak for how good of an athlete and underrated player he actually is.
In 2011, he had 74 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and five pass break-ups. Wilson also recorded one interception and a forced fumble. Not only do these stats entail Wilson's ability in the secondary, they also show his level of capability at coming down on the run.
At this point in the draft, the Vikings (hopefully) will have selected the missing pieces to their puzzle from 2011. So, in essence, the sixth and seventh rounds are used to find any remaining pieces of gold at the bottom of the ocean.
If I were GM Rick Spielman, I would pursue another wide receiver at this point in the draft. You've already filled all of your needs, why not add some much needed depth at a crucial position?
If wide receiver Greg Childs is still available at this point, I would pursue him.
Childs had a very quiet year for Arkansas in 2011, only snaring 21 passes for 240 yards. His lack of production in 2011 may have been lingering effects from a knee injury endured during the 2010 season.
He came back into old form a bit in the Cotton Bowl versus Texas A&M, and showed good flashes in the East-West Shrine practices.
Childs stands at 6'3" and weighs 219 lbs. He would be a great threat down the field and in the red zone. And like I said, at this point you really can't make a wrong selection.
Hey, kickers need some lovin' to you know?
Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell is one of the best in the NFL, but who knows how many more seasons he'll be in the league?
Longwell is 37 years old and just completed his 15th season in the NFL. Fact is, he'll be retiring in the near future, so why not bring another kicker in?
Kickers don't get drafted very often, so if Texas A&M kicker Randy Bullock is available, nab him.
Bullock won the Lou Groza Award in 2011 for being the best kicker in the nation, hitting 25 of 28 attempts (.89). Bullock even hit a 52-yard field goal against Texas.
He's a little guy at 5'9", but has quite a big leg. The Vikings are notorious for their little kickers with big legs (Gary Anderson).