The Vikings finished 8-7-1 and, barring a trade, will get the 18th overall pick in April’s draft.
It’s the earliest the Vikings are slated to pick since 2015, when cornerback Trae Waynes was drafted 11th overall — not counting the 2017 pick (14th overall) shipped to Philadelphia in the Sam Bradford trade.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins deferred to management when asked where the Vikings offense needs improvement for next season. In the same news conference Sunday night after a 24-10 loss to Chicago at U.S. Bank Stadium, Cousins said the Bears’ pass rush had “a big impact on the game.”
“That’s really more their call,” Cousins said. “I’m not going to voice publicly my opinion from that standpoint. I’ll let them do that. And obviously, we have a good sample size from this year to evaluate and see where we need to improve.”
The offensive line is a clear focus for this offseason. There should be options in the middle of the first round. The Colts drafted Alabama center Ryan Kelly with the 18th overall pick two years ago. Eight years ago, the Steelers took All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey at pick No. 18.
Two of the Vikings’ top five picks under coach Mike Zimmer have been defensive backs. Injuries ravaged the secondary this season, including cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who was unable to play Sunday because of a groin injury, and rookie corner Mike Hughes, on injured reserve since October.
“We kind of ran out of defensive backs today,” Zimmer said.
Bears starters stay in
Bears coach Matt Nagy said “not one time” Sunday did he mention to his starters about resting them. Nagy had told Chicago reporters he’d keep tabs on the Rams’ score against the 49ers and possibly sit players if the No. 2 seed was out of reach.
Despite the Rams jumping out to a 31-10 lead by halftime, Nagy continued to play his starters throughout the second half against the Vikings.
“I was going off my gut reaction and gut feeling with our guys,” Nagy said. “Because it is not easy. You have a lead, you know you are in next week and it wouldn’t feel good to lose a guy in that situation. Those are hard. That is a valuable experience for me down the road.”
Two Bears WRs hurt
Already without leading receiver Allen Robinson because of to injury, the Bears lost two more receivers against the Vikings. Anthony Miller was ruled out after a shoulder injury suffered in the first quarter. Taylor Gabriel, who had four catches for 61 yards, was knocked out of the game in the third quarter because of a rib injury.
“I feel good about them,” Nagy said. “I feel confident that they will be OK.”
Vikings’ 2019 foes set
With the Falcons’ 34-32 victory over the Buccaneers on Sunday, Atlanta finished second in the NFC South and will travel to Minnesota for a game next season. The Falcons join the Eagles, Redskins, Broncos, Raiders, Bears, Lions and Packers as the Vikings’ 2019 home opponents.
The Vikings’ 2019 road trips will be to the Giants, Cowboys, Seahawks, Chargers, Chiefs, Bears, Packers and Lions.
Young DBs thrown in
Young defensive backs Jayron Kearse and Holton Hill found themselves in the Bears’ cross hairs and surrendered big plays in Sunday’s loss. Hill was beaten on a 40-yard throw to Gabriel, setting up a Bears touchdown from the 1-yard line. Kearse was the victim on back-to-back third downs when he was flagged for holding and then beaten on a catch for a conversion.
“Honestly, we didn’t play our best football all year,” Kearse said.