Looking at the Vikings’ CURRENT roster, which includes a pretty good running back who’s, um, well rested, here’s one man’s opinion of the top four needs heading into the first round of the draft, which will be held in what will seem like 3,457 days …
1. Receiver: Not just any receiver. A big, fast, prototypical No. 1-type receiver with some polished route-running skills. (Google: Big receivers/Bears/Lions/really hard to defend). There’s no guarantee Cordarrelle Patterson will put in the work or grasp what is necessary to be an elite receiver, so the train moves on. If he wakes up, great. The Vikings would have two elite big receivers for Teddy Bridgewater to look for.
2. Left guard: The offensive line just flat-out isn’t good enough and another first-round investment might be due. Four of the positions — left tackle, center, right guard and right tackle — are manned by young guys who are either doing a good job, are capable of doing a good job and are here because the team invested heavily in them financially and/or through the draft. Charlie Johnson won’t be brought back and David Yankey is a fifth-round pick who never saw the field this season. An elite left guard would help the line overall and could steer left tackle Matt Kalil’s career back to the path it should be on.
3. Strong safety: Free safety Harrison Smith should have made the Pro Bowl and would have gotten more All-Pro consideration if the team had been better. Now imagine placing another elite, first-round caliber safety next to him. Someone with the same instincts, tackling ability and versatility. Might come in handy for those Green Bay games against a QB who is about to win his second MVP award and has thrown 477 passes and 38 touchdowns since his last pick at Lambeau Field
4. Cornerback: Josh Robinson, for the most part, played better than expected as the No. 3 corner in his first season with Mike Zimmer and his staff coaching him. But he’s a shaky No. 3 in the NFC North. Plus, there’s no guarantee the Vikings will remain as healthy in the secondary as they were in 2014. Anyone who saw the team play in 2011 and 2013 knows what happens to a defense when the secondary is ravaged by injuries. Also, Captain Munnerlyn was an upgrade from Chris Cook, but he didn’t reach a level that screams automatic starter for 2015. So if things line up a certain way and corner is the top talent on the board in Round 1, take him and move Munnerlyn to the No. 3 nickel slot spot if you have to.
Although the top four needs were listed in order, we aren’t saying automatically take a receiver first, a guard second, etc. The Vikings have enough needs that every position, except quarterback, should be in play when they pick 11th overall. Just pick the greatest talent and make the necessary adjustments.
Four rookies made the Pro Bowl this season. All four were selected below the 11th pick. Any one of them would fit with the Vikings, even the one who is a defensive tackle because, well, he’s that good and those big fellas don’t play every snap.
The Giants got receiver Odell Beckham 12th overall. He’s going to win offensive rookie of the year. The Rams took defensive tackle Aaron Donald 13th overall. He’ll likely win defensive rookie of the year.
At No. 16, the Cowboys got guard Zack Martin. All he did was earn All-Pro honors. At No. 17, the Ravens took linebacker C.J. Mosley, a playmaker who helped Baltimore’s defense go on the road and win at Pittsburgh in last week’s wild card round.
Obviously, the Vikings also did well for themselves, picking up linebacker Anthony Barr at No. 9 and Bridgewater at No. 32. Whether the Vikings give Barr help on defense or Bridgewater help on offense should come down to the best player, not a preconceived notion of which position should be filled by which round.