That NFC Championship loss is still fresh in everyone's mind, but as painful as it may be, it's already time to start looking to the future.
The Vikings will be bringing back almost the exact same team next season, but do have a few pending retirements and potential free agent losses to be concerned about.
Obviously, whether you want to admit it or not, it all begins and ends with Brett Favre's retirement decision. And whether or not he returns for a second "go at it" could easily impact defensive tackle Pat Williams' decision.
Regardless, with both players at their respective positions over the age of 37, it's time for Minnesota to start planning ahead, for 2011 and beyond.
Read on for in-depth analysis on both sides of the ball to see where Minnesota has its biggest holes, and who they might be targeting in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Biggest Needs: C, OT, QB, RB
Aside from finding a replacement for Favre (whether or not he retires this year), Minnesota's biggest concern is adding youth and depth to an offensive line that routinely played under its talent level.
The guards appear to be set with Antony Herrera and Steve Hutchinson, but even adding a versatile guard who can play 2-3 positions would make fans feel better about this line.
Phil Loadholt is a big, strong right tackle that isn't going anywhere, while Bryant McKinnie looks like he might be slowing down a bit.
While the Vikings don't necessarily need to replace their linemen, adding some new blood is something that should definitely be in the works, especially if the 40-year old Favre decides to return.
At the 30th spot, Minnesota will have its choosing between some stud guards, and probably could have a shot at an elite tackle or to. If they bite on the line as their biggest need, they could go for Trent Williams (if available), or they could wait until the second or third round and debate over selecting either Jon Asamoah (Illinois) or J.D. Walton (Baylor).
However, if everything starts falling into place: i.e, Brett Favre and Pat Williams come back, and the Vikings get a few key free agents, they could lean back and draft their quarterback of the future. And if not that, they could replace a potentially departing Chester Taylor, while adding insurance to Adrian Peterson.
If they do go quarterback with their first pick, Tony Pike seems to be the most logical choice, as he has great size and accuracy for the Vikings West Coast offense. He would be able to make all the right, smart throws to help move the offense, while being able to let Adrian Peterson do his thing.
If not Pike, the Vikings could grab Colt McCoy if he is still available, or they could (and probably will) take their chances and grab either Dan LeFevour or JeVean Snead anywhere from rounds 2-4.
As for the running back position, Minnesota would be looking or a durable back that can catch out of the backfield and make plays, while playing as a perfect complement to Peterson.
We don't actually see Chester Taylor leaving, as he's not likely to get a starting job or even close to starter's money, but if he does leave, the Vikings will certainly have to upgrade the depth behind Peterson.
They probably will wait unti at least the third round to fill this need, and by then, most of the elite backs will be gone. However, there's a good chance that Auburn's Ben Tate or Mississippi State's Anthony Dixon would be available.
Tate is an excellent receiver out of the backfield, and would be the ideal pick of the two.
Biggest Needs: CB, DT, LB, S
Assessing the situation is very simple. Antoine Winfield is 33, Cedric Griffin just had a major knee injury (it may hinder his 2010 season), and Benny Sapp and Asher Allen are merely stop-gaps.
The Vikings secondary was already a friendly place to be for opposing offenses, so improving the speed and talent (and youth) at this position is a must.
With the 30th pick in the draft, the Vikings won't be able to grab an elite corner like Joe Haden, but could possibly land Patrick Robinson if Green Bay, who also needs corner help, doesn't snatch him first.
While the Vike's are severely hurting in their secondary with all of these things considered, the coaching staff may find it to be a bit more pressing to find Kevin Williams a running-mate in the middle of the defensive line if veteran DT Pat Williams does indeed decide to hang 'em up.
If Williams stays, grabbing a DT with the first pick isn't a necessity, although looking to the future at that pick should definitey be considered, regardless.
Dan Williams (Tennessee) and Brian Price (UCLA) are the hot names right now, and both could very well be available when the Vikings pick.
However, our thinking is that Minnesota should replace a beast with a beast, and grab 365-pounder, Terrence Cody (Oklahoma). He needs proper conditioning and a stronger work ethic, but he could be a steal, and could even possibly be had in the second round if they trade down.
Minnesota's linebacker corps is pretty solid, and is a reliable and growing unit, even if E.J. Henderson can't return from a disastrous knee injury.
Ben Leber and Jasper Brinkley are solid and can still progress in this defense, but they also aren't irreplaceable.
If Pat Williams returns and the Vike's feel okay at corner, grabbing a middle linebacker to take over for Henderson (who may never be the same), could be the right move.
Alabama's Rolando McClain, easily the best middle linebacker in this draft class, is extremely unlikely to be available at the 30th pick, leaving Brandon Spikes as the best available option for Minnesota. The Vikings could also try to convert a college OLB over to the middle, but if they land Spikes, they're still coming out on top.
The guess here is that Minnesota assesses it's holes by determining injuries and absences. What Pat Williams does and how E.J. Henderson recovers will go a long way in telling us how their draft will pan out.
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