Sunday, March 02, 2008

Team Needs: Minnesota Vikings

1. Defensive End
Minnesota's 38 sacks were good enough for eighth in the league, but they didn't really have a good pass rush, as they ranked only 28th in adjusted sack rate. Starting ends Kenechi Udeze and Ray Edwards aren't bad, but they're not the game-changing pass rushers that are a must have in today's NFL. 2005 first-rounder Erasmus James had plenty of talent coming out of Wisconsin but he also had an injury history that made him a very risky first round pick, which is why I had Matt Roth and Justin Tuck ranked ahead of him. James has managed only 12 starts in 23 games over his first three years with the past two seasons being cut short by knee injuries. 2007 fourth-rounder Brian Robison flashed some potential and could improve with a good off-season conditioning program to help keep him from wearing down, but a stud DE is still in order for Minnesota.

2. Strong Safety
Darren Sharper will be a 33-year-old free agent after the 2008 season. The Vikings should try to land the future starter with one of their mid-round draft picks.

3. Defensive Tackle
Starters Kevin Williams and Pat Williams are both All-Pro–caliber players. But big Pat will be 36 by the time the 2008 season finishes; and with Spencer Johnson's departure to the Bills, the only reserve is 2006 seventh-rounder Fred Evans.

4. Quarterback
As I watched the Vikings-Cowboys game last season, one thing became clear: With adequate quarterback play, the Vikings were a playoff team. But Tarvaris Jackson was a bit more raw than most QBs taken in the first two rounds, so it's way too early to give up on him yet. More importantly, he showed some improvement as the season wore on. Ideally a veteran would be brought in to compete for the stating job while Jackson continues to acclimate himself to the NFL. At the very least, they need a better backup than Brooks Bollinger, who can be fun to watch but has too many flaws in his game.

5. Tight End
One of the great mysteries of the 2007 off-season was the five-year, $18.2 million contract which the Vikes gave to Visanthe Shiancoe. His 27-catch, 1-TD season did nothing to solve that mystery. Jim Kleinsasser is a great blocker, but he's 31 and will be a free agent after next season.

6. Linebacker
With the departure of free agent Dontarrious Thomas, the Vikings lack adequate depth at each linebacker spot.

7. Left Tackle
This position wouldn't be as much of an issue except for the possible suspension of Bryant McKinnie for his second off-field incident. Artis Hicks or Marcus Johnson would likely start in any games McKinnie misses, but if you're talking about a quarter of the season, a better option would be nice.

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