Minnesota Vikings 2011 Draft: Offense Wins over Defense
The Vikings were the most under-performing team in 2010 and I am not sure it's even debatable. Brett Favre flopped, the offensive line still stunk and the run defense took a heavy plunge that took them from one of the best in NFL history to mediocre at best.
It was a crazy season filled with unexpected turns and twists. Head coach Brad "Clueless" was sent packing halfway through the season and Leslie Frazier took over, eventually becoming the new head honcho.
The Vikings are going to be losing a lot of players to free agency, most notably Sidney Rice, if the current franchise tenders do not count in the new CBA.
The team has holes at quarterback, wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker and safety. I am not going to say cornerback only because Winfield is still an amazing talent and Cedric Griffin comes back in 2011. We didn't have a chance to see what Chris Cook could do while healthy, but it's far too early to give up on him. It is safe to say the Vikings have a lot of work to do.
Are they completely out of any playoff picture for the next few years while they "rebuild?" I don't think so. A decent quarterback puts them back in the playoffs.
Round One (12 Overall): QB Jack Locker (Washington)
The naysayers will immediately point to his less-than-stellar statistics and say that he isn't a first round pick. However, where would Washington have been had it not been for Locker? It's also worth noting that Jake Locker and Matt Ryan actually have similar college passing statistics!
The guy was a one-man team who is as humble as they come. The guy can flat out play.
The Vikings need a quarterback and it's likely that Locker will be there for the taking.
With Favre retiring for good, Tarvaris Jackson out of Minnesota and Joe Webb still learning the game, Locker would be the immediate starter. He brings a rare combination of speed and athleticism that may only be matched by Cam Newton.
The Vikings' offensive line is aging and playing worse every season. With the pass protection skills diminishing, the Vikings need a mobile quarterback for the next few seasons while they rebuild it. Locker is that guy.
Round Two (44 Overall): C Stefen Wisniewski (Penn State)
The guy is one of the highest rated centers going into the draft, but that isn't saying much.
However, Wisniewski can push people around with ease. His 33 bench reps of 225 pounds at the combine can help verify that statement.
The Vikings' offensive line went downhill the moment Matt Birk left. John Sullivan was expected to be the starter, but he only made those around him look worse.
Steve Hutchinson has had his two worst professional years with Sullivan beside him. That same can be said for right guard Anthony Herrera.
The center is the captain of the offensive line and it is clear that the Vikings need a new one.
At 6'3" and 306 pounds, Wisniewski is a great pickup in round two. The guy is an All-American center and three-time Academic All-American. So he is very smart, extremely strong and knows how to move a defensive lineman. Well, that's three things that John Sullivan isn't or cannot do.
Stefen is also the nephew of eight-time Pro Bowlers and eventual Hall of Famer Steve Wisniewski.
Round Four: WR Austin Pettis (Boise State)
The Boise State product is a Sidney Rice type guy. He is big, has decent strength and has soft hands. In round four, this is a steal.
Pettis was the go-to guy at Boise. When you needed a touchdown, you threw it to Pettis. His career totals of 229 receptions, 2838 receiving yards and 39 touchdowns are only a glimpse of how good this guy can be.
He does not have the elite speed you would want in a wide receiver, but many of the games greats today do not rely on that speed, but rather their near perfect hands. The guy reminds a lot of Larry Fitzgerald.
With Pettis taking one side of the field, it leaves Harvin free to do what he does best, work in the slot.
If Pettis is still there in round four, I'm not sure the Vikings have a choice.
Round Five (A): OLB Ross Homan (Ohio State)
Homan was an absolute beast in his junior season with 108 tackles, two sacks and five interceptions. However, he regressed as injuries took their toll on his senior season.
The possibility of Homan falling to the fifth round is slim, but injured players fall fast in the draft. This could end up being a huge steal.
Ben Leber is likely on his way out of Minnesota and that leaves a void at outside linebacker. While Homan may not be the immediate starter, the guy has proven to be a leader on defense and certainly has a very high football IQ. He could easily boost himself into the starting lineup alongside stud linebacker Chad Greenway.
Round Five (B): FS Robert Sands (West Virginia)
Sands is a huge safety at 6'4" and 220 pounds with good ball skills and decent speed. While they may likely have to trade up and get Sands, he would be worth every penny.
Scouts at the combine said that he could be a possible linebacker at the next level as he wasn't skilled enough to be a safety. However, the Vikings can afford to risk this pick as their current free safety/strong safety is fairly worthless.
The Vikings need help in the secondary and safety is the best place to improve. With Antoine Winfield still on top of his game and the return of Cedric Griffin and Chris Cook, the secondary will receiver a huge boost.
If the Vikings don't like Sands as a safety, there is always a linebacker vacancy...
Round Six: K Josh Jasper (LSU)
The Vikings have decided that Ryan Longwell is just too old to be effective anymore despite one of his best seasons of his amazing career.
Longwell did not attempt a 50-yard field goal all season long and the Vikings may look to find someone that can do so.
Longwell has handled kickoff duties for the Vikings since his first year, but his leg strength has been decreasing severely. He has been near the bottom of the league the last three seasons in kickoff distance.
Jasper has an extremely strong leg and went three for four on 50-plus yard field goals for the Tigers in 2010.
It's about time the Vikings found someone who can actually kick a touchback every once in a while.
Round Seven: TE Charlie Gantt (Michigan State)
The Vikings drafted Mickey Shuler last season only to see him picked up by the Dolphins after just two weeks with the team.
After all, why would you want to keep a tight end with tremendous potential when you can release him to make room for the ever-so-great Hank Basket? Thank God Brad Childress isn't with the Vikings anymore. We don't have to see any more Eagles-rejects on the Vikings.
While seventh-round picks rarely make the team, a tight end has the oppotunity with an aging Visanthe Shiancoe and Jim Kleinsasser as your first two options.