Regardless of how well a team has done the previous year, they've found value in undrafted free agents, late-round picks and castoffs from other teams.
The New England Patriots are well known for this, and recently Victor Cruz has received attention for the New York Giants.
Other elite teams, like the New Orleans Saints, will take a flyer on injured or undrafted players who end up becoming critical parts of their team (Drew Brees and Jed Collins come to mind).
To fantasy players, the most familiar player who meets this criteria is Arian Foster, a productive running back for the Houston Texans. Regardless, the key point is that all teams will find vital players from unexpected locations.
As a team with many more needs than other elite teams, the Vikings will need even more to maximize value wherever possible.
For many observers, the Vikings seem to be doing just that.
The Vikings have taken a number of low-risk gambles in the free-agency market, targeting players who have shown signs of high upside but whose price tag has taken a hit for whatever reason. Jerome Simpson has been impressing at camp, displaying good route intuition and excellent adjustment to thrown balls.
Similarly, John Carlson had been doing well before his MCL injury and is expected to return to form by Week 1, if not earlier.
Some balk at his contract, which averages out to $5 million a year, but the Vikings have protected themselves by creating exits and elevators in the contract, instead of front-loading it.
Chris Carr has been a good veteran in camp, and the Vikings were able to put him, Simpson and Bowman on one-year "prove it" contracts. So far, Carr and Simpson have (as far as we can tell in camp).
The team has also done well identifying potentially good journeymen like Tyrone McKenzie and CB Reggie Jones. They've made an impact, and both of them have been able to take second-team snaps instead of splitting third-team reps.
We already know about McKenzie, but Reggie Jones deserves some attention as well. Over the past several days at camp, he may have been the most surprising and has recorded several interceptions against the second team and pass deflections against each offense.
He has been able to change his cornerbacking style since his time at Portland State, and he is much more physical than many expected.
Only the Vikings' newfound depth in the secondary and Sherels' skill as a punt returner prevents Jones from making the team.
The Vikings have a pair of undrafted rookies that have been doing well, and will certainly find themselves working for a professional team in 2012, even if it's not the Vikings.
DE Ernest Owusu is on the outside looking in, but he has been impressive in one-on-ones as well as against the third string. His high motor has served him well and drawn some praise from observers.
The other undrafted free agent is CB Bobby Felder, who has shown good positional sense as well as skill with punt returns. Felder hasn't seen as much time as Reggie Jones on the second team, but he has taken a rep or two there while being fairly impressive as a third-stringer.
The Vikings are still waiting for a wide receiver to emerge from the undrafted ranks, and they have their eye on talented return man Bryan Walters and speedy Nick Taylor. While neither might be considered gems at the moment, they've been showing good form for undrafted rookies.
At times, both of them have rotated through second- and first-string snaps and have beaten some of the mid-level members of the Vikings secondary to make plays. They are certainly performing above their predicted talent, and the team did well to sign them.
Finally, the Vikings have been doing a good job of identifying starting-caliber players late in the draft. Many questions are asked of fifth-round draft picks Letroy Guion and Jasper Brinkley, but both have gained more focus in this camp than they have in previous camps, and have made good plays—plays we did not expect a few years ago.
Trevor Guyton and D'Aundre Reed certainly look like they're panning out, and despite what look like misses with late-round linebackers, the Vikings have turned out better than not.
For the most part, the Vikings seem to be hitting with the low-risk prospects and that has been evident as camp moves forward.
The Vikings will need to continue to find surprisingly talented players in low-cost situations if they want to maintain success in the long-term.
They've started off on the right foot.