The draft is barreling down upon the NFL world and this is an exciting time for every team. No matter how terrible the fall of 2016 was for you as an NFL fan (apologies all of Northeast Ohio), the draft presents a time of hope. As a fan of the Minnesota Vikings Thursday night will not be as exciting for the simple reason that they do not own a first round pick. Even so, the draft has always been one of my favorite times of the year. As we wait patiently for the Roger Goodell to take the podium to a chorus of boos, here are some of the pitfalls they should avoid as well as draft ideas they should implement. A quick list of Do’s and Don’ts for Minnesota.
- Grab pass rushers and cover guys:
In today’s NFL there is no such thing as having too many guys that can get after the passer. For Mike Zimmer’s hyper-aggressive blitzing scheme, being able to get fresh bodies on the field to harass quarterbacks is paramount. At times during the second half of last season the defense looked worn down and struggled to get off the field on third down. There were myriad factors that contributed to that, including a putrid offense that was unable to sustain drives, but in part it was because they did not have depth defensively. This draft is flush with pass rushers and cover guys, and even in the second round there will be players available who can come in right away and contribute as rookies. A player like Tennessee’s Derrick Barnett could slip to the second round, and all he did in college was break Reggie White’s college sack record. He can fit in the defensive line rotation and eventually replace Brian Robison who has declared his intention to retire at the end of next season. Another player sliding down draft boards is Florida corner Teez Tabor, and if he slides to the second round the Vikings should pounce on him. Injuries depleted the secondary down the stretch last season and adding depth there should be a priority.
- Take a flyer on a freak athlete on offense:
The Vikings offense had many flaws, notably the putrid offensive line, but there was a lack of dynamic playmaking on the outside was also clear. Giving Sam Bradford more weapons would allow the offense to open up more and help alleviate some of the issues that plagued them throughout the season. If they can add a player who can be explosive in space, especially after the catch, it would make quick throws a more viable option. After losing Cordarrelle Patterson in free agency there is a gaping hole in the playmaking department and it would be worth taking a chance in the middle to late rounds on a player that might fill that void.
- Reach for offensive linemen:
The need for better offensive line play has been noted and frankly beaten to death, but unfortunately this draft has a poor offensive line class. It is not worth reaching for a prospect at a position of need when there are better players available. Offensive linemen used to be the safest picks in the draft, but with the transition in college to spread schemes the move to the next level has been tougher for those players. If one of the top offensive linemen slides to them in the second round they should scoop them up, but reaching for a marginal player in the early rounds is not a move that they should make.
- Give up future assets:
One of the reasons this draft is less exciting is because the Vikings do not have their own first round pick. The Sam Bradford trade has been analyzed to death and whether or not you agree with the move is largely irrelevant. For better or worse, Bradford will be the starter in 2017. With all that said, giving up future picks in hopes of nabbing a veteran star is not a recipe for success given the current state of the roster. Despite a 5-0 start last season, this team is not one player away from being a Super Bowl winner. There is not a player that is reasonably available that would shore up all the holes on this team. Draft picks are the most valuable currency in the NFL world, and throwing them away left and right is not a sound managerial philosophy.