Time for some speculation! I tried to do this quite a few years back when I set out my plan for who the Vikings should take with each draft pick. That was in 2008 when we traded for Jared Allen so my many hours spent researching were wasted as my whole plan was destroyed (but hay I’m pretty happy with the outcome of that trade so I’m not complaining). Being in the UK I do not have many opportunities to talk to other Vikings’ fans therefore I decided to vent my thoughts on here instead.
Now moving onto 2012 and what I think we should do to drag us out of this awful season. I am forever the optimist, especially when it comes to my favorite sports team, so many of my views may be seen through rose tinted spectacles rather than the results on the field but oh well, its my article and no one else’s. I am going to look at each position and express my thoughts and views on their performance and then look at what we should do in the offseason.
Yes, I did realize that we needed to draft a QB last year but I also knew we would bring in a veteran signal caller. Therefore when the no12 pick came around I got excited about the potential talent we cold draft. I was thinking along the lines of Prince Amukamara, Nick Fairley or Nate Solder with the idea of drafting Andy Dalton in the second. And then Ponder’s name was read out! My initial reaction was one of shock and disappointment as the pick really took me by surprise.
However, I researched more into Christian, spoke to the QB on my team and being a Viking fan got behind and made sense of the pick! And yes it did make sense. It made even more sense after the first few games he played in and I was very optimistic about the pick and thought it could be seen as a positive turning point for many years.
Then the second half of the season happened, where I saw a regression of his game. This downturn may have come from shell shock from playing behind a porous line, the injuries that mounted up or just rookie mistakes but it started to worry me and by the end of the season I found myself jumping on the start Webb band wagon.
This leaves me with conflicting thoughts of what to do with this position. Am I intrigued by the skills and potential that RGIII has! Most definitely. I know we drafted a QB in the first round last year and convention says we shouldn’t do that again but here is hoping we never have a draft pick this low again. With the 3rd overall pick we need a game changer and someone who can positively affect the franchise for a decade to come and Griffen could be that man. Look at how well Cam Newton performed and I have RGIII’s potential as higher. (Plus how much fun would he be to play with on Madden) Therefore if his name is read out on draft day, then I will understand and support the decision. But I do not see this happening. By their very nature, head coaches and front room staff are proud people and unlikely to admit they made a mistake drafting ponder and replace him the next season (plus it is too early to decide on that). They wont spend an early draft pick on a QB so speculation is irrelevant (yes I just wasted 2mins of your life! Im sorry).
With that in mind I think we have an open, and yes I mean open, contest in training camp where Spiderman and Ponder can duke it out to see who will lead this team. With a full offseason schedule and a better OLine can ponder be a franchise QB? In a word, yes! He has shown potential and seems to have the brains to figure it all out. But I feel that Webb brings and energy to the field that cannot be ignored. Could he sustain his 4th Quarter heroics through a full season? Maybe, maybe not but I feel he has earned a shot at the job.
As a final note, let’s leave Sage as our 3rd QB. We have 2 young QBs and need all the draft picks we can get to improve other areas.
This is both the most exciting and scary position on our rooster. It has the potential to be the best RB tandem ever. Toby really stepped up this year and I feel he has earned the right to take his fair share of carries from AP. This would keep both fresh and effective, while giving defenses different styles to contend with. It takes a distinctive defense to stop a wrecking ball and a different one to stop a rocket. I would say a split of roughly 60% of snaps to AP, 30% to Toby, leaving 10% for situations where we use Webb or Harvin. I would like to see Musgrave work on ways of getting them both on the field at one time! Pro style formation with both RBs in the backfield is something I’d be interested in, or add in Percy, in a full backfield and you have the potential for something really dangerous.
But here is the dilemma. Both top RBs are injured. Toby should be back well in time for training camp (I know, I’ve been through an MCL tear, and without all the resources he will have, was back playing, granted at a low standard, in that time frame). Therefore I do feel that he can carry the load while we are waiting for Peterson to get back to 100%. Speaking of AP, the injury is very worrying. AP is my fav player, I have his Vikings shirt, his Oklahoma shirt, he is my laptop wallpaper and even on my iphone cover (yes I am a little obsessed). Do I believe that he, more than anyone, can recover from this injury? Hell Yes! But ACL tears can be debilitating. Just look at the step that Griffen has lost! We have invested a large salary in Peterson so we should not rush him and wait until he is back to his full, powerful, self. If that means waiting half a season, so be it. Toby has proved he can more than capably cover for him and Harvin can get more looks at RB as well.
Now onto offseason plan at this position. As an optimist I expect AP and Toby to heal up, therefore it is not a huge need. Caleb King could fill in as a backup for a while or we could take a flier on a late rounder or RFA. Hopefully the OLine will improve and the holes will be bigger so having a slightly less explosive RB for a few games wont hurt us to bad.
Out of the box thought: LT or Chester Taylor! One year contract to spell the gap at the start of the season before the boys get back! Crazy? Maybe, but who can honestly admit they wouldn’t be intrigued by this provided the price is right!
I honestly don’t think that this core is as bad as people are advertising. As I have been saying for a few years I think we are a legitimate no.1 receiver away from it falling into place. Yes we do need a genuine deep threat that can keep defenses honest and open up holes for others. Look what happened when Rice was that guy, all the other receivers looked better! Jenkins looked good when on the field and could excel as a true, no.2, possession receiver who helps move the chains and can be a go to guy when we really need to move the ball. That leaves Percy to work the slot and be the Swiss army threat that he has been this year (and boy do I love watching him play). The rest of the receivers then fall into the category of depth. The District Attorney (yes I cant spell his name) can return for the right price and I am intrigued by what Arceneaux can do.
So who is this no.1 WR that we need and how do we get him! Blackmone could definitely be that guy. He looks like a fantastic talent and would be the perfect man to add to this young group. However, taking a WR with the no.3 pick is a luxury that I feel we can ill afford. Therefore if we are going to grab a receiver in the draft I feel it should be with a later pic! If we trade back then that could free up a draft pick to take a WR earlier but at the moment I feel 2nd round is the earliest we should look in this direction and even then I would be more comfortable with the 3rd. Here we could take Reuban Randle, L.S.U., Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M, or Dwight Jones, North Carolina..
That leaves us with free agents. There is actually a wealth of talent at this position. Lets rule out some of the top FAs as it might be a hard sell to get them to come to a 3 win team with a 2nd year QB. That means no Colstons (tho I would love him), Vincent Jackson or Desean “all about me” Jackson. They will likely want to go to contenders. Reggie Wayne could be a fantastic stopgap while we develop someone to inherit this position. He definitely has at least a couple more years of productivity in front of us and could act as a mentor to younger players. However, he may demand a high salary as its likely to be his last big pay check. If we can get him for the right money, pull the trigger. My research shows that Steve Johnson is a free agent but he is too erratic and that is not what we need with out QB situation. Jerome Simpson is an idea but that might just be on the back of that incredible front flip and not on actual play, but hell it would be fun to watch his acrobatics. Bowe and Garcon are two players that I would definitely target but again I don’t think they would choose us.
So finally here is my FA plan. Get the combo of Laurent Robinson and Robert Meachem. These players are not no1 receivers at the moment but without a better option, I think they might have the potential to fit our system and develop into a threat. Dallas have a lot of money invested in Miles and Dez so probably can’t bring Robinson back as well. He ran a 4.38 at the combine so can stretch the field and after his breakout season has shown he has the skills to perform. As he has little else on his resume than this year he could be got for a discount price in the hope that this season was the real him. Is it a bit of a flyer? Yes but boy does it have some upside. Meachem is very much the same as Robinson. He has shown flashes of talent, but in the loaded WR core that NO has, he has yet to shine through. Could he perform in a less talented set? I think he could do. If we added both of these guys then I think there would be minimal cap hit compared to the potential and if at least one of them flourished then we could have a good to great group.
First and foremost, in this section I have to say a heartfelt thank you to the model professional to the people’s champ, Jim Kleinsasser. You have been an underrated player for this team for as long as I’ve supported them. Enjoy your well-earned retirement.
Onto the current crop of TEs. Lets start with Shiancoe. He has been a good player for us, fantastic in 2009, but he is probably due his paycheck for putting in the hard work. If it could be the Vikings who give him that then it would be great and I’d love to keep him around but in a year when we have more glaring needs this is unfortunately a luxury we cannot afford. Sad to see him go but thanx for all the red zone TDs. On the positive side Kyle should be able to fill his shoes. His catching ability is sensational, one-handed catches seem easy to him. As he was a rookie, I expect him to develop in the technical areas over the summer so I am hoping he comes back as a rounded TE who can be in there on every play, blocking and catching when we need him.
I am not as big a fan as Musgrave is of the double TE formation but if we are going to stick with this then we will need another reliable catching TE. This can come from one of two sources. A late round draft pick or FA. Now Hernandez was drafted in the 4th and if we could find someone like him in 4th/5th then we would be in great shape. This might be unlikely but using a 3rd day pick on a TE could end up paying dividends for Ponder/Webb.
The other option is to look at FA. As we have Kyle as our heir apparent I don’t see us going after a top TE (although it would be fun to steal Finley from the enemy). What we need to look for is another Shiancoe. Someone that not many people have heard of, but has the skills to be a factor in the pass game. Looking at the list of free agent TEs I personally have not done enough scouting to name a single target to look for. This is for our new/old GM, Speilman to earn his paycheck doing so I will leave it to him. I have heard Tamme’s name banded around a bit and would not be against this.
Now I can in no way claim to be an expert in this field so I am unlikely to come up with any innovative ideas here. As everyone knows this should be the Vikings main offensive area of focus this season. A good OLine will help our rookie QBs in the passing game while opening holes in the run game.
The draft is a perfect way to rebuild this unit. If Kahil is available with the 3rd pick then he could anchor this line for the next decade. Take him and never look back. The only reason not to is if we could trade back one position with the Browns so they can pick up RGIII before anyone else. Moving back only one position we would then essentially get the guy we want, while acquiring extra draft picks (but this is probably just a dream scenario). I would even go as far as to draft a OG in the 2nd round. Looking at who could be available we could choose from the likes of:
Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin
Amini Silatolu, Midwestern St.
Brandon Washington, Miami (FL)
Yes we have other holes on the depth chart but a strong OLine can go a long way to mask other problems that we have. This would leave a line looking like:
T – Kahil, Loadholt
G – Johnson/DeGeare/Herrera/2nd round pick (not shore which to start here)
C – Sullivan
As you can probably tell this means that I am cutting Hutchinson. Nothing personal, he has been a great player for us but his cap now outweighs his performance. That line now has the foundations of a strong unit. If we then go after one of the top FAs this could move from good to great. Throw a lot of money at Carl Nicks. This is a position where I don’t might overpaying, as the external benefits can be massive. If he won’t come then lets look at Grubbs from Baltimore or Bell from Buffalo. The FA class is not deep at OT or OG but lets make a real push and then add in the draft and this could be the first giant leap in turning this team around.
QB – Webb/Ponder, Sage
RB – Peterson, Gerhart, King/Late draft pick/RookieFA
WR – Robinson/Meachem, Jenkins, Harvin, Arceneaux, Aromashodu/Burton
TE – Rudolph, Tamme/Late draft pick, Reisner
FB – do we need one??? Left a space at TE so we can get a TE/FB hybrid
T – Kahil, Loadholt, Love, Johnson
G – Nicks, DeGeare, Herrera, 2nd round pick
C – Sullivan, Fusco
So there we have my views on the offense. If you have made it this far then well done. It definitely became a lot longer then I thought it was going to be and has been a great distraction from college work. I will try and write my view on defense another time and write down my dream draft!