Nov 7, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Gerald Hodges (54) runs downfield on a kickoff against the Washington Redskins in the second quarter at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. The Vikings win 34-27. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
The Minnesota Vikings were busy in free agency and brought in a lot of talent, but they couldn’t cover everything. Here are the top 6 holes that are left on the roster:
- Outside Linebacker – Things are looking really rough at outside linebacker. If the season started now, second-year player Gerald Hodges would be making his first career start for Minnesota. Behind him on the depth chart, there are the “versatile” players that are meant to be plug-ins at any spot in the linebacker corps. That’s not to say that Hodges isn’t a capable linebacker, he just hasn’t established himself as a starting caliber player yet. We could see the Vikings using their #8 overall pick on a linebacker that can play on day one.
- Cornerback – This could be considered a tie for the top spot, but during his time on the outside, Josh Robinson was okay on the outside. However, when Robinson moved inside to nickel, he struggled mightily. Luckily, the team brought in Captain Munnerlyn to man the slot and nickel duties. While the Vikings could look to Robinson to plug the hole left by Chris Cook, Minnesota might be best suited drafting a cornerback in the first 3 rounds of the draft to be an immediate starter.
- Middle Linebacker – Last year, the player that started the last quarter of the season for the Vikings was released by the team just days before his first career start. Although Audie Cole shows some flashes of brilliance as a run stopper, his ability to drop back into pass coverage was highly suspect. Sadly, this isn’t a particularly good draft for any team that is looking for a starting caliber middle linebacker. Unless Minnesota can land one of the top prospects, they may go into the season with Cole as their starter.
- Left Guard – Yes, the Vikings signed Charlie Johnson back this offseason, but that doesn’t mean that he should be a starter. Last year, it seemed as though Johnson spent more time laying on the ground than standing up blocking defensive linemen. There are other options at the position, including Jeff Baca and Joe Berger, but none of them stand out enough to think that they’ll be able to be the clear cut winner of the position in camp. We could see Minnesota using a mid-round pick to upgrade this spot.
- Quarterback – Many fans talk as though quarterback is the biggest problem on this team, but it is far from the main one. Cassel is a decent quarterback that can step in and make any throws that are asked of him. And with the team making the move to The Gopher Hole for the next two years while their new home is being built, it makes sense to draft a rookie to groom under Cassel. That’s not to say that the position shouldn’t be upgraded, but Cassel can hold down the Viking ship for now.
- Safety – When healthy, Harrison Smith is a beast. He could use some regular help along side him though. Last year, I was encouraged by the play of Andrew Sendejo, but he only got to play because of injuries and benchings. The usual starter, Jamarca Sanford or Mistral Raymond, has been inconsistent at best. While safety could be upgraded, there are much bigger needs on this team. There are some safeties that could provide stability and high upside in this year’s draft.
Dec 8, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones (12) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings safety Jamarca Sanford (33) at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
While those are my top 6 positions of need, the Vikings may be stuck in a position where a player drops to them in the draft that they’d never expect to. Last year, that situation applied to all three first round draft picks for Minnesota (Floyd, Rhodes, and Patterson).
Who will slide this year that just might not be a huge positions of need? Will it be Jadeveon Clowney? Will it be Sammy Watkins? Will it be Khalil Mack?
We won’t know until after the draft how many of these spots get filled. But for now, the Vikings have to keep their options open and not reach too far for a player in a position of need when a greater talent is on the board.