The Vikings entered the 2010 season with all 22 starters and their three specialists back from the previous season. Several players -- Sidney Rice, Cedric Griffin -- had injury issues in camp, but the team expected them to be on the field at some point.
That continuity won't be the case this season. With 19 potential free agents and an older roster, Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman has made it clear the roster will look significantly different and much younger next season.
“We’re going to be a younger team for sure going into next season," Spielman said this week. "Rookies are going to get forced into action. They are going to have to step up and play. I also have a lot of confidence in our coaching staff and their history of developing young guys and getting them ready to play.”
The Vikings need to have a solid draft in order to replenish their roster and fill holes. They need this next draft class to make an immediate impact.
“Last year’s draft was done because we had everybody back," Spielman said. "It was done for ... I wouldn’t say depth, it was done for the future. Some of those guys -- when you had as much depth as we had, you had the veteran roster we had -- those guys were going to be role players for you.
"We had some injuries and some guys had to step in. When the guys did step in, we were very excited about some of the stuff Chris DeGeare showed at the end of the season and how he progressed in his first start to where he was at the end of the season. The Joe Webbs. Toby Gerhart got better and better as the season went along. Everyone can see the Green Bay game, but what Chris Cook did in those other games when he played against the Calvin Johnsons of the world, we were very encouraged about the signs he showed.
"We’re pretty excited about the class last year. The Everson Griffens of the world and what he showed on special teams and some of the stuff he did coming off the edge as a pass rusher. They didn’t have as many opportunities as some of the veterans we had in front of them. Those guys we are relying on next year to take that step, plus what’s coming in in this year’s draft class.”
The team's college scouts returned to Winter Park last weekend to being preparing their draft board and to get ready for the scouting combine in Indianapolis next week.
"This year you’re going to have to bring in new players and younger talent," Spielman said. "It’s exciting, it’s a challenge. I know it’s something the coaches and our scouts and [director of college scouting Scott] Studwell’s down there with our college guys, we’re sitting there hacking away at all these guys. With so many guys potentially not being here next year, these [rookies] are going to have to step up and fill in and play for you.”