There's a lot of talk about the Vikings getting old (yeah, I'm looking at you, Grime! :) ) and I thought I'd offer another measuring stick that might give us an idea of what age we might expect is a reasonable time to look at getting a replacement player in a given position.
Assumption 1 - I figured, our guys are pretty darned good so let's use the NFL's Hall of Famers as the basic measure of excellence. I know this doesn't give a huge pool of players for the average, but I didn't want to look at ALL the players in the NFL. Only the best. Maybe it's me being a homer but the Vikings just sent nearly 25% of the players to the 2009 Pro Bowl; this is a damned good squad.
Assumption 2 - The game's changed a lot in the past 30-40 years so I only looked at HoF'ers who retired in 1980 or later. My thought here is that the players are bigger and faster than they were way back when, the game itself has changed and has different physical stresses/demands, and different protections in the rules.
Assumption 3 - Using the retirement age isn't good enough. Lots of guys play on for a few more years past their prime and while that's great for team loyalty, it doesn't necessary help the team. I looked at the records of the Hall of Fame players and analyzed each one for the point where their high level of play dropped off down to average or worse. I found the last year of high level of play and took the players age at that level. I did it this way because we're not looking at when Hutch should retire, we're looking for when we need to get his replacement on the field. That should be at the point where his excellence starts to fade, not his last 2 or 4 years of being booted around the league living off the laurels of his hey-day. I know that's a bit harsh, but there it is.
Assumption 4 - When calculating the average age of the Minnesota Vikings players, I included ALL of the players on the roster now, not just starters. This is because the Vikings are evaluating that young talent and they have the opportunity to retain a young guy if they think he has the future upside over last year's backups. In other words, I think they count.
The following chart (many prayers to SBN that the chart actually posts correctly) shows the positions, the average age of the Hall of Famers when they had their final year of high production for Hall of Famers, the average age of the Minnesota Vikings at that position, and the list of Minnesota Vikings players who's ages are within 3 years of the average age of the Hall of Famer's final year of excellence. Confusing enough? Hopefully the chart will make it a little clearer.
|HoF QB Average||36||HoF DL Average||33|
|MV QB Average||30||MV DL Average||27|
|MV Aging QBs||Favre (40)||MV Aging DL||P. Williams (37),|
|HoF RB Average||31||K. Williams (30)|
|MV RB Average||25|
|MV Aging RBs||N/A||HoF LB Average||33|
|MV LB Average||27|
|MV FB Average||26||MV Aging LBs||Leber (31)|
|MV Aging FBs||Dugan (29), Tahi (28)|
|HoF DB Average||35|
|HoF RCVR Average||34||MV CB Average||26|
|MV WR Average||25||MV Aging CBs||Winfield (33)|
|MV Aging WRs||N/A|
|MV S Average||25|
|MV TE Average||28||MV Aging Ss||N/A|
|MF Aging TEs||Kleinsasser (33)|
|HoF OL Average||32|
|MV OL Average||24|
|MV Aging OL||Herrera (30), Hutch (32)|
The Caveat - Please remember that the Hall of Famer's average age of their last year of high production is exactly that; an AVERAGE. There were guys who played longer, there were guys who had shorter careers. The individual players will vary and some of our Vikings will continue to play at a high level of excellence long past the AVERAGE guy in the Hall of Fame. Phat Pat is an excellent example of this, at 37 he's beaten the hell out of the odds.
Quarter Backs- Yes, we know, we know. I hope Speilmann and Chilly have a plan in mind for next year.
Running Backs - Youth rules the backfield, and there's no reason to expect Peterson to be anything but dominant for the next 6 years. Common wisdom says the average play time for the average RB is only 3-5 years, but the BEST continue to play at high level to age 31 and Peterson started early; he's only 25 years old.
Full Backs - The time to let Dugan go is probably right now while we have D'Imperio as a quality prospect behind him.
Wide Receivers - Youth, youth, and more youth.
Tight Ends - I like Mickey Schuler, and if someone has to go to make room, it's probably time to look hard at Jimmy K. If the Vikings don't replace the 'Sasser now, they'll probably lose Schuler on the practice squad and they'll be in a bit of a bind for a quality TE next year.
Linemen - Most notably, the Vikings have a lot of veteran linemen, offense and defense, who need to have solid young talent coming up behind them. The defense seems to be set in this regard, but the offensive line backups need some serious help over the next couple of years. We know we absolutely have to have a good replacement for Pat Williams next year but hopefully we have him now. Hutch is also an immediate concern for next years acquisition plan.
Linebackers - The biggest worry is E.J. Henderson because of his injuries, if he gets injured again this year then I think the Vikings should look at replacing him immediately and permanently. Age-wise, the only man nearing the cusp is Ben Leber, but Leber is in his prime and should stay there for a couple years yet. No worries in the linebacker corps.
Corner Backs and Safteys - Lots of youth here, the only one we need to look closely at for age is Winfield. Fortunately, the Vikings have already done so, Cook brings a needed youth-factor to the CBs.
So where does this leave the Vikings? IMO, a team that's fairly young and in it's prime, with a wealth of youth behind solid veteran talent. Yes, we have some guys who need their back ups brought in next year, but that's just like every other team in the NFL and the Vikings are in a better position than most (with the exception of the QB position) to maintain a dynasty.
Time for a poll :)