By Alvin Brown
The draft will take us inside the true franchise expectations of the Vikings brass. In reflection, the Vikings should have won at least three more games last year had it not been for the subpar play of quarterback Christian Ponder, the league’s 25th ranked passer (81.2 QB rating). Yes, Ponder completed 62 percent of his passes, albeit for a low average of 6.08 yards per pass – Peterson nearly matched that on the ground per touch averaging over five yards per carry.
Sure, Ponder was sacked 32 times, but before you come to his rescue, keep in mind Aaron Rodgers was sacked 51 times and still generated a 108.1 QB-rating.
In short, this has to be a better year for the former first-rounder; neither he, nor the Vikings can survive another slump like last year. With that said, the moral of my opening shot is that if Ponder does not play better, then its does not matter who the Vikings draft.
Now let’s assume Ponder will progress and the Vikings want to return to the playoffs and be competitive upon getting there. I believe the first two picks should be defensive, mainly based on three names within the NFC North –Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler.
To be competitive this coming season the Vikings have to draft to offset their aerial-minded opponents as cornerback, safety and obviously, middle linebacker should be priority — in this order — the top corner or safety on the board at pick 23. This of course is on the assumption that your MLB of choice will be there at pick 25, because barring a trade from a linebacker-hungry team moving up to the 24th pick, there is no indication that the Colts are interested in a middle linebacker. The Colts and several teams drafting after the Vikings first selection, namely Packers, Patriots, Texans and the Falcons, are interested in a defensive back. There is talk that the Falcon’s may even make another Julio Jones-like draft day move to jump up and snag CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State or Desmond Trufant, of Washington, both of whom I think would look awfully good in purple and gold.
Of the inside linebackers, Georgia’s Alex Ogletree, Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, Kansas’ Arthur Brown, and LSU’s Kevin Minter, all grade out about the same, so the Vikings can’t miss by taking one of them with the 25th pick.
The other side of my assessment is that you will never stop Rodgers, Cutler and Stafford no matter whom you draft; and that the Vikings should try and trade up for homerun hitter Tavon Austin of West Virginia, pair him with Greg Jennings, pray Adrian Peterson has another celestial season and match scores with opponents all season; of course in order for this scenario to be successful, it will depend on Ponder gaining more pocket confidence and developing the instincts to get the ball downfield.
I admit to being able to live with both draft-day scenarios, but being a Vikings fan since 1968, I subscribe to the philosophy that defense wins championships. If the Vikings can keep games close, I like their chances this season, especially with one of the games best young kickers in Blair Walsh.