DRAFT PREVIEW – MINNESOTA VIKINGS

A look at the Vikings heading into the 2011 NFL Draft; Minnesota has the 12th pick in the first round.

REVIEW OF 2010

Record - 6-10, it was an up and down season for the Vikings, but their poor start really ended any chance the team had in ’10. They were 2-5, and then won four of its final nine games.

Finish – tied for third in the NFC North with Detroit, five games behind division winner Chicago.

Playoffs – The Vikings last post-season appearance was 2009, when Brett Favre helped take them to the NFC Championship Game where they beat Dallas and then ended up losing to New Orleans in overtime.

OVERVIEW

After selling their soul for the last two years to Favre and the grandfather QB’s inability to say no, the Vikings must pick up the pieces of their franchise and try to move forward. It won’t be easy.

New head coach-former defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has some talented players on both sides of the ball, with RB Adrian Peterson and WR Sidney Rice on offense and DE Jared Allen and LB Chad Greenway on defense. 

Over recent years they spent a lot of money in free agency, but the guts of their teams have come from the NFL Draft. They’ll need to make this ’11 Draft count if they want to make something of this window that their defense has given them.

PARTICULARS

Offense – averaged 315 yards per game and that left them as the No. 23 most productive offense in the league. They scored 30 touchdowns on offense, with 13 coming from Peterson. He was truly the engine of the offense, gaining 1,298 yards on the ground and another 341 yards as a receiver. Rookie RB Toby Gerhart had 322 rushing yards. WR Percy Harvin led the Vikings in receiving (71-868-5) and TE Visanthe Shiancoe was active as well (47-530-2). Favre had 11 TD passes compared to 10 INTs, and a 69.9 passer rating on the season. Jackson and Joe Webb had the other chances to throw the ball, and they combined for 3 TDs against 7 INTs. Pass protection was not bad, as they allowed 36 sacks.

Defense – this is where the Vikings played well, giving up an average of 312.6 yards per game and left them ranked No. 8 in the league in fewest yards allowed. They were ninth against the run and 10th in stopping the pass. Opponents scored 35 touchdowns against Minnesota’s defense. They forced 26 turnovers and picked up 31 sacks. LB E.J. Henderson and SS Husain Abdullah had 3 INTs each while Allen was the top sacker, taking down the passer 11 times. The other DE Ray Edwards had 7 sacks.

Special teams – K Ryan Longwell was 17 of 18 on FGs, missing only from 39 yards. P Chris Kluwe averaged 43 yards a punt and the team’s net average was 38.9 yards. Harvin had a 95-yard kickoff return for a TD and averaged 23.3 yards WR Greg Camarillo handled punt returns and averaged 9.2 yards per game. Coverage units allowed a punt and a kickoff return for touchdowns.

DECISION MAKERS

For the last few years head coach Brad Childress was the guy in charge of everything football-wise. Since he’s been given his walking papers it figures that replacement Leslie Frazier will have some say-so, but VP of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski and VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman will be in the mix as well.

Who has the draft room juice? Good question. In this new situation whether Frazier will get what he wants remains to be determined.

TEAM NEEDS

1. Quarterback. The Vikings have been patching together their QB position for a number of years now, reaching to grizzled veteran Brett Favre for two years that got them to an NFC Championship Game, but also left behind a pool of controversy. Now that he’s “retired” they’ve got Joe Webb, Patrick Ramsey, Rhett Bomar and Tarvaris Jackson. Not since Daunte Culpepper’s knee blew up during the ’05 season, there’s been no solid franchise QB and no future. They need one and need one now.

2. Cornerback. The Vikings face Aaron Rodgers of the Packers and Jay Cutler of the Bears twice a season, so they had better be loaded on the corner and they are not. Antoine Winfield will be 34 in June and his days are numbered. Lito Sheppard will turn 30 this year. They have youngsters Asher Allen and last year’s draft choice Chris Cook, but they need more, much more.

3. Wide receiver – Rice and Harvin are talented receivers, but Rice is going to be a free agent and whether he stays in the Twin Cities remains to be seen. A talented young receiver would be a big help as the rest of the roster is filled with veterans like Bernard Berrian, Greg Lewis, Greg Camarillo and Hank Baskett. A shot of youth is badly needed there.

FIVE-YEAR HISTORY

The Vikings recent drafts have been very inconsistent. They hit big in 2006 and 2009, and even in the early choices of 2007. But they stubbed their toe a bit in 2008 and didn’t get enough help in 2010, with limited rookie participation.

2006 – A pair of defensive picks are in the starting lineup and playing at a high level from this draft – LB Chad Greenway (1st) and DE Ray Edwards (4th). Ryan Cook (2nd) is a top reserve on the O-Line. QB Tarvaris Jackson (2nd) has been a disappointment.

2007 – At the top of the draft they got RB Peterson (1st) and WR Rice (2nd). But after that the rest of the eight-man group only has DE Brian Robinson (4th) still around.

2008 – This was the draft the Vikings gave up for in a trade with the Chiefs for Allen. They ended up with five picks and only C John Sullivan (6th) sees any playing time.

2009 – The first three picks are in the starting lineup with WR Harvin (1st), OT Phil Loadholt (2nd) and CB Asher Allen (3rd). Nothing else after that.

2010 – No rookie starters in this group of 8 picks, with five still on the roster.

PREDICTION

These are precarious times for the Vikings, as ownership and local politicos try to get a new stadium in place. On the field, they are a team out of whack, with the defense well ahead of the offense. That would point the first-round choice towards the offense and that could be any of the second level quarterbacks like Jake Locker, Andy Dalton and Christian Ponder and possibly WR Torrey Smith. But the one offensive gem still sitting there based on our early guesses is WR Julio Jones. THE PICK – Dalton.

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