Minnesota Vikings' Team Report Card: Pre-Draft Edition
Well, we're closing in on the 2009 NFL Draft, a huge event for all 32 teams in the National Football League, the Vikings being no exception. Minnesota owns the 22nd, 54th, 86th, 158th, 221st, and 231st picks in this years draft.
The Vikings made the playoffs after winning the NFC North last year. They were eliminated by the Eagles in the first round.
Last year, the Vikings relied on well-traveled veteran Gus Frerotte for the majority of the year. He did an admirable job, but even in his prime he was a below average starter. The Vikes let him walk this offseason.
Tarvaris Jackson still has potential, but he is not the answer. I don't think Jackson will ever be an adequate starter, and it is time for the Vikings to move on.
Sage Rosenfels was brought in for a fourth round draft pick this offseason. Viking nation hopes he can be atleast an adequate starter, capable of taking the pressure of the defense and running game.
Draft Forecast: With the addition of Rosenfels, it seems as though the Vikings will wait at least one more year to devote a high draft pick at QB. A late-round developmental option is possible, but not likely.
Adrian Peterson had some trouble holding on to the ball by the end of the season. This needs to be fixed, but Peterson is a hard worker and I would expect it to be fixed.
Chester Taylor was an above average starter two years ago. His value comes on passing downs. He is a great veteran to have around to spell Peterson.
Draft Forecast: At most, the Vikings may look for a return specialist late, along the lines of Devin Moore out of Wyoming or Marcus Thigpen of Indiana.
The free-agent signing of Bernard Berrian played big dividends last year. He was a consistent deep threat with Frerotte under center.
Sidney Rice seemed to regress last year. Hopefully this was mostly due to injuries. Progress is needed from him.
Bobby Wade is a dependable threat from the slot. His veteran leadership helps as well.
Aundrae Allison's progression stagnated last year at receiver, while his return abilities dipped.
Darius Reynaud and Jaymar Johnson produced marginally in their first years.
Draft Forecast: The Vikings could go receiver as early as round one. It is a certain first round need whether Rice pans out or not. In the first round, Darrius Heyward-Bey (Maryland), Kenny Britt (Rutgers), or Hakeem Nicks (North Carolina) would fit.
Brian Robiskie would be a good fit in the second if they wait. If the Vikings wait until the third, they should take Brandon Tate (North Carolina) for his receiving and return skills.
Visanthe Shiancoe made progress last year. He is still greatly overpayed, but he was not as horrible as the year before.
Jimmy Kleinsasser was re-signed and for good reason. He is a great blocker and a fan favorite.
Draft Forecast: The Vikings would love to take a good pass catcher in the second or third, but have more pressing needs. Hopefully, fans will be content with Shiancoe, Kleinsasser, and the young Garret Mills for another year.
Steve Hutchinson is one of the best free agent signings of the last decade. His guard spot is as solid as can be.
Mount Mckinnie is still a solid starter, but his off-the-field issues, coupled with his declining play mean the Vikings should start looking to the future.
Veteran Matt Birk left for the Ravens this offseason. Sixth-round pick John Sullivan seems to be the replacement. I like the look of Sullivan. He'll have a rough start, but I'm confident he can become a solid starter.
Anthony Herrara took a step backwards after signing a new contract last year. He was playing better by the end of the year however. He should be a solid starter and an above-average run blocker.
Ryan Cook needs replaced. The Vikings even started journeyman Artis Hicks last year until he got injured. Cook could move back to center, which he played in college, if and when a replacement is brought in.
Hicks is a solid depth guy that can push Cook or Herrara if need be.
Draft Forecast: The Vikings should go right tackle early to replace Cook. Ebon Britton (Arizona) or Phil Loadholt (Oklahoma) would be great additions here. Also, Max Unger (Oregon) could be looked at with the 22nd pick.
He is versatile and could start at center, right guard, or right tackle.
Just like in the regular season, Adrian Peterson is the only thing making this grade respectable. Hopefully, the addition of Rosenfels will make foes respect the passing attack. Reinforcements at receiver, right tackle, and possibly center would pay huge dividends.
Jared Allen was completely worth the hefty price the Vikings paid. He was near the top of the league in sacks once again. He played through injuries and epitomized the toughness the defense played with last year.
Ray Edwards had five sacks, but he was playing on one of the most talented defensive lines in the league. He needs to show great improvement. I'm not sure he's capable.
Brian Robison is a solid backup but is not a starter by any means.
Draft Forecast: Ideally, the Vikings would bring in an elite pass-rusher to play across from Allen. Unfortunately, there are more pressing needs. They could go with a situational pass rusher late, a la Will Davis (Illinois) or Styker Sulak (Missouri) in the later rounds.
Kevin Williams is one of the most dynamic athletes at defensive tackle in the league. He is young, can pass the rusher, and can stop the run. He is a franchise player every team looks for.
Fat Pat is getting old, but is still one of the best D-tackles out there. Another quality free agent signings.
Fred Evans is an underrated backup. He can rush the passer, which is perfect for when Fat Pat needs a blow.
Draft Forecast: After using a draft pick last year on developmental player Letroy Guion, I doubt the Vikings look to this position early this year.
Chad Greenway became an above average starter on the weak-side last year. He is still young and very athletic.
E.J. Henderson was lost for most of the season last year, and it was obvious how important he was to this team. He is a tackle machine with great instincts. The Vikings need him to come back healthy.
Ben Leber is an underrated starter on the strong-side. He is experienced and a solid all-around starter. He is getting older, so a future replacement could be brought in.
Depth is almost non existent on this unit. The loss of Henderson highlighted this.
Draft Forecast: The Vikings could look at a strong-side backer in the third round. Cody Brown (Connecticut) would be a good pick at that spot.
Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin both signed extensions this year. Winfield is the playmaker and a terror in run support. Griffin is also great in run support and showed progress in coverage later in the year. He is a solid starter.
Marcus McCauley completely fell off after a solid rookie campaign. He is a non factor at this point.
Charles Gordon played solid before suffering a season ending injury.
Draft Forecast: Depth is lacking at this position. The Vikings need a player that can start at nickel right away, while also pushing Griffin AND be the heir to Winfield. Minnesota should look corner in the second.
Darius Butler (Connecticut), DJ Moore (Vanderbilt), Sean Smith (Utah), and Jairus Byrd (Oregon) would all fit in the Vikings cover-two.
Madieu Williams was another good free agent signing. He missed the beginning of the season with injury. He is an above-average starter going in to next season.
Veteran Darren Sharper was let go this offseason. His leadership will be missed more than his diminishing range and playmaking skills. Second-year pro Tyrell Johnson should be able to step in and start after gaining a lot of experience last year.
Not much depth to speak of here.
Draft Forecast: The Vikings need depth and could address in the fifth round or later. Courtney Greene (Rutgers) should he fall to the fifth, has starting potential. If the Vikes wait, CJ Spillman (Marshall) or Trimane Goddard (North Carolina) should be available late.
The Vikings have above average starters at almost every position on defense. Help in the secondary, a natural pass rusher, and depth at almost every position are the most pressing needs.
Special Teams: D+
After EJ Henderson, the most impactful long-term injury may have been special teams ace Heath Farwell. Longwell is as solid as they come, put punter Kluwe has poor hangtime and routinely outkicks coverage. The coverage teams are poor at best.
This unit cost this team games last year. Absolutely atrocious.
The only thing holding this grade up is the fact the Vikings lucked into the playoffs. The offensive playcalling was very predictable and ineffectual.
The special teams cost the team games, which has to fall on the coaches.
Leslie Frazier is the lone bright spot. He is an up and coming coach that could get a head coaching gig as soon as next year.
So that's my summary. All in all, if the Vikings add a few new pieces, they could be challengers next year, but there window is closing.
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