Minnesota Vikings 2011 Draft and Offseason Needs
It has been a miserable season for Vikings fans across the nation.
Brett Favre has been terrible all season long and his replacement, Tarvaris Jackson, has not fared any better. Now the team is scrambling to find a quarterback who can lead the team in future years.
The offensive line has been a problem all season long as the Vikings decided not to address anything in the offseason. With aging veterans and unproductive second year players, the Vikings could be in serious trouble very soon.
The secondary had remained the weak spot on the defense as the revolving door of safeties and cornerbacks have struggled to keep up with opposing passing attacks.
Injuries have played a huge role in the demise of the Vikings 2010 season, but it should not have led to a 5-8 record and elimination from the playoffs at Week 15.
The Vikings have some serious issues heading into the 2011 season, provided there is one.
With head coach Brad Childress shown the door midway through the season, interim coach Leslie Frazier has made the best of nothing taking a 2-1 record away from his first three weeks.
In order for the Vikings to remain competitive and not enter the dreaded rebuilding mode, they need to address their head coaching vacancy and obviously quarterback.
Find a Head Coach
Vikings fans got what they wanted after an embarrassing loss to the Packers earlier this season. Brad Childress was fired and Leslie Frazier got his chance to prove that he deserves to be a head coach in the NFL.
The players like Frazier and have played significantly better under him. It was clear that the Vikings gave up on Childress, but it never should have lead to a pathetic 3-7 start. Childress should have been fired several years ago, but we do not need to start that argument.
Frazier is a disciple of Tony Dungy and draws comparisons to the legendary coach as a calm guy who listens to his players and other coaches.
There are several coaches that will find their way on the market in the offseason including John Gruden, John Fox and Brian Billick. Although the Vikings could hand the job to an assistant from another team, would it really make the team better?
Fox is a failed coach in Carolina. The Vikings would be stupid to even consider this as an option.
Billick is on the long line of coaches who left Minnesota only to win a Super Bowl with another team. He could be a great pickup for the Vikings if he wants to come back and coach again.
If Frazier can finish the season on a high note, he should be given the opportunity to lead the franchise. The players respect him and he has been a prime coaching candidate for several teams over the last couple of seasons.
Find a Quarterback
As of right now, the Vikings are setting themselves up for a top-10 pick in the 2011 draft. The good news is, there are some quality quarterbacks that will go in the first round.
The Vikings won't likely have a shot at getting quarterback Andrew Luck, but there are other quarterbacks that may fall to the Vikings.
Cam Newton, Ryan Mallet and Jake Locker will all go in the first round if they decide to enter the draft, despite not being worthy.
Newton has only started one year of college, but he wowed the nation with his combination of accuracy and mobility. If he decides to enter the draft, he will be the 2011 version of Tim Tebow. That is to say no one knows when he'll be picked and no one will know what he is capable of at a higher level.
Locker appeared to have the No. 1 slot in the draft all but wrapped up before the season started, but he did not play as well as everyone had hoped and his stock has taken a little tumble. He still remains one of the better options on the board.
Mallett has displayed great decision making skills and shows a very high football IQ. He has a big arm, but is very slow and is not mobile whatsoever. Mallett will likely be the second quarterback taken in the draft. If the Vikings want him, they will have to move up to get him.
Currently, almost two-thirds of all starting quarterbacks in the NFL were drafted in the first round with only one drafted in the third (Houston's Matt Schaub) and none in the fifth.
If you are going to draft a quarterback, do it in the first round and get Mallett or Newton.
If you want to test the free agent market, Donovan McNabb will likely be available. I hear Peyton Manning's contract expires soon too...
Fix the Offensive Line
Bryant McKinnie, Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera are all over 30 and replacements need to be looked for.
McKinnie has had a decent season thus far after receiving an unworthy invite to the Pro Bowl last season. McKinnie is not elite by any means, but he's still a good left tackle and finding franchise left tackles are nearly impossible.
Hutchinson is aging and injuries have plagued him the last two seasons. He's still a great guard and will remain the starter in 2011. He's not in his prime anymore, but who at 33 is? He'll still be a good option for another two or three seasons.
Center John Sullivan sucks. He cannot pick up a blitz and gets manhandled on a regular basis. His legs are short and he cannot move them fast enough to anchor an offensive line. Sullivan needs to test the free agent market because he should not be on this Vikings team any longer.
Right guard Anthony Herrera has struggled over the last two seasons with injuries and thus, his play has suffered. When he's healthy, he is still not very good. He is very strong, but struggles in pass protection.
Right tackle Phil Loadholt played decent his rookie season and played horrible in the first six weeks of the regular season. In the last couple of weeks, Loadholt has played significantly better. At 6'8", you're going to struggle against small, quick defensive ends. He's only in his second year and should be given a chance to prove he is a starting caliber tackle.
The Vikings need to fix the center and right guard positions. It was a mistake to leave the offensive line alone after their horrific performance in 2009.
The first round pick should be used on a quarterback. If it's not, the Vikings need to grab Mike Pouncey. He's the best interior offensive lineman in the draft and the only one worthy of a first round pick.
It looks as if Logan Mankins will be testing free agency. The Vikings should take a long look at him and offer him a serious contract. While he has played left guard his entire career, right guard shouldn't be all that bad.
Find a Safety
Husain Abdullah was a completely out-of-the-blue choice to start the regular season at safety.
With Jamarca Sanford and Tyrell Johnson seemingly in a battle for the starting spot, Leslie Frazier picked Abdullah.
Abdullah has played well at times and terrible at others. In his first two seasons in the NFL, he was a special teams player only.
He's good enough to remain the starter, but needs to improve his hands and tackling. With an offseason under his belt as a starting safety, he can only improve...right?
Opposite Abdullah is probably the worst starting safety in the NFL. Madieu Williams received a huge contract from the Vikings in 2008 and has been the weakest link in the secondary ever since.
Williams is slow, cannot anticipate throws, cannot catch, cannot tackle and has no idea how to properly cover deep receivers.
Simply put, Williams has to go. While he still has a few years left on his contract, he needs to be cut. He is a liability that has hurt this passing defense for the last three seasons.
There won't be a starting caliber safety on the free agent market, so the Vikings have to find something in the draft.
The best the Vikings can hope for is grabbing a safety in the fourth round and grooming him. It's impossible to tell right now who they can pick, but expect a safety to be drafted immediately after an offensive lineman and quarterback.
Find a Linebacker
E.J. Henderson's recovery set a standard for injury rehabilitation across the NFL. He's not playing at the level he was before his injury last season, but the mere fact he is playing is a miracle in and of itself.
He's getting older, but E.J. is still a remarkable player and will still have a starting job next season along with Pro Bowl worthy Chad Greenway.
Greenway has had a terrific season and may lock up his first Pro Bowl nod. He is third in the league in tackles and is making some great plays in pass coverage. Forget the fact that he can't catch, the guy is a fundamental tackler who is as smart as they come.
The only problem with Greenway is his contract which expires in a couple of months. The Vikings would be foolish to let him go as he's starting to emerge as one of the best 4-3 linebackers in the NFL.
Ben Leber's performance since last season has taken a major hit. He is not receiving the playing time he once was due to the nickel packages that the Vikings employ on a regular basis. Leber is still a good linebacker, but the Vikings can do better.
Linebackers are some of the easiest players to find. There will be a few good ones that will potentially hit the market including David Hawthorne. He is a guy that Seattle will try everything to keep, but may not be able to.
In the draft, grabbing a linebacker in the fifth round and later is probably a good idea. Great linebackers are born in every round of the draft. Finding the right one for the scheme is the hard part.
Resign Key Players
The Vikings have a few players that are expected to hit free agency, but if the front office of the Vikings have any brains left, they will get a couple of them back.
Key players that could be leaving the Vikings include Chad Greenway, Ray Edwards, Sidney Rice, Ryan Longwell, Pat Williams and Ben Leber.
Of this list, the Vikings need to give a contract to Greenway, Rice and Longwell.
Edwards is a good defensive end, but will cost too much for the Vikings to keep. He has benefited from playing on a Hall of Fame line and should some team give him a rich contract, they will probably regret it.
The Vikings have Everson Griffen ready to replace him. In limited duty so far this season, Griffen has showed some tremendous potential including a sick spin move that had Aaron Rodgers tasting grass a second later.
Pat Williams is really old. If he'll sign a small contract under $3 million, good deal. If he wants more money, let him walk. Jimmy Kennedy has played well and is a much better pass rusher. If the Vikings let Pat go, they may suffer some in their run defense.
Greenway and Rice need to be re-signed. End of story. Rice has some of the best hands and jumping ability in the NFL.
Longwell is old, but his leg is still extremely accurate. For the season, he has only missed on field goal. While he is losing some of his strength, he is still on of the best kickers in the league.