What Minnesota Can Do (in 2009) To Become an Elite NFL Franchise

Brian WagnerCorrespondent IMarch 7, 2009

Well, the general consensus around the football world—especially us Vikings fans—is that the Minnesota Vikings are a team that is “built to win now."

While I am not the biggest advocate of the “built to win now” theory—and the expansive, subjective ideas that go in when defining it, I do understand that the Vikings fall into this classification.

However, it seems they just can’t eclipse one certain—and important—degree for success.

With the exception of two or three seasons in the past decade, the Vikings have often been looked at as a team that is built to win now.

But wouldn’t a team that is built to win now, eventually win? Not the Vikings. They have consistently failed to reach the pinnacle of success in many facets; whether it be the Super Bowl, playoffs, or division titles. We saw it in 1998. In 2000. And all the other years where getting to the playoffs and losing in the second round just didn’t cut it.

For the upcoming season, there are many transactions that could be made to further the Vikes’ advancement to success.

They have already failed to re-sign Matt Birk and to pick up a guy like T.J. Houshmanzadeh. But with the draft coming up, and other free agent prospects still on the market, here is a simple yet sophisticated To-Do list for the Vikings to complete that may allow them to become one of the NFL’s elites.

NFL Draft Prospects

As we anxiously approach the days of the NFL Draft, there are just a few position concerns that NEED to be taken care of immediately to turn the success around in the organization.

Other than an iffy quarterback situation (that could be fixed in April), a dominating right offensive tackle would be a big plus and a big need. Some young defensive tackles to replace/backup the “Williams Brothers” would also be a strategic tactic.

But don’t be surprised to see the Vikings pick an explosive playmaker in the draft. We could easily see Percy Harvin available at the 22nd pick, while Derrius Heyward-Bay from Maryland will also most likely still be around. They could make immediate impacts with the offense and special teams, with game-breaking speed.

Here a few prospects I think the Vikings should take with their 22nd pick (and the second and third rounds in this year’s draft, seeing if they are still available.

Round 1

Josh Freeman, QB – Kansas State

Although I would hate to see the Vikings have another QB on their roster that isn’t a top-10 caliber player, like a Peyton Manning or Tom Brady (Yes, I know they are hard to come by), Freeman could quickly develop to become a stud.

As it now, the Vikes have two quarterbacks (Sage Rosenfels and Tarvaris Jackson) who are in the bottom half among the league. Freeman has been compared to a Daunte Culpepper with his skill set, and wouldn’t be a bad choice for the draft. We all know how much success Culpepper was in Minnesota.

Try a few pro-bowls and second in MVP voting.

Vontae Davis, CB – Illinois

Davis is an athletic freak at corner and will make an immediate impact in the NFL. The Vikings have a good situation at corner with Pro-Bowler Antoine Winfield and up-and-comer Cedric Griffin. But nonetheless, Davis will be put into situations where he can play, while simultaneously learning from the best.

Peria Jerry, DT – Ole Miss

Jerry came out of his shell this past season by putting up excellent beyond excellent numbers. He is no doubt one of the top defensive tackles on the board—and shows a lot of potential. One concern with Jerry, though: Inconsistent play in college.

Other Possibilities:

Percy Harvin, WR, KR – Florida
Derrius Heyward-Bay, WR/KR – Maryland
Michael Oher, OT – Ole Miss
Brian Orakpo, DE – Texas
Alex Mack, C – Cal

Round 2

Robert Ayers, DE – Tennessee

Ayers is a physically intimidating defender. With a mix of speed and strength/power, Ayers could have a chance to start immediately with Minnesota, barring a remarkable comeback with Kenechi Udeze, lining up opposite of Jared Allen. That’s a duo!

Nate Davis, QB – Ball State

Sorry to throw in another QB option, but Nate Davis reminds me a lot of a Joe Flacco from last year. He has the physical skills—including a ROCKET arm, and really has the potential to be a great pro. Look out for him, Minnesota, if he is still around at this point.

Fili Moala, DT – USC

If they don’t obtain a DT in the first round, Fili Moala would be a great pick for the Vikings. He had a great college career at USC, has a tough-built frame, and can learn from the solid Williams brothers with this opportunity.

Other Possibilites:

Phil Loadholt, OT – Oklahoma
Max Unger, C – Oregon
Clint Sintim, OLB – Virginia
Alphonso Smith, CB – Wake Forest

Round 3

Alex Boone, OT – Ohio State

As a right OT to go along with LT Bryant McKinney, Boone can provide a stable, consistent play for years. He’s a monster on the field, and has shown great potential for NFL success.

Cornelius Ingram, TE/WR – Florida

While the Vikes are looking pretty good right now at tight end with Shiancoe, Ingram has the potential to only rise in the NFL. He missed all of last year’s season with injury, and would be a lot higher pick if he played. He has speed, and shows a lot of intangibles on the field. He was one of Tebow’s favorite targets, other than the amazingly versatile Percy Harvin.

Nic Harris, OLB – Oklahoma

Harris is a converted safety, so you know he brings some speed to the field. A hard hitter and smart defender, Harris would be a joy for the Vikings to have.

Other Possibilities:

Antoine Caldwell, C – Alabama
Derrick Williams, WR – Penn State
Ricky Jean Francois, DT – LSU
Macho Harris, CB – Virginia Tech

Rest of Draft -- 5th-7th Round Picks (4th was traded to Houston)

P.J. Hill, RB – Wisconsin
Corey Irvin, DT – Georgia
Jaison Williams, WR – Oregon
Rhett Bomar, QB – Sam Houston State
Terrence Moore, S – Troy
Jeremy Childs, WR – Boise State

Looking at it, there are more ways the Vikings could go with their picks than soda options at an AM/PM Convenience Store, especially in the first round. Being the 22nd pick means a lot of mixing and matching will be going on during the draft.

But, this gives a good look at what the Vikings need to take note in, in terms of positions skill and depth.

Free Agency/Offseason

The Vikings have already made minor splashes in this year’s offseason.

Acquiring Sage Rosenfels from the Texans for their 4th round pick brings more energy and tougher competition for the battle to snag the starting job at quarterback.

Although I believe this is just adding another “league backup” on the team, he could provide competition for T.Jack and allow Jackson to see his potential, and hopefully reach it, as well. We will see. I am sick of hearing that “the Vikes need a quarterback that can manage the game”.

Here’s a thought: Why not grab someone who can change the game!? That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

The news of T.J. Houshmanzadeh got fans excited with the possibility of having a game play receiver—an electric position that has been lacking since the departure of Randy Moss, who has rejuvenated more than an Energizer battery.

However, again, the Vikings lost out on signing T.J.; and once again, getting SECOND place.

Other than the NFL Draft, there are few more possibilities that the Vikings can still pursue to improve their squad for next year.

Terrell Owens’ recent departure from the Dallas Cowboys brings an interesting thought to the table. Although he brings teams headaches like 20 two-year olds being babysat by a teenager, he is a freakish athlete that wants to win. He is definitely a possibility for the Vikes to look at.

I’m, however, not an advocate for it. I am a person who believes in the value of a team. Everyone contributing in the ways that make them special. Teams win with philosophies revolving around those messages, not the antecedent. (See the Rooney Family and Steelers, not the Owens and Jerry Jones’ run team of the Cowboys)

By looking at the draft and the many angles of offseason transaction opportunities, the Vikings have opportunities to make a play for the best.

I would rate their offseason score a B- so far, but they can change it all once the likes of the pro prospects in April roll around.

This will give those recruiting directors and front office moguls something to churn their mind with.

Hopefully, now that there is some consistency set in place, the Vikings can utilize their cap room and maximize their potential.

With just a few more minor yet significant holes to patch up, the Vikings can make a run for the Super Bowl. And not one like the Cardinals did this past season. (I see a one-and-done situation developing with the departure of Haley and Anquain Boldin)

Watch out, Colts. Patriots. Ravens. Steelers (Notice: all AFC teams): The Vikings are one or two moves away form becoming your inter-conference enemy.

Hopefully this year’s offseason will be the push. Hopefully. But, honestly, probably not. 


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