The Vikings went into this month’s NFL draft with quite a few needs. They targeted the cornerback and middle linebacker spots early. It took them a couple of days, but they got around to addressing the offensive line and added a couple of young pass-catchers for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
The one seemingly-pressing need they neglected was the safety position.
“We didn’t address it because there were other positions that came up,” Mike Zimmer said yesterday. “There were some guys on the board we liked but they were gone or we took somebody else at that particular time.”
Translation: The Vikings didn’t feel the need was all that pressing after all.
Seven rounds passed without the Vikings picking a safety, though they feel good about Anthony Harris, the rookie free agent they inked after the draft.
Harris and free-agent signing Taylor Mays were their only two offseason additions at the safety position. The Vikings covet safeties who can cover out of the slot if needed and they have converted corners to safety in the past, but Zimmer says Terence Newman isn’t a candidate to make the switch.
Zimmer said it will be “an open competition” at the safety spot next to Harrison Smith, so Mays, who at the very least should have an unique role in Zimmer’s sub packages, and Harris could play their way into the mix.
Robert Blanton claimed the starting job by default last summer. He held it for 13 games before he was benched in December for Andrew Sendejo.
The Vikings also have Antone Exum, a 2014 sixth-round pick whom they moved from corner to safety as soon as he arrived in Minnesota. General Manager Rick Spielman brought him up out of the blue after the 2015 draft.
“We’re very excited also about the progress he has made,” he said. “Also with Blanton and Sendejo, I think we know what those guys are. But you know Exum is someone were definitely going to be keeping a close eye on and see how well he comes along from last year, but [he's a] very talented athlete.”
Spielman’s comment about knowing what Blanton and Sendejo are at this point probably shouldn’t be seen as an argument in their favor, by the way.
So for a second straight summer, the Vikings will head to Mankato and try to figure out who should start in the defensive backfield next to Smith, their skilled free safety. But Zimmer doesn’t seem to be too worried about it.
“It will be all right,” the coach said after yesterday’s media film session.