by Eric Paolini
Entering the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday, the Minnesota Vikings had needs that would have to be addressed. In the rebuilding process post Brett Favre, the Vikings got back to the playoffs sooner than expected. But the team is still closer to being out of the playoffs then a Super Bowl contender.
Now that the draft is over it is time to look at how the Vikings addressed those needs. And for the most part, the Vikings had a successful draft, as well as a fairly successful free agency.
Their biggest question was at wide receiver. It was a weak position last year that became more dire upon the release of Michael Jenkins and the trade of Percy Harvin. One was replaced during free agency with the signing of division rival Greg Jennings. But that wouldn't be enough. Along with wide receiver, some defensive positions needed some help.
So how did my favorite team fare in the draft? While we won't know until games are played, and won't truly know whether these prospects were the right choice until a few seasons are played, there is a sense that some of these rookies will have an impact this season.
This off-season for the Vikings will be most know for two trades: the Harvin deal with Seattle and getting a third first round selection from New England. All of last season question marks hung over Harvin. He was apparently unhappy being in Minnesota and was in line for his first post rookie contract payday. Understandably the Vikings were worried to shell out the money to a player that has had some minor run ins with the team as well as been marked as "injury prone", even if that is a bit overblown. Before being placed on the injured reserve last season and missing a total of seven games, Harvin had only missed three games in as many seasons.
With last year's lost season for Harvin, he had shown improvement in each of of his first three seasons. Incrementally increasing receptions, receiving yards, rushing yards, and returning yards each year. The Vikings decided it would be better to have their high cost wide receiver be a bit more proven and possibly less of a headache. Sending Harvin to Seattle netted the 25th and 214th selections in this year's draft as well as a third rounder to come next year. Harvin immediately received a 6 year $67 million deal from the Hawks with $25.5 million guaranteed.
Instead of $67 million to Harvin, the Vikings gave Jennings a 5 year $47.5 million with $18 million guaranteed. The 29 year old receiver is coming off his own injury plagued season. Only time will tell if Jennings can resume the production of his most successful seasons (2008-2010) where he had three 1,100 yard season including two over 1,200. But one thing is for sure, Jennings won't give the Vikings the same threat Harvin did. Jennings doesn't return kicks or punts and chances are he won't receive any handoffs.
The first draft selection brought in Florida defensive tackle Shariff Floyd putting an end to his first round free fall. Two picks later brought in physically gifted cornerback Xavier Rhodes from Florida State using the pick from Seattle. While these two selections addressed needs, it ignored the biggest need, wide receiver. And that's when Vikings made one of a handful of controversial trades during round one.
In order to get into the first round again the Vikings sent second, third, fourth, and seventh round picks to New England for the 29th selection where they took the raw prospect Cordarrelle Patterson from Tennessee. The wideout is reminiscent of former Vikings great Randy Moss in terms of spotty effort at times in route running.
While the first two selections brought in two players that should be impact guys right away, much like Matt Kahlil and Harrison Smith were last year. While I can understand the philosophy of drafting an "upside" project like Patterson, the nature of his position is dependent on a good quarterback for him to have the best chance of realizing his potential.
Unfortunately, quarterback is still a question mark for the Vikings. Christian Ponder has struggled in his little over one season as starter. His decision making and completion percentage still has some to be desired, to put it nicely. Ideally the veteran presence of Jennings will help. Chances are Patterson won't be able to come in right away and be a go to guy (he has only one season of big level college football under his belt). At least Patterson can contribute on special teams.
Later in the draft, the team addressed linebacker with Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti both from Penn State. There was much speculation Minnesota would be the landing spot for Manti Te'o, especially when the Vikings traded back into the first round. Luckily, Minnesota passed.
This off-season was handled properly by Minnesota's front office. Even with sneaking into the playoffs last season, the Vikings still have some growing to do. They're not quite ready to make a full push into being a top level contender. It's close, but not quite yet. I think their choice of getting three first round picks to add top-level, young talent was smart. Overall, the team is moving towards adding young talent (the release of veterans Antoine Winfield and Michael Jenkins), even though they got older at number one receiver.
While we will get a better idea of how the off-season moves look during workouts and pre-season, right now I'm confident as a Vikings fan.
Here you can find all of our articles up to 2018.