A potential offseason for the Vikings...

[EDIT:  Well, with our season going down faster than a Sopwith Camel in the gunsights of the Red Baron, the draft is quickly becoming the life preserver that we're clinging to to get us back to a competitive level.  SB Nation has a great site called Mocking The Draft, and they do a heckuva job in breaking down our favorite off-season NFL activity.  Josh_D is a contributor over there, and this fanpost is quality stuff, giving us a 7 round mock draft for the Vikes.  Thought you guys might enjoy.  Mark, ball's in your court.  ;)  --Ted]

As a huge fan of the draft I have always enjoyed trying to find the roster holes and what collegiate players may be out there to fill them. Been trying to put together a post season strategy and draft for the Vikings for a while now and I finally have the free time to post it up. Join me after the jump and I will lay out a few possible position changes and roster moves, as well as a full 2012 mock and full 53 roster. Let me know what you think. Remember, its all in good fun so do some research (I suggest starting with SB Nation's own Mocking the Draft) and post your own.

A Quick Look at the Off Season:

- There is bound to be a little roster purging, but I don't expect any wholesale changes. The biggest determining factor for some of the older vets (Hutch, Winfield) may come down to their individual health. If there was a short list of veterans who may or may not be back next year it would go like this: E.J. Henderson, Antoine Winfield, Steve HutchinsonAnthony Herrera, Donovan McNabb, Remi Ayodele, Benny Sapp, Tyrell Johnson, Kenny Onatolu, Fred Evans, Jim Kleinsasser, and Visanthe Shiancoe.

- It is entirely possible that the biggest free agent the Vikings pick up will be the new backup QB. With McNabb sure to be gone in the off season, a veteran QB will be brought in to be a guide/backup for Ponder. So, don't get your hopes up too high for any major signings this off season. Hopefully DB, OL, and WR will be considered in FA as well and not just depth talent.

- Webb will still be the 3rd emergency QB, but he will start seeing a lot of time at WR. His size/athleticism is too much to keep off the field and his designation as 3rd QB allows them to keep a roster spot open at another position. The new CBA allows for the 3rd QB to enter and leave game without forcing the 1st/2nd string to stay out of the game. This would allow Joe Webb to be an emergency QB, but also play wide receiver, wildcat QB, and return kicks if necessary.

- As a general rule of thumb, you never want to move your best player at one weak position to another weak position. You end up weakened at both positions overall until said player gets comfortable in their new spot and even then its unknown how much they really improved the position overall. The point I am getting at here is that if Winfield come back healthy, there is no way he will be moved to safety. He is the best corner on the team and his best chance for making plays is playing corner. Assuming he comes back, they shouldn't be trying to teach the old dog new tricks.

- Cedric Griffin, however, is another matter. It is a great story to have him back playing after 2 knee surgeries, but it is clear that the injuries have taken their toll and Griffin isn't quite the athlete he used to be. Moving him to safety (either free or strong since they are mostly interchangeable in the Vikings D) helps relieve some stress on his knees as he won't be asked as frequently to turn and run with receivers and can keep everything in front of him. 

I believe that covers the bigger of the off season quandaries, lets take a look at the Vikings 2012 Draft:

- Quick note: There will be no trades. Its crazy enough to try an predict who will be picked where, its even worse to try and forsee trades. Same can be said for compensatory picks. No one truly knows the method for which they are awarded. Something to do with FA lost that also signed and played, plus how well they played vs the FA you signed and how well they played, plus other things that don't have anything to do with football like mineral import futures. So ignoring them as well. Going with what they got which is a full allotment of picks, minus a 6th for McNabb, and adding a 6th from Cleveland from the Jayme Mitchell trade and 2 total 7ths, one from the Pats for Moss, and one from NYG from Rosenfel/Reynaud trade. {1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, (3)7ths} As of today (11/21/11), the Vikings hold the 3rd overall selection.

1st - Jonathan Martin, OT 6'6 308 Stanford - With the Panthers occupying the spot just ahead of the Vikings, there is a good chance that Kalil is gone. However, Martin is a better fit for the Vikings because while he is a great athlete and great potential as a blind side defender, he is already a monster run blocker which bodes well for the offense as a whole when he plays right away. 

2nd -Stephen Gilmore, CB 6'1'' 193 South Carolina - The secondary is a complete mess. Each of the top three corner backs have an red flag (age, injuries, and possible felon). Everyone behind them are street free agents, late round rookies, or Asher Allen. Gilmore has the potential to be a late first round pick, but could be pushed down for the Vikings in the second due to the deep talent pool at CB this year.

3rd - Kawann Short, DT 6'3'' 310 Purdue - The Vikings need to find better talent at the NT. Short doesn't get much of a pass rush, but he uses leverage well to get push off the line and his long arms to shed and make plays in the run game. These skills have been missed with Phat Pat gone this season.

4th - Audie Cole, LB 6'5'' 239 NC State - Cole is plenty athletic, but he suffers from a old mantra, "Jack of all trades, master of none". He has the size and speed to play MLB or SAM in the Vikings defense and is skilled enough play special teams and be the first LB on the field after the starters from Day 1.

5th - Juron Criner, WR 6'4" 215 Arizona - Vikings scouts have been reported to have attended three Arizona Wildcat games this season and Criner could be the top reason why. Criner is somewhat miscast in the quick pass offense because he isn't a quick twitch athlete, but he has great hands, leaping ability, and body control to be a good possession receiver in the NFL. He had some personal issues to deal with off the field, beyond that nothing is really known about his bizarre episode this past off season. Teams will surely check into that.

6th - Rokevious Watkins, OG/OT 6'4" 340 South Carolina - Watkins is playing OT for the Gamecocks this season, but he doesn't have the foot speed to be anything but a back-up at tackle in the NFL and maybe only for the right side. However, his body frame, long arms, and nasty disposition would make him a great fit at guard, where his future will be when he makes the jump to pro.

7A - Robert Golden, FS 5'11" 200 Arizona - Golden is another reason the Vikings could be interested in watching the Wildcats. He has experience at corner, but has excelled safety since being moved there. A play maker in their backfield, Golden could add great depth to the Vikings secondary with good upside.

7B - Josh Chichester, TE 6'8" 240  Louisville - Chinchester is knocked down for not being much of a blocker and being a one trick pony. His one trick though is running the seam route in the passing game which is something the Vikings lack from the inside with Harvin moving all around the offense. He could add some weight to his 6'8" frame and blocking is a technique that can be taught as long as he is willing he get better at it. TE is a spot that will be in flux with the potential loss of both Shiancoe and K-Sauce. They may take one much earlier than this.

7C - Omar Bolden, CB 5'10" 195 Arizona State - As a final pick, I went with a big on potential play. Bolden is recovering from injury and is still getting back into form. He should be healthy by the time the combine and all star events roll around, but his lack of tape over the last two years combined with the depth of the corner back talent could lead to a late round find for the Vikings depleted secondary.

This mock reflects the strategy we'll see from the Vikings. The Vikings were good about drafting evenly offense/defense in 2011, but with an odd number of picks the emphasis will lean toward the defense, with a focus on rebuilding the secondary. With the offensive picks, look for OL early instead of skill position players. Age, injuries, and talent pool have left the Vikings with issues across the OL and they won't get anywhere without heavily investing in it.

Grabbing a top offensive lineman seems to be the way to go. It helps both things the Vikings want to feature on offense: Ponder and Peterson. Some may feel tempted to take a top WR to pair with Ponder, but the WR class is going to be very deep and a top offensive lineman will help the offense as a whole, not just the passing game. With Rudolph, Harvin, Jenkins, and a decent possibility that Shiancoe comes back, there will be some good receiving weapons for Ponder. A WR will be drafted, but I don't think it will be as high a priority that a 1st is used on one. Protecting Ponder and AP will be a bigger priority on offense. If the top OL are gone when the Vikings eventually draft, I would expect the Vikings to look for top talent for the defensive secondary before WR as well. A lot of turnover is coming for the DBs and it will be a big focus across the whole draft.

Here is a look at the 53 man roster with these draft picks (in bold) in tow:

OL:  J. Martin    Hutch          Sully        C. Johnson  Loadholt

                         R.Watkins   J.Berger   Fusco         D.Love

* Charlie Johnson is projected better at guard than tackle. Hopefully he can be beat out by the younger talent, but good to have as insurance as the young develops. Love and Watkins can play both guard and tackle, while Berger and Fusco can back-up guard and center.

QB:  Ponder, FA QB, Webb

*I don't know who is going to be a FA at QB, but expect whoever they sign to play the offense in a similar fashion to what they want out of Ponder. Webb should be playing all over the field, but for roster purposes, he will be the 3rd QB.

RB:  AP, Gerhart, Booker

*No change here. No need for any real change either.

TE/FB: Shiancoe, Rudolph, D'Imperio, J. Chichester

* Unless Shiancoe makes ridiculous demands for his next contract, I think he will be back in Minnesota. He'll see a lot of action in the 2 TE offense and won't have to worry about who the QB will be over the course of his contract anymore either.

WR:   M. Jenkins       P.Harvin        J.Criner

         J.Webb            S.Burton       D. Aromashodu

*Harvin will continue to be a "do everything" player, but a bigger role for Webb and drafting a big WR like Criner will allow Harvin to stay in the slot when playing WR and utilize him as a major mismatch from the inside. Burton can play inside out and Aromashodu adds size and play making depth, but could also be the first to be replaced.

DL:  J. Allen      KWill    K.Short   B. Robison

       E.Griffen    L.Guion   Ballard      D.Reed


*Outside of finding a way to replace Ayodele's snaps, there won't be much change along the DL. Ballard will see lots of time on the inside in passing situations, but a space eater next to KWill will be key.

CB:  Winfield           C.Cook

       S.Gilmore       B. Sapp

       S. Burton        M. Sherels      O.Bolden

*This part was tough. Mostly because there is a good chance that both of the names at the top of the list may not be back on the roster. The potential of losing the top two talents at one position is big and one of the reasons why there are so many names here.

FS:  C.Griffin, M.Raymond, R.Golden

SS:  H.Abdullah, J. Sanford

*Not much real change here, but moving Griffin will add a new dimension to the fold with lots of playing time for the younger players.

LB: Greenway    Brinkley  Erin Henderson

                 A.Cole        Larry Dean

*LB took a hit with the uncertainty at CB. The loss of Winfield or Cook could open up a spot for a guy like Onatolu


Add Loeffler, Longwell, and Kluwe and you have 53. Let me know what you think and leave your own mocks and rosters.

This FanPost was created by a registered user of The Daily Norseman, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the staff of the site. However, since this is a community, that view is no less important.

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