As we prepare for another roller coaster off-season with the Minnesota Vikings, we are once again feeling the usual hope and optimism. With the draft around the corner, many fans and experts have their own ideas of what Vikings will do come April. Do you take the best available player, or do you draft for need? Or will Rick once again trade back and recoup some lost picks? Either way, it seems like for the first time in a while the Minnesota Vikings are in a unique position. Over the last few years, so many game-changers were selected in the 8-15 range. You can go offense or defense and get a guy that fits right in to make an instant impact.
For the first time in the Mike Zimmer era, it was the offense that carried this team and put us on the brink of a playoff spot even with a 1-5 start. So, assuming that continues with some new additions upfront, you would be right to believe the Vikings are going to be a strong contender next season. As always, the biggest challenge that new OC Klint Kubiak will have to figure out is how to protect Kirk Cousins and allow him to really take over in games.
Addressing our biggest issue!
Common sense would suggest the Vikings take the highest-ranked offensive lineman. Kirk Cousins was the 3rd most pressured quarterback in the league last season (38.6%) but still managed to finish in the top 10 in passer rating (105.0). The Vikings have done reasonably well over the last 2 years taking an offensive lineman in the 2nd round of those drafts and they have both worked out quite well, but we don’t have a pick in the 2nd round this year so maybe this is the year we address that position we so desperately need to improve on to allow our offense to be even more explosive next year.
Another option, however, is building our offensive line through free agency. The name that jumps up at you is Trent Williams, who the Vikings tried to acquire last year but he refused. The free agency pool seems to be filled with quite a few really solid offensive linemen that could instantly make our team better and would need no introduction to the league. A perfect example of a veteran lineman going to a team and making a huge impact is Andrew Whitworth going to the Los Angeles Rams and solidifying that line in the run and most importantly protecting the quarterback’s blindside. Paying for an established player in that position is one of the few roster moves that are very low risk and tend to work out more than often.
The most unlikely scenario would be to trade for one of the available players in that position. This wouldn’t be such a bad idea considering the nature of the position. Offensive linemen tend to play till much later in terms of age compared to most other positions. Ravens are said to be looking for a 1st round pick from anyone interested in Orlando Brown Jr who had a tremendous season at left tackle. The Vikings should strongly consider this as an option, Brown is 23 years old and will shore up that position for at least the next 8 years. A 1st round pick is a small compensation to pay for a player that would be a massive part of your offense for a decade.
The Other Side of the Ball
The Vikings’ strong point for the entirety of Mike Zimmer’s tenure as the head coach has been defense. That was not the case last season, the Vikings ranked 30th overall, our pass rush was non-existent (28th in sacks) and what was even more alarming was how easily teams were able to run the ball at will. Injuries happen all over the NFL but to have so many starters and their replacements out injured took a massive toll on the team. One thing that Vikings fans can be certain of is that there will be no repeat of this and we can be sure that our defense will be back to its usual self.
Not only do the Vikings have a lot to look forward to with players coming back from injury, but the young cornerbacks also really came into their own as the season progressed. Cameron Dantzler was the highest-graded cornerback since week 7.
Expectations or False Hope?
There is plenty to look forward to if you’re a Vikings fan, if we can somehow manage to put it all together, we can build something special. This offseason we have a very rare opportunity where if we play our cards right we can certainly put our names firmly in the mix for the NFC.