5 Players the Minnesota Vikings Should Draft in 2014
With so much talent stashed on this roster, the issues for Minnesota this season have been a combination of poor coaching, lethargic play at the quarterback position and a defense that has been shredded to the tune of 406.5 yards per game.
With the playoffs out of the picture, it's time to examine how this franchise can turn things around quickly. Using next year's NFL draft as our weapon of choice, this list of five players the Vikings should draft in 2014 was constructed.
From the pursuit of a franchise quarterback to finding ways to improve on the defensive side of the ball, it's time to start the slideshow below and get things underway.
*All stats courtesy of ESPN.com unless noted otherwise.
Johnny Manziel, Quarterback, Texas A&M
Hands down, the biggest priority for the Vikings this offseason will be landing themselves a franchise quarterback.
With NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport telling the NFL Network that quarterbacks Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman aren't in the team's future plans, the search for a competent signal-caller could come down to next May's draft.
As it stands right now, heading into Week 16 with a 4-9-1 record, the Vikings have been straddled with the eighth pick in the 2014 draft. At that rate, it's a distinct possibility that collegiate quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr will be off the board.
Without those guys floating around, one of the brightest prospects left could be Texas A&M starting quarterback Johnny Manziel.
For Minnesota, drafting Manziel represents a chance to infuse this offense with a truly dynamic playmaker. But the question becomes, will general manager Rick Spielman and his team be willing to mortgage the franchise on such a polarizing quarterback?
When you watch Manziel on tape, you notice that most of his issues stem from him trying to do too much at times. Whether he's throwing across his body or scrambling around and not setting his feet, it's clear that the man they call "Johnny Football" still has a lot of work to do if he wants to excel in the NFL.
But it's his unique ability to win football games, combined with his uncanny awareness and sensational instincts, that makes him such an intriguing prospect.
Put in a good situation with offensive talents like Adrian Peterson, Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson surrounding him, and it becomes pretty exciting picturing Manziel rocking a purple uniform for the next 15 years or so.
Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
A player who absolutely belongs on Minnesota's radar this offseason is Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix III.
After South Bend Tribune beat writer Eric Hansen reported that Nix suffered a season-ending knee injury late in November, the focus immediately shifted to this young man's ability to recover. Luckily, just a few short weeks later, Liz Mullen of Sportsbusinessjournal.com tweeted that Nix had signed with an agent and was prepping himself for the 2014 draft.
From a skill set standpoint, Nix has the potential to be an absolute terror at the NFL level. Weighing 340 pounds, this young man has shown on film that he can obliterate offensive linemen whenever he wants to. Combine that ability with his unique quickness and athleticism, and you have yourself a player who could greatly improve this Vikings defense right away.
With CBSSports.com projecting Nix to be first-round pick, the Vikings would have to hold off on drafting a franchise quarterback early if they fell in love with the Notre Dame bruiser.
Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
One of the more intriguing defensive prospects in the 2014 NFL draft is Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier. A linebacker playing in the body of a strong safety, Shazier finished his junior season with 103 solo tackles.
What sticks out most about Shazier when you put on the tape is that he consistently finds himself near the football. With such strong instincts on the field, the Vikings would be crazy not to take a look at this young man in next year's draft.
Although he's only listed at 6'2" and weighs just 230 pounds, don't write him off because he's perceived to be a "small" linebacker. As NFL Media analyst Charles Davis points out, just a few years ago San Francisco 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman was once a 232-pound prospect coming out of Penn State.
If he enters the draft, it's still a mystery where he will end up getting selected. While CBSSports.com has Shazier projected to go in the first round, Drafttek.com has him falling into the third round.
For the Vikings, all that matters is that they make sure to keep an eye on this explosive linebacker next May.
Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
Voted by the Associated Press as the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, University of Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat had a fantastic year getting after the quarterback.
Even though Jeffcoat is a player who seems to have a knack for slipping into the backfield, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller wrote that NFL teams aren't high on his ability.
If he winds up falling into the latter part of the draft, Jeffcoat would be a fantastic addition to a Vikings team that could potentially lose pass-rushers Jared Allen and Everson Griffen in free agency next year.
For all of the great things he does on the field, the main issue with Jeffcoat is that at times he struggles to come up with different ways to beat opposing offensive linemen.
But blessed with a lanky frame and a fluid first step, Jeffcoat would give the Vikings the ability to use him in various situations. Whether he's standing up or putting his hand in the dirt, if this team wants to add an experienced defensive player oozing with potential, Jeffcoat would be a welcomed addition.
Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
If he decides to leave school early, a name that might get overlooked on draft day is Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan.
Racking up 44 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, the 6'2", 292-pound defensive tackle has played an integral part in Florida State's tremendous 2013-14 season.
A player who brings a lot to the table, watching Jernigan on tape, you notice right away how physical he is at the line of scrimmage.
While he has work to do when it comes to his technique, Jernigan has shown that he possesses the strength and explosion needed to excel at the next level.
With Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams set to hit free agency at season's end, adding a prospect like Jernigan to play alongside Sharrif Floyd would be an excellent decision by the front office.