Was there a more disappointing team from the 2010 NFL season than the Minnesota Vikings? You could make a case for the Dallas Cowboys or Cincinnati Bengals, but I happen to think that neither comes close to matching the broken dreams and dashed hopes that was the Vikings' 2010 season.
After an NFC Championship game appearance in the 2009 season, most expected the Vikings to at least make one more run at the Super Bowl in Brett Favre’s final season. And the result...a 6-10 disaster filled with ugly media scandals (Brett Favre), ugly quarterback play (Brett Favre) and ugly confrontations with the coaching staff (Brett Favre). Okay, so not everything that went wrong was Favre’s fault, but he was the poster boy for a disastrous and forgettable year.
Other problems included a midseason coaching change, Sidney Rice missing over half of the season (and being generally ineffective), the Randy Moss fiasco and Adrian Peterson wearing down.
In any case, new coach Leslie Frazier and the rest of the Vikings organization have some work to do in regards to addressing last year’s issues in the 2011 draft.
Quarterback – Quarterback remains the biggest issue going into 2011 for the Vikings with Favre retired, Tavaris Jackson as a likely casualty of Frazier’s new regime and Joe Webb not even in consideration for the starting QB job. Whoever the Vikings draft, there’s a strong chance that it will be a Sam Bradford-type situation where they’re thrown into the fire immediately. With Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert likely gone by the time the Vikings pick at No. 12, candidates are Cam Newton or Jake Locker.
Both of these quarterbacks have tremendous athleticism and running ability, both have tremendous arms, and both players are inconsistent passers who weren’t asked to make a whole lot of reads in college. The NFL Combine will shed some more light on which player the Vikings are leaning more towards.
Wide Receiver - If the Vikings can’t pay free agent Sidney Rice’s asking price, they’re definitely going to need help at wide receiver. Percy Harvin flourishes in the No. 2 role, while Bernard Berrian just didn’t get the job done last year. Troy’s Jerrel Jernigan is one possibility if the Vikings decide to go for a small guy who can stretch defenses vertically. They might also opt for size in a later round and could take somebody like Indiana’s Tandon Doss, who is 6’3″, 200 pounds and doesn’t get jammed at the line of scrimmage easily.
Safety - This has been a weak spot for the Vikings ever since Darren Sharper left the team. This being said, there are plenty of safeties available in the middle rounds that the Vikes could scoop up. Iowa’s Tyler Sash is a fairly quick safety who can make it to deep balls and sniff out running plays; he is definitely a prospect for the Vikings in the second or third round.
Assuming the Vikings decide to address safety early, they could grab the best safety prospect available in DeAndre McDaniel. Aside from being fooled by play-action every now and then, McDaniel is a tremendous athlete that could shore up one of Minnesota’s safety spots.
Cornerback – The Vikes could benefit from adding another quality cornerback to their roster. Antonie Winfield is a good cover corner on one side of the field, so they could complete the equation by finding someone to replace Asher Allen, who was inconsistent in coverage last year. It’s unlikely that the Vikings will consider cornerback a pressing need, so they’ll be looking at mid-to-late round selections for talent.
The Citadel’s Cortez Allen certainly fits the talented description since he hasn’t been playing football for long, yet shows solid instincts and even better athleticism. Assuming the Vikes want help now and don’t think that Allen is ready, Richmond’s Justin Rodgers is another good prospect that should be around in the fifth round.
Defensive End - Jared Allen is one of the top ends in the league, but his counterpart in Ray Edwards has indicated that he’ll be looking elsewhere as a free agent. If the Vikings decide to fill Edward’s spot through the draft, they’ll have a large pool to choose from since 2011 offers a talented group of defensive ends. Nebraska’s Pierre Allen is a nice middle-round choice because he possesses a good mix of quickness and strength. If the Vikings go for a later DE pick, Oregon’s Brandon Blair has some value here since he explodes at the snap well and has enough upper body strength to shed blockers and make tackles.
The Vikings have a lot of mini-needs coupled with their quarterback, safety and wide receiver issues, so it will be interesting to see what positions they favor in the draft.