Last time I wrote here I discussed two possible scenarios that Rick Spielman may have in mind for approaching the draft- selling the farm and going all in for a quarterback, or swapping down and adding as many pieces to a rebuilding defense as possible.
This article in essence wonders the same question, but from a different overall angle. The Vikings have recently re-signed Charlie Johnson, which means that OG is still a huge need. And with Matt Asiata as our 2nd RB, that really is a need as well (remember, three TDs against Philly or not, Asiata really didn't play all that well last season). Although we do have Bradley Randle... which would be awesome.
Again, as we all well know, we still have holes everywhere across our defense- except the D-line now, but even there we could use a bit of depth. But the offense, as stacked with weapons as it is, is still far from perfect. If we draft a QBOTF, then that hole at guard could cause some issues. And even if it's Cassel, he's not Mr. Mobile- keeping him upright will be key as well, unless we want to risk Ponder
2.0 3.0 4.0 I've lost track.0. And seeing as how with or without a new QB we're still going to be a run-first offense, having the quality depth behind Adrian Peterson that was lost with Gerhart's departure will be critical.
See, there are two ways to look at this team right now. We have an offense that, for just a QB and two pieces, could be spectacular. Conversely, we have a defense that, while considerably retooled in FA, is still going to cause us some issues. So which way do we want to approach this?
First, we could go the ‘be great at what you can be great at' approach. Accepting that making this team the perfectly balanced NFL powerhouse is impossible at the current time, we could opt to at least have a high-octane offense that simply outscores whatever the opposing team puts up on our defense. This would involve of course major investment into the QB position- either a sell-the-farm move up for a top-tier QB, or possibly trading down, selecting Carr, and considering selecting someone like Garropolo in the second as well and doubling our odds one of the ‘second tier' will hit. Again, both potential moves mean that we're putting a lot of draft stock into that position: but if we want our offense to really hit, we have to do something about the fact that right now Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder are the only two guys we have to go under center.
This would also involve investing an additional second round (traded for?) or both our thirds likely into the guard and running back position. It's possible we may not need to go so high for RB but, again, with such a run-happy offense we need to make sure there's someone behind Peterson who can help Norv's passing attack open up should he miss some time. Meaning, we are waiting until at least the 4th round at the earliest to begin addressing LB, CB, etc.
The end result would hopefully be a quarterback who can power the offense, get the ball to our WRs almost at will, and open the field for Adrian Peterson. Rather than grinding our superstar RB down as he faces the never-ending march of time and relying on Blair Walsh to nail long FGs enough times to keep us in the game, we could actually have an offense more akin to 2009 (although not that good, to be perfectly truthful). And that would hopefully have the added benefit of helping to cover up the defense some- after all, in 2009 our defense wasn't that great either. As a side note- all the investment into the D-line would actually match that year pretty well, as that was what helped to mask over the fact that we really didn't have a secondary to speak of. (Then again, we did have linebackers that year.)
And looking a bit into the future- what would this mean for 2015 and beyond? Adrian Peterson would have fresher legs, our QBOTF will have developed some, Patterson will (hopefully) have fully developed into the true #1 receiver we drafted him to become, and we could focus almost fully on defense. So even if 2014 doesn't work perfectly well, it does benefit us overall regardless.
That said, it's not that this is a risk-free concept. Go all in for a top QB and he busts, or even spend two picks on second-level QBs only for both to just be the second/ third coming of Ponder, and we're in the exact same boat as we're in right now- only with a defense that has largely stagnated and a superstar RB who probably got overworked again. There were real stars we left on the board when we nabbed Ponder, stars that could be huge cornerstones of a rebuilding team right now. We risk the exact same error this time with the above concept.
That's not to say that any other position drafted has any less chance of busting- remember in the late 90's/ early 2000's when we kept desperately trying to draft DEs? Yikes. But- miss on a QB, as they say, and it can put you back. Further back than missing on basically any other position.
So there's the somewhat ‘safer'- if you will- bet where we instead focus on building a shutdown defense. As I mentioned in my previous piece, there are teams that have won Super Bowls with considerably sub-par talent at QB. Hell- he may not have won it all, but let's not forget that Rex Freakin' Grossman is a former NFC Championship winner. Right now, to really have a defense that can carry a mediocre offense and simply prevent even high-flying offenses such as the Packers from moving on us at will, we need: 2-3 linebackers, at least one more CB, and some extra depth at the D-line. (I could hear some saying we need another safety as well.) That's quite the haul, even after a FA where we by and large solved the questions at defensive line and nickelback. Snagging, say, Mack in the first and focusing on defensive BPA thereafter- giving a little thought to OG/ 2nd RB/ QB (or to hell with it, just roll with Cassel) in the mid-rounds when they are available- will probably solve, at best, about half of those problems. Even if we idealistically believe that Mauti/Cole/Hodges step up and LB is solved, there's likely to be one or two holes somewhere in the defense.
Still, that's a very solid leap from the defense we fielded last year, and with youth up and down that side of the ball, it's not likely that other holes will appear before we can fully shore things up next year. And, conversely to what was pointed out with the last scenario, that means we will be ready to do whatever is necessary to solve the QB position in the 2015 draft without having to ask the question ‘can they literally carry the entire team'.
Of course again, this is by and far without risk as well. We're optimistically believing that we're going to hit on our defensive draft picks, that Adrian Peterson will keep healthy and fresh for at least 2 more years, that at least one of our young linebackers will develop into true starting talent, and that a QBOTF will be available in 2015. Not to mention, if our defense is better then our 2015 pick will be worse, and therefore it will take more to move up to snag said QB.
This comes down to two things. First, and this should go without saying, that someone whom we identify as our QBOTF isn't simply available at #8. As Arif pointed out in one of his last articles before jumping longship (just kidding we still love you you traitor!), when you see the QBOTF- you take him. Period. You don't trade down, you don't get cute, you take him. If it's Carr, then take Carr at #8. Hell, if it's Garropolo, then take Garropolo at #8. Don't bring up Kaepernick, Wilson, Foles... these guys were taken later because the team that took them a.) didn't feel it was as in need of a QB as we are (even the 49ers, who if you recall, had the ‘sucky Alex Smith' on roster at that time, not the ‘Pro Bowl Alex Smith') and b.) did not realize how good these guys actually could be. If you think the Seahawks are anything but lucky to have gotten Wilson in the third round, you're nuts. They had a third round grade on the guy and that's where they took him- they weren't patiently waiting on a guy who could help them win their first Super Bowl.
So we're assuming that's not the case. The second thing when discussing this is considering the basic philosophy behind both scenarios. As mentioned previously, it comes down to this- do you want to be ‘great at what you can be great at' and accept that's going to leave a weakness... well, weak, or do you want to address as many holes across the team as possible and accept that that runs the risk of becoming mired in mediocrity? Very few teams are legitimately great on both sides of the ball- the Seahawks really are the only actual example right now. And while of course you will instinctively look at the Super Bowl winning team and go "let's be like them, let's do what they did", you have to keep in mind that it's easier said than done. To be like them, you have to be patient- this was a team who, just a few years ago, was the first and only team in NFL history to make the playoffs with a losing record. They didn't become the unstoppable juggernaut they are considered now overnight. And to be like them, you also have to be quite lucky- again, this team was a third round pick away from having Tavaris Jackson/ Matt Flynn attempting to lead them to the golden land. (And let's not forget the insane amount of low round picks who truly hit for these guys.) So rather than over-simplifying things by just saying "let's be like them!", you have to look at it from the angle of "what can we do ourselves, in our situation, with what we've got?".
So what should we do? Do we go for broke on offense, be great in one area and hope it can carry the other- or do we accept mediocrity in 2014, patch over as much as possible with the best opportunities presented, and roll in 2015 looking to build further into a well-rounded powerhouse? What say you, fellow Viking fans?