Each day this week, we will break down where the Vikings stand at certain positions heading into next week’s NFL draft. Today, we continue the series with a look at the defensive backs.
The Vikings believe they found their quarterback of the future last year. Now, they might want to consider stopping Green Bay’s quarterback of the here and now.
Aaron Rodgers rules the NFC North with a high-powered passing attack that has toyed with the Vikings for, well, far too long. Although Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is a respected defensive mind and noted DBs Whisperer, he’s also 0-2 against the Packers and 1-5 in the pass-happy NFC North.
In two games against the Vikings last season, Rodgers completed 67.4 percent of his passes with five touchdowns, no interceptions and passer ratings of 138.7 and 109.7. Overall, NFC North QBs threw 10 touchdown passes and just two interceptions against the Vikings. And we won’t even bring up what happened to poor Josh Robinson in Chicago.
Oops. Sorry, Josh.
The Vikings’ secondary has two young potential Pro Bowl/All-Pro performers in cornerback Xavier Rhodes and free safety Harrison Smith. The other two starters — strong safety Robert Blanton and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who is better suited as the No. 3 corner — are priority targets for an upgrade.
At No. 11 overall, the Vikings should be in prime position to take the top defensive back available. Most experts believe that player to be Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes. The top safety, Alabama’s Landon Collins, is rated slightly lower in the first round and could be available if the Vikings were able to trade down and acquire more picks.
Projected starters: RCB Xavier Rhodes, LCB Captain Munnerlyn, FS Harrison Smith, SS Robert Blanton.
Don’t forget about: It’s easy to forget Antone Exum Jr. since he played only 16 defensive snaps a year ago. But 2014 was a developmental year that could help him make a run at an open strong safety competition. Exum played cornerback his last two years at Virginia Tech and was coming off a torn ACL that limited his senior year.
Level of need: High. The Vikings need to generate quality competition with the hope of upgrading left cornerback, strong safety and overall depth. Free agent pickup Terence Newman presents competition for Munnerlyn, but he’ll be 37 on Sept. 4.
Five prospects to remember: Connecticut CB Byron Jones, Washington CB Marcus Peters, Wake Forest CB Kevin Johnson, Fresno State FS Derron Smith, Florida State CB P.J. Williams.
Our best guess: The temptation of adding an elite young corner opposite Rhodes no doubt has the Vikings seriously considering Waynes at No. 11. How could it not, considering the tools needed to climb the NFC North’s Mount Rodgers? If they let him pass, look for the Vikings to take a cornerback within the next two rounds. Jones could be a strong value in the second round.