FanPost

Where is the optimism? The excitement?

I've been seeing a lot of people here saying we're going to have a losing season next year, or things are doom and gloom, etc. and I'm more than a little surprised. Quite a few of you were saying how our roster was looking top level coming out of the draft.

I think the Vikings are actually in a prime position to improve next year in virtually all facets of the game.

First up, let's talk coaching:

  • This has been largely beaten to death so I'll keep it brief, but we have an exciting opportunity for a new HC and GM to step in and take over and improve things around here. Patient owners, great facilities, solid program history, mostly stable roster.
  • As a team, I think we could absolutely benefit from new coaching vision, and having a full coaching staff. Can't stress that last part enough. It's not just a new HC. It's a chance for a new HC, and top notch coordinators. It's a chance to really try and maximize the development of our team on all sides of the ball.
Cap Space:
  • We aren't in amazing shape for the cap, but we're also not anywhere near Saints territory. We were set to be 5M over the cap last year and we still managed to hand out 46M in contracts for our defense, including bringing in a mid-tier CB, solid DT, 3 DE, S, and a couple bargain bin guys.
  • Extensions or trades for Cousins/ Hunter and some Bryz magic with bonuses could easily leave us with a hefty budget to work with.

Personnel:

  • If you look at our roster, it's really not in terrible shape. We had a pretty rough year for injuries, but that's about it. We aren't set to lose any cornerstone pieces of our team if we don't want to.
  • Free Agents. There are a few guys we should try to keep, like P2, Conklin, Cole, maybe Barr. Other than that, we aren't set to lose any major impact guys. We aren't going to miss Alexander or Hill or Dozier etc.. Griffen and Richardson were solid contributors, but I don't know if Griffen should even still be playing football, and Richardson can probably be replaced with upcoming rookies like Twyman/ Robinson.
  • Skill positions - I would say our offensive skill positions probably compare favorably to most teams in the league. We have a top 5 WR duo, two more promising younger WRs in KJ/ ISM, a top RB, and a solid TE room. Maybe even top 10 if we can keep Conklin.
  • QB(1 of 3)* - love him or hate him, Cousins is consistent. He's not perfect, and he's never going to be the Aaron Rodgers/ Brett Favre/ Patrick Mahomes you haters want him to be where he can just put the team on his back and be the hero. But he's also not going to cost us many games either. He's consistently going to throw for 4k yards, 30 TDs, and like 10 INTs. I'll take that over 5k yards, 30 TDs and 30 INTs like Winston for example. "BuT HIs CaP hIt" you say? It can be improved with a minor extension.
    • QB (cont'd)* - I also put the asterisk here because I think Cousins is probably going to end up as one of the most pursued/ top potential trade targets. The current draft class is looked at as pretty weak in recent history. I don't see Watson's legal issues being resolved in the offseason. I think if GB makes a solid run/ wins the Super Bowl, Rodgers is going to stay or retire. Russel Wilson has a no-trade clause, so that's going to limit his marketability. So in reality, Cousins is probably competing with Carr (who has said he would rather retire than play for anyone but the Raiders), Minshew, JimmyG, and the lower tier free agents like Mariota, Winston, Bridgewater, etc. I don't think Mayfield, Darnold, Jones etc., are going to have a huge trade market either. Mayfield because he's inconsistent and is going to cost $20M anyway, and the others are just bad. It wouldn't be completely crazy to me for teams to see Cousins as the #1 vet QB available, maybe #2 since more teams may be interested in the lower price tag for Minshew. Cousins is coming off a great season statistically, and I think people who are in football for a living look at our defense and don't say oh he's not in the playoffs.
      • QB - So either the new GM/ HC want to keep Cousins around and build around that, or he's probably a trade target that can net some solid compensation for the next couple years. Either way, we aren't in a terrible spot.
  • Rookies/ Young Talent. This one is a bit complicated. In the pre-season I largely said our depth sucks, and I stand by that for the most part with some notable exceptions. I will also say that I don't think our coach was interested in playing rookies if he didn't have to, to the point where he was actively handicapping the team to make a point in some cases.
    • JJ/ KJ/ ISM have all flashed at WR. Nwangwu (I'll eat crow here - I hated him as a pick so early) popped off in ST and I could absolutely see some more creative OC's using him like Deebo Samuel or Cordarrelle Patterson, etc., as a change of pace. Dantzler finished the season as the highest graded CB on our team, and he was clearly a significant upgrade from Breeland. Bynum looked good enough to the point that I think he should be penciled in as a starter for next year. Darrisaw showed flashes of elite talent, and I think with a full off-season and some good coaching he might be the best tackle on our team.
    • Wyatt Davis. The invisible man. The 2x All-American. Big 10 lineman of the year. My favorite pick in the draft. I don't know if it was injuries, if he had a big fight with Zim in practice, or what the deal with him is. It's baffling to me that he got some time in pre-season and at least looked decent for a rookie who missed almost all of camp. He got pretty solid grades from PFF in the preseason (upper 70s/ low 80s), and you would expect that a guy with his pedigree should be more capable than Udoh/ Dozier. We're all going to lambast Zim even more next year if Davis steps in and is a mauler at RG like most of the media thought he would be.
    • I wasn't a fan of the Jones or Surratt picks at the time and haven't seen anything that would change my opinion there. Same for Dye/ Davidson.
    • I will say Twyman and Robinson were the two DL I was most interested in seeing this year and it was a bummer they were on IR all season.
  • Other Veterans - DT group looks really good honestly. Pierce, Watts, Tomlinson, Lynch? Solid group right there, and I think Twyman might carve out a role as a 3T pass-rush specialist. DE room is one step up from a desolate wasteland, and they'll need to make a decision on Hunter. He's elite when healthy, and could still command a decent haul if he's used as trade bait. Outside of that, Wonnum looks bad. He's not good in the run game, and his pass rush win rate is awful. He gets effort sacks, but that's about it. DB room is a bit bleak as well, but Smith and P2 would be solid leaders and mentors for some younger talent. OL is somewhat solid - 3/5 spots I'd say are above average starters. Still need additional talent, but not the worst. LB room is old and needs real talent. We've ridden the stability of Barr/ Kendricks to the point where the wheels are starting to come off.
  • Finally - Draft/ Offseason Needs. Honestly, our needs are pretty manageable, and we have an average amount of draft picks. Only 3 in the top 150 is rough, and the drop from 44 to 155 is significant, but we could make some pretty easy trades to shore up our picks.
    • CB: We need a slot/ nickel CB to replace Alexander which is cheaper in FA and lower priority for CB in draft. We could use a guy to challenge for outside CB1 as well.
    • DE: This is either our biggest need or just a firm need based on free agency. If we ship Hunter it's probably a 1st round pick. If not, could absolutely address in 2nd or 3rd round.
    • LB: We very much need at least one, but probably two linebackers. Not converted quarterbacks, guys learning the position, coverage specialists, or whatever. We need physical, downhill, linebackers who can stop a RB.
    • IOL: We need a guard and/or center for sure. One impact guy who can start right away or challenge for a starting spot.
    • You know what all of these have in common?
      • LOWER POSITIONAL VALUE. We aren't desperate for an OT, or a QB, or an elite WR1. We can trade back if we want and still address our needs with top talent. Our corners looked OK at least towards the end of the season when Dantzler was getting all the reps. There's room for improvement, but I don't know that we are locked into getting a shut-down corner in round 1. Especially if we can land a slot CB free agent like King or Callahan. You can get starting linebackers in the 2nd and 3rd rounds easily. Same for guards/ centers.
      • DEEP POSITION GROUPS. Almost all of these position groups are deeper than usual in this draft. Last year PFF had 3 DE's with a first round grade. They currently have 7. They had 5 CBs in the top 50, now they have 8. We can legitimately go BPA at any of the above groups from round 1-4 and come out in pretty good shape.

All in all, I think we have the capability to be contenders this year, and for years to come with some halfway decent roster management and a couple solid draft picks. Our team as it stands RIGHT NOW isn't quite there, but I also don't think we're all that far off either.

It's a new day. A new dawn. A new season. A new era. We may botch the GM/ HC search and it may be a flop, but at least for now, I'm going to look forward to next season with some optimism.

SKOL!

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.