CCNorseman did a very nice job with this preview. Enjoy! - Chris
Updated 4-11-12: New Roster Information (vikings.com was updated the day after I posted this, go figure)
The state of the current roster might give us some ideas of what the Vikings are going to do in the draft. With the draft just over 2 weeks away, and the first month of free agency over, now is as good a time as any to take a look to hopefully get some hints about the Vikings' draft plans. If the Vikings had to play a game right now, who would be starting? What kind of improvements can still be made to the depth chart, and can it give us any clues? Join me after the jump as I break it down.
Offensive Depth Chart
We resigned Sage Rosenfels in free agency as the #3 veteran presence, but we’re locked in with Ponder and Webb for the short-term (fingers are crossed it’s the long term as well). Drafting a QB not named Andrew Luck or Robert Griffen III would be stupid at this point.
If Adrian Peterson isn’t ready to go when the season starts, Gerhardt-Smash will be. But what if Toby gets hurt? We signed Lex Hilliard in free agency, and we still have King and Todman from practice squad fame, but none of them inspire much confidence. Do we seriously STILL miss Chester Taylor, and has it really been 2 years? We could use a real 3rd down back, and some more depth would be nice. It’s possible one of the guys we already have can work, but a late round pick might be a wise chose here, especially one with good hands, and who can move well in space, like Brandon Bolden or Bobby Rainey (both of whom should be available in the 6th or 7th rounds).
FB: Ryan D’Imperio, Jerome Felton, (Matt Asiata)
D’Imperio was serviceable last year in rotation with Kleinsasser, but K-Sauce has been put out to pasture. We signed Jerome Felton, and still have Matt Asiata from the practice squad. I have to think that this will be a camp battle for FB. I feel pretty confident one of these guys is better than Naufahu Tahi, but probably won’t be the next Tony Richardson. And heck, Lex Hilliard has some experience at FB too. Drafting another FB would be stupid.
Ok, so when our top 3 guys in order are Harvin, Jenkins and Aromashodu we’ve got problems. We have a great slot receiver, a solid #3 guy and then a bunch of backups and camp bodies. We tried to get Pierre Garcon in free agency (good move BTW), but he was too expensive and/or uninterested in MN. Unfortunately we didn’t go after any other marquee players in free agency. That means, we need to find a true, #1 guy in the draft. Addressing this in the upper half of the draft (rounds 1-4) would be smart. There are plenty of talented WR to be had in rounds 2-4 though, like: Alshon Jeffrey, Reuben Randle, Greg Childs, Marvin Jones, or Nick Toon. I don’t think we need to burn the #3 pick on a WR like Blackmon or Floyd, but if we don’t get one by the 4th round, we could be in trouble.
So, we lost some significant players at the TE position (Shiancoe and Kleinsasser). But we grabbed John Carlson in free agency (great signing BTW), and I have to think we roll with Rudolph and Carlson as bookend starters. Shuler is a depth guy and blocking TE (although he’s no People’s Champion!), and Allen Reisner is a young guy with good hands who has some upside and provides some depth insurance. Hardy is likely nothing more than a camp body. We shouldn't need to address the TE position in the draft.
I’ll address the entire line here, instead of each position. If this is what we trot out in 2012, we may as well just forfeit our games and not even play. We have a serious lack of a LT. We have a guard playing LT and camp body as a backup. We actually have lots of potential guards (Johnson, Schwartz, DeGeare, Berger, and Fusco) which is good, considering we lost both starting guards from 2011. We have a good center and an ok RT. But LT, boy, we need one. The best option to address this would be to draft Kalil at #3, but we could also trade down and draft Reiff/Martin/Adams later in the 1st round, or maybe even draft somebody else in the 2nd round. Wherever we get a LT, this allows us to slide Johnson over to guard, and forces a competition between Schwartz, DeGeare and maybe Berger or Fusco for the other guard spot. Anything less than this will be an epic fail as far as the draft is concerned. We also need a 2nd LT behind our presumed rookie starter.
Defensive Depth Chart
We are stocked at DE and really don’t need to spend a draft pick at this position. We will need to address it eventually though, as Allen isn’t getting any younger. Unless a major 1st round talent slides down to our laps into something like a 4th round compensatory pick, we shouldn’t need to draft a DE in this draft.
We are still trying to replace half of the Williams Wall, and Remi Ayodele was a huge bust last year. We re-signed Guion and Evans, and maybe Guion is ready for full-time action, or maybe he’s not, but this is still a need. Christian Ballard is talented, but under-sized, and hopefully he progresses going into his 2nd season. We need to address this position at some point in the draft, because Kevin Williams isn’t getting any younger. With all the other needs of the team, we may not be able to afford spending a high round pick on a DT, but Spielman should consider it. If a talented guy falls in our laps, we shouldn’t hesitate to take him no matter what round it is.
The question here is, can Brinkley step it up and be a full-time starter at MLB? I sure hope so, but our depth behind the starters is not real great. We re-signed Erin Henderson to a 1-year prove it deal, and I sure hope he excels. We also added some extra depth via free agency with CFL star Soloman Elimimian and special teamer Marvin Mitchell. We’ve also got young Larry Dean in development and camp body Tyrone McKenzie. Thanks to our moves in free agency, we shouldn’t need to address LB in the draft, but adding some mid-to-late round depth certainly wouldn’t hurt. If a guy like Zach Brown falls to us at pick #35, we should strongly consider pulling the trigger.
We picked up a couple of young, but experienced CB in Carr and Bowman in free agency. I love those signings as it gives us the depth we were sorely lacking last year. But, when your best CB is a 35-year-old Winfield who hasn't played a full 16-game season in a few years, this should raise a red flag. Therefore, it would be wise to address the CB position early in the draft. Because of the free agency moves, I don’t think we need to spend our #3 pick on a CB. We also still have young, developmental guys already on the roster in Burton and Sherels (plus the camp body guys), so no need to waste mid-to-late round developmental picks on CB either. We technically have 9 CB on the roster right now. So grabbing a 2nd round CB like Janoris Jenkins or Josh Robinson would be great options, but so would waiting for the 3rd or 4th round for a guy like Casey Hayward or Chase Minnifield.
So, look at that void at safety. Heading into the draft if there is one position that is our greatest need, IMO, safety is now it. We arguably don’t even have a single starting caliber player at safety right now. We’ve offered a contract to Husain Abdullah, but as of this post, he hasn’t signed it yet. We also brought in Atogwe for a look in free agency, but he didn’t sign a contract either (it wasn’t just us, he hasn’t signed with anybody yet actually). So, depending on what happens with those guys, we are either going to be ok at safety or royally screwed. Regardless, I think we need to address this in the draft, and with a pick that can be a starter day 1. We might have to creatively maneuver the draft board with trades to get a prospect like Mark Barron, Harrison Smith or George Illonka. If we fail to get one of those guys, I’ll call the draft an epic fail. Hell, we probably need 2 of those 3 guys if we don’t get Atogwe or Abdullah signed.
Putting it All Together
So, generally speaking, our draft day plan should be to draft the "Best Player Available" at every spot, as long as it can justifiably fill a need or improve the roster. Trading up or down to get a player of need at the right value would be good, and we have plenty of picks to use to move around the draft. With that said my list of team needs, in order is:
1. Safety. We don’t have a single starting caliber safety right now, and arguably all 4 are just special teamers, at best.
2. Left Tackle. Charlie Johnson was barely serviceable and not who I would consider starting caliber at LT, and we don’t have any depth at the position after Johnson.
3. Wide Receiver. We have some talent at the position, but not enough. Harvin can’t do it all.
4. Cornerback. Picking up Carr and Bowman in free agency helps with depth, but it’s kind of risky to roll with Winfield and Cook as the starters on the outside. This could be Winfield’s last year in MN.
5. Defensive Tackle. If Guion and Evans haven’t been the answer for the past couple of years, why are they suddenly the answer now?
6. Linebacker. Outside of Chad Greenway, we have inexperienced starters. We could improve upon our depth too.
7. Running Back. We lack a true 3rd down back, and Peterson and Gerhardt have not been the picture of perfect health.
Overall Draft Gameplan:
Round 1, Pick #3: Matt Kalil since he’s the BPA at #3 (according to most scouting sites) and fills a position of need. If not that, then trade down to acquire more picks.
Round 2, Pick #35: Gotta address Safety, CB or WR with this pick. Take the BPA, but try to target one of those three positions. I would consider trading this pick to move back up into the 1st to target safety.
Round 3, Pick #66: Ditto, but add DT to the target list. We could also use this pick to move back into the 1st or 2nd round to grab more talent at S, CB or WR.
Round 4, Pick #98: BPA at any position
Round 4, Pick #133: BPA
Round 4, Pick #134: BPA
Round 5, Pick #138: I really hope we combine this pick with our 2nd or 3rd rounder as trade ammunition to move up. Thanks to our two, 4th round, compensatory picks, this one is essentially expendable. But if not, BPA
Round 6, Pick #175: BPA (maybe target a RB)
Round 7, Pick #210: BPA (maybe target a RB)
Round 7, Pick #223: BPA (this one is expendable thanks to our other 7th rounder)