The Vikings enter draft preparation facing one of the best scenarios they have seen in recent seasons. Daniel House tells you why Rick Spielman has an immense amount of flexibility entering the NFL Draft in May.
The Vikings used the first week of free agency to address the quarterback position, while patching a defense that was full of holes. By making these areas a priority, the Vikings are able stay true to their draft board when the NFL Draft arrives in May. Signing Matt Cassel provided the team with a sense of insurance at this position; allowing them to shift their focus to a defense that was on the worst in the history of the organization. The goal is to improve a group who was last in nearly every defensive category, while recording an abysmal 44.4% opponent conversion rate on third down.
By resigning Everson Griffen, along with adding Linval Joseph and Captain Munnerlyn to the fold, the team added youth to the defense. The defensive line had an average age of 32 during last season, but by adding Joseph and Griffen in a starting capacity, they lowered this number to 27. Everson Griffen has extremely raw talent and versatility and many are hoping he can provide a sense of youth in replacement of Jared Allen. As for Joseph, he is the first legitimate interior pass rusher the team has seen since Pat Williams clogged the middle of the Vikings defensive line. Joseph has proven his versatility and willingness to rush the passer, while putting an emphasis on stopping the run in early down situations. Head Coach Mike Zimmer has continually stressed the importance of hitting the quarterback and by adding depth among the defensive line, he has the horses to constantly rush the passer.
As for Captain Munnerlyn, he has stressed how impressed he was with the direction this team was heading from a defensive standpoint. He has seen the Vikings play before and he knows the amount of work that needs to be done to make this happen. Munnerlyn brings an astounding amount of athleticism to the back of the defense, which was an aspect sorely missing from the Vikings defense last season. He has superior tackling abilities, an ability to make plays on the ball, and has made a killing when blitzing off the edge. To add, he is only 25 years old and fits the youth movement Mike Zimmer is looking to provide for this group. Many of these skills may sound similar to Antoine Winfield, who was sorely missed among the Vikings defense in 2013 Like Winfield, Captain can play on the outside, while shifting to the slot in nickel situations, which is a very high value.
By adding the big pieces that were needed to address the Vikings quarterback situation and defensive woes, the team can draft for value in May. General Manager Rick Spielman can stare at his draft board and make the best decision without adhering to a certain position of need. He won't need to reach in an act of desperation like he did with quarterback Christian Ponder. Spielman can let the chips fall and evaluate which direction the team would like to head. Evaluations will be critical in this process and if there is one player the Vikings covet, they can pull the trigger without an restrictions. Will it be one of the big-three quarterbacks who fall, a wide receiver like Sammy Watkins who takes a tumble, or a defensive player who is simply to good to pass up? We have time to see how this plays out, but sulk in the satisfaction Rick Spielman won't be forced reach like he did in 2011.
That alone is reason for optimism as the team enters the second half of the offseason.