Minnesota Vikings 2012 NFL Draft Team Needs
After a 3-13 season that came just two years after an appearance in the NFC Championship Game, it’s safe to say the Minnesota Vikings have a lot of holes on their roster. New general manager Rick Speilman is likely to try to kickstart the task of rebuilding the roster by making the roster younger, and to this point in the offseason the moves he has made are following that blueprint.
The Vikings have stayed away from the bigger names in free agency, instead choosing to sign some not as recognizable names such as offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz, tight end John Carlson and running backs Lex Hilliard and Jerome Felton. Given the lack of talent in multiple places on the roster, spending big in free agency seems to be the wrong idea and it is easy to confuse activity in free agency with making the right moves.
Here’s a look at the biggest needs the Minnesota Vikings have heading toward April’s draft.
The Vikings offense needs to upgrade the talent at wide receiver around the multi-talented Percy Harvin, and their reported interest in free agent Ted Ginn Jr. will not be enough in that regard other than a possible upgrade Ginn offers as a return man. Minnesota could use the third overall pick on a wide receiver, with Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon a possibility, but almost certainly one of their first two or three picks will be used on the position. Other players who could be targeted by the Vikings in the early rounds include Rutgers’ Mohamed Sanu and South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery, and whoever they choose is likely to get the opportunity to step right in as a starter.
Changes are coming along the Vikings’ offensive line, as starting guards Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera were released this offseason. Left tackle remains a major need after the team released Bryant McKinnie prior to last season, and USC’s Matt Kalil has been prominently mentioned as a possibility for the No.3 overall pick. The addition of Schwartz adds some depth here, as he can play guard and tackle, but a talent upgrade is needed virtually across the board and it would not be a big surprise to see the Vikings use more than one draft pick on this area.
Minnesota intercepted just eight passes all season in 2011, and numerous mistakes often left opposing wide receivers running free in the secondary. Changes are already coming here as well with the release of CB Cedric Griffin this offseason. One positive is the legal issue that led to CB Chris Cook being deactivated late in the season has recently been resolved and he should be able to play in 2012 (barring some sort of suspension), but an upgrade in talent is needed here across the board. The incumbent safeties, Tyrell Johnson, Jamarca Sanford, Mystral Raymond, Husain Abdullah (who is a free agent) have not gotten it done in recent years and some or all of them may not be back with the team in 2012. It is possible cornerback Antoine Winfield could be moved to safety at age 35 by the time the season starts, but he has often been injured in recent seasons and that is cause for some concern. The Vikings could use the third overall pick on a cornerback, with LSU’s Morris Claiborne likely to be the choice, but there are enough holes in the secondary that two or three of their draft choices could be used here.
There is likely to be some changes at linebacker for the Vikings as well, with both Henderson brothers (E.J. and Eric) being free agents and possibly not returning to the team. Regardless of bringing one or both guys back, there is a need to add depth here in the draft or free agency and drafting a potential immediate starter at middle linebacker is not out of the question. Finding some playmakers here would definitely help the overall performance of the defense.
The Vikings appear to be set at defensive end with Jared Allen and Brian Robison in place, but outside of Kevin Williams there is not a lot of talent at defensive tackle and the decision to terminate the contract of Remi Ayodele hurts their interior depth a little. Williams and Allen are also not getting any younger, at age 32 and 30 respectively by the time the season starts, so adding a young player or two in this area could become something Spielman and company take a long look at on draft day.