Cornerback is a huge area of concern for the Vikings. The only quality CB that can seem to stay healthy for the Vikings is 33-year-old veteran Antoine Winfield. The Vikings have made some moves in the last two drafts to bring in some talent at CB, but it remains to be seen if their efforts have paid off.
The Vikings have eight corners on their active roster, but that includes two newly drafted players. They will also lose two veterans in Frank Walker and Lito Sheppard to free agency.
I think that even at 33 years old, Winfield is the obvious pick to start at one of the corner slots. He's been selected to the Pro Bowl the last three seasons and has been the only consistent piece to the Vikings struggling defensive secondary. He starts, no question.
I think toward the end of his career, the Vikings may move Winfield to safety just because of their struggles with that position. Winfield in arguably the best tackling corner in the NFL, and could excel in the Vikings Tampa 2 scheme.
Griffin was the Vikings' second-round pick in 2006. He has started for much of his career with the Vikings, but because of injury, could lose some playing time to younger players. In the last two years, he has had issues with both ACLs and missed much of 2010. If he is ready to go this fall, I think he should have no problem getting right back into his starting role, but then again, he doesn't have much competition.
Cook is in sort of the same boat as Griffin, except with Cook there hasn't been much to see. He was the Vikings' high pick in 2010 and Minnesota doesn't have much to show for it. He frequently gets burned in press coverage and has serious durability issues.
Cook had two meniscus tears in his rookie season and he will really have to compete in training camp to prove that he wasn't a wasted pick for the Vikings. I see him having a moderate role in the Vikings defense in 2011, but I question his ability at CB; a switch to safety could be beneficial for both the Vikings and the injury-prone Cook.
Asher Allen showed the Vikings in 2010 that he was not ready for the responsibility that comes with being a starting NFL CB. He repeatedly got burned in man coverage in 2010, and showed no poise whatsoever. He has shown a little potential in nickel coverage, so he could compete with Chris Cook or some other younger players for time there.
Fun Fact: Asher Allen is a cousin of Dallas Cowboys great WR Michael Irvin.
The Vikings drafted Burton out of Utah in the fifth round of this year's draft. He shows some potential, but is far too raw to be considered for a starting role. He could develop into a long-term option for the Vikings with proper coaching, but for 2011, I see him competing for a role in nickel and dime packages.
Raymond was selected in the sixth round of the 2011 draft by the Vikings. He is listed as a safety on their active roster, but at USF, Raymond played more corner than he did safety. I think that while Raymond, who I will discuss more on the next slide, could have some serious potential at safety, he might still find himself playing a little cornerback in 2011.
Notable Free-Agent Options
Oakland Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha, NY Jets CB Antonio Cromartie, Baltimore Ravens CB Chris Carr, Pittsburgh Steelers CB William Gay
This is definitely an area that the Vikings may look to improve through free agency. They will need to improve their coverage to compete with the likes of Greg Jennings and Calvin Johnson.
Asomugha would solve so many problems for the Vikings, they could simply take teams' No. 1 options out of the game, leaving the Vikings pass rush to resume dominating QBs like it did only two years ago.
Cromartie could do essentially the same thing, but he is not as attractive as Asomugha at corner. Cromartie could potentially re-sign with the Jets, but if not, the Vikings simply must pursue him. Carr and Gay would both be formidable options, an added veteran presence would be great for the younger corners.