The Vikings are 1-4 and heading in to a pivotal road match-up versus the hated Bears. I would love nothing more than a win today, but after watching five weeks of one dimensional offense and weak secondary play, I can’t help but think about next year and the many holes the team will need to fill. The Vikings could very well turn things around and salvage a solid season, but this isn’t a playoff roster and no matter their final record, this team will need a strong draft as much as any time in recent memory. Based on my crude strength of schedule math, the Vikings would select 6th in the 2012 NFL Draft if the season ended today. While I’m sure that will change, I do expect the team to end up selecting in the 8-12 range. Here’s a quick look at a few names you should be paying attention to over the next few months.
You could make a very strong argument that left tackle is the teams greatest need. Charlie Johnson just isn’t a long term solution at one of the most important positions in football and fortunately this draft should provide the Vikings with a couple strong options in Stanford’s Jonathan Martin and Iowa’s Riley Reiff. Each possesses the necessary blend of size and athleticism to become a building block who could protect Christian Ponder’s blind side for years to come. In the Andrew Luck draft, USC’s Matt Kalil is in the running for the number two spot and barring injury, will surely be off the board by the time the Vikings are on the clock.
Another position where this team is sorely lacking is wide receiver, specifically a play-making deep threat. Percy Harvin is certainly a dynamic player, but he hasn’t been able to establish himself as a consistent down-field threat. While inconsistent play from Donovan McNabb and the offensive line haven’t helped in this regard, it’s clear that Harvin can’t get it done by himself and having an explosive play-maker lined up on the outside would do wonders for this offense. That’s why I’m guessing General Manager, Rick Spielman and Director of College Scouting, Scott Studwell have got to be watching both Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon and Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd (a Minnesotan) very closely. While neither is a real burner, each possesses above average speed and have used their strengths to dominate the competition (length/ball skills in Floyd’s case, route running in Blackmon’s).
If the secondary hasn’t been driving you nuts this season, you haven’t been watching. While Chris Cook is showing flashes of his potential and Hussain Abdullah has been solid, it’s clear that the secondary is long in the tooth and, outside of this past weeks outburst of turnovers, is severely lacking in the play-making department. The team will likely be selecting too high in round one to take a safety, but early signs point to this being a very strong draft at cornerback. LSU’s Morris Claiborne, Northern Alabama’s Janoris Jenkins, and Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick could all be on the board when the Vikings select in the first round. Each have strengths that I would love to see in purple next year: Jenkins is strong in coverage, both Claiborne and Kirkpatrick possess elite size for the position and all three are physical in run support.
It’s never too early to start thinking about the future and if this already painful season happens to get worse this evening, the future won’t come soon enough.
Judson Coleman may be followed on Twitter @jacalope37