Minnesota Vikings: Power Ranking the Vikings' 5 Strongest Position Groups
With the NFL draft rapidly approaching, more and more discussions surface about every team's needs.
But there aren't as many about each team's greatest strengths, or where it needs the least amount of help.
The idea came to me when I saw the latest mock draft (via ESPN.com. Membership required) from Todd McShay of ESPN and Scouts Inc. He has the Minnesota Vikings snagging Bjoern Werner with the first of their two first-round picks. Werner is a defensive end from Florida State. (McShay has Minnesota selecting California wide receiver Keenan Allen with their second first-round pick.)
This blew my mind. I understand the value in selecting the best player available. But Werner isn't the clear-cut best player at this juncture of McShay's draft, which makes this is a silly pick for Minnesota.
McShay cites a lack of depth behind Jared Allen and Brian Robison as logic for making this move, which is inaccurate. Minnesota has Everson Griffen and Viking defensive coaches appear to like D'Aundre Reed.
Defensive end is one of Minnesota's strengths and should be avoided early in the draft—maybe entirely.
This slideshow will feature four other positions (plus defensive end) in which Minnesota is very well set for the 2013 season and beyond. These are positions Minnesota should avoid in the draft (with the ranking in the slideshow title, counting down from No. 5).
Blair Walsh made the Vikings scouting department look really good looking last season.
Walsh was selected in the sixth round of the 2012 draft and made 35-of-38 field goal attempts en route to a Pro Bowl appearance. The former Georgia Bulldog also was 36-of-36 on extra points and consistently kicked touchbacks on kickoffs. (Of 89 kickoffs, 54 ended in touchbacks.)
He set an NFL record by making 10 field goals from 50 yards or deeper in as many tries.
What more could the rookie have done?
The leg strength wasn't the surprise with Walsh. That was expected. He demonstrated his leg strength throughout college and was considered to have one of the strongest legs among kickers in last year's draft.
It was the accuracy that scared most teams away from him. He missed 14 field goals (21 of 35) in his final season at Georgia, which left many wondering if he had the mental capacity to succeed. And he proved those doubters wrong.
Walsh is a mere 23 years old and barring a Mason Crosby type of collapse, he will be Minnesota's kicker for years to come.
It was surprising to not see John Sullivan's name on the Pro Bowl roster after last season.
Sullivan, in his sixth season out of Notre Dame, is the veteran on the offensive line. He has both command of the line calls and the respect of his OL mates.
Listed at 6'4" and 301 pounds, Sullivan isn't the biggest guy, but he makes up for less-than-formidable size by outsmarting his opponents (as his Notre Dame education would suggest).
At 27 years old (he turns 28 on Aug. 8), Sullivan still has three to five years (maybe more) of elite play in him. And given that the Vikings signed him to a five-year extension late in 2011, he's entrenched as the starter.
3. Offensive Tackle
The last year has been crucial to Minnesota's offensive tackle positions.
Entering the 2011 offseason Minnesota had an inconsistent right tackle (Phil Loadholt) and a left tackle better suited for guard (Charlie Johnson).
Fast forward one year and Minnesota is set on both sides of the line for the foreseeable future.
When Minnesota drafted Matt Kalil with the fourth overall pick in last year's draft, it made one of the best choice's in franchise history. Kalil has Pro Bowl written all over him for most of his career. He's tall, quick and is developing more power.
He needed help to get there, but Kalil started off his career with a Pro Bowl appearance. How many more will he get? The sky is the limit.
Loadholt regressed in 2010 and 2011 before a resurgent 2012 forced the Vikings to pay up. They rewarded Loadholt for surpassing his 2009 performance with a five-year contract worth over $5 million per year.
With Kalil only one year into his career and Loadholt, who's missed one game in his four-year career, locked up, the starters at this position are set for some time.
2. Running Back
Without a doubt, no questions asked the Vikings have the best running back in the game today.
No one else can hold Adrian Peterson's jock strap. It's not that the rest of the running backs are that bad. It's that he's that good.
Peterson's coming off one of the best running back seasons in NFL history. He fell nine yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's record for most rushing yards in a single season. He combines power with speed, acceleration with elusiveness. Picking up the blitz on third down is about the only thing he struggles to do.
Minnesota inked Peterson to a seven-year $100 million extension in the fall of 2011. He should finish his career donning purple and gold. At 28, he has two more seasons before he reaches the 30-year-old milestone, which is when many running backs start to regress.
For the record, Peterson isn't most running backs. So who knows when or if he'll regress.
Behind Peterson is Toby Gerhart, who had high expectations entering 2012 but for the most part disappointed. He is a free agent after 2014, but barring a trade, he is a more than capable backup with potential to still become more than someone who spells Peterson on occasion.
The Vikings have one of the best backfield situations in the league.
1. Defensive End
It's tough to top a positional group that features Adrian Peterson, but the Vikings' defensive ends take the cake.
It's a manner of combing quantity with quality.
Brian Robison and Jared Allen form one of the game's best duos at defensive end.
Allen has been named to five of the past six Pro Bowls and hasn't recorded fewer than 11 sacks since 2006. He combines talent with high effort to be one of the best at his position. At 31 years old (April 3 is his birthday), some worry that his age will begin to show. But, even with a bum knee and a torn labrum, he still recorded 12 sacks last season.
Robison has filled in seamlessly for Ray Edwards across the line. He's not as strong as Edwards is against the run, but he is a better pass-rusher. He's recorded 8.0 and 8.5 sacks in his first two seasons as a full-time starter. At 29 (he turns 30 on April 27) and with limited wear and tear prior to the past two seasons, he still has plenty in the tank.
If those two weren't enough, Everson Griffen is laying in the weeds behind them waiting for his chance to pounce on extended playing time.
In limited time last season Griffen recorded 8.0 sacks and a pick-six. Griffen has four years of NFL experience under his belt and at 25 (he turns 26 in December) he should be entering the prime of his career these next few years.
Griffen's presence could allow the Vikings to deal Robison or Allen down the road to fill a need position.
Beyond those three resides D'Aundre Reed. Reed was a seventh round pick in 2011, but at 6'4" and 260 pounds, he is regarded as an athlete who, with just a little more seasoning, could be an impact player.
Why would the Vikings waste a first-round pick at this position?