There's no denying the Minnesota Vikings helped themselves quite a bit on defense during free agency. DT Linval Joseph, CB Captain Munnerlyn, DE Coey Wootton, and the re-signing of Everson Griffen were all moves that should make the Vikings defense much better in 2014, at least on paper.
But if you'll notice, the Vikings failed to address the linebacker position, arguably the neediest of positions on the defensive side of the ball. Well, unless you consider U of M and CFL alum Simoni Lawrence the answer. If you do, though, I'm not sure I want to know what your question is. Because right now, all the Vikings have at linebacker is an aging an injured Chad Greenway, a return performance coming from the previously unimpressive Jasper Brinkley, and a lot of question marks. Yeah, in Maslov's Hierarchy of Needs, linebacker is right up there with food and shelter right now. And there's a guy from Buffalo that would not only fill a huge need, he's the first guy in this series that I think has a decent chance of actually being on the board when the Vikings select.
Well, at least a better chance than either of the guys we've looked at so far.
Why Khalil Mack? Mack is the best linebacker in the draft, and he looks like a guy that is going to play a long time and at a high level in the NFL. Playing from both the 'Will' and 'Sam' positions, and at times either end position, he was a force. He set and FBS record with 16 career forced fumbles and 75 tackles for loss, all of which seemed to come against Ohio State last year.
Why he'd be perfect in Minnesota: It's no secret that the Vikings are going to change their defensive scheme, and one of the tenets of a Mike Zimmer defense is consistent pressure off of the edge. Zimmer has said that the Vikings will use whatever defense works for the personnel, basically, be it a 4-3 or some type of 3-4 hybrid.
Khalil Mack would seem to be a perfect fit for a Zimmer coached defense. As an outside linebacker, he's fast enough and big enough to play the Sam position, and cover a tight end or blitz. He's also quick enough laterally to put him at the Will position in run support. If he was going to be a down linemen coming from the end position, I think he'd need to add some pounds (he's listed at 6'3", 251), but has the speed to beat a slower tackle to the edge.
He's also a guy that has a nose for the ball, and is a sure tackler. If you'll remember (and hey, if you've blocked it out of your mind, I understand) the Vikings defense the last couple of seasons has been atrocious at wrapping and tackling, especially at the linebacker position. Mack is a guy that would help end that epidemic, and make some big plays.
I know a lot of Vikings fans are clamoring for a quarterback; I get that sentiment, and I am a fellow clamorer...clamoree, clamorii...whatever. But on the flip side, I don't want the Vikings to reach for a quarterback early in the draft again, and if there's a scenario where the quarterbacks are gone, but Khalil Mack is on the board, take Mack and don't look back. He would be an immediate upgrade to the defense, and would continue the good vibes coming from that side of the ball that started wit the free agency signings of Linval Joseph, Captain Munnerlyn, and Corey Wootton.
As important a position quarterback is, there's an old saying about defense winning championships that still rings true, even in this day and age of wide open offenses. Last year (and again, if you've blocked it out, good on you) the Vikings defense gave up the lead in the final minutes of a game SIX TIMES last year, including twice in the last minute of the Ravens game. As bad as the NFC North was last year, and as bad as the quarterback position was until late in the year, of the Vikings close out four of those games, which wasn't an impossible task, the record is now 9-7, and the Vikes were a playoff team (one of those last minute choke jobs was the infamous tie game in Green Bay). Close them all out, and they're 10-6.
Obviously, they didn't, and we were left with a 'do over' at quarterback, a new coaching staff, and the worst defense, by almost any statistical measure, in the NFL. Oh, and a top 10 draft pick. Again. For the third time in four years. Seriously, if this isn't reversed, we're going to become the new Detroit of the NFC North. But I digress.
Let's say either Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel are on the board when the Vikings are on the clock, with Khalil Mack still out there as well. Would I be really upset and angry if the Vikings chose Mack over either of those quarterbacks? No, I wouldn't. Not in the least bit. Well, maybe a little bit. But still, other than Jadavaon Clowney, Khalil Mack is the best defensive player in this draft, and would be a shot in the arm for a Vikings defense sorely in need of a facelift.
Khalil Mack would be the perfect nip and tuck.