The 2010 season went anything but expected for the Minnesota Vikings. Many experts agreed, QB Brett Favre returning for his 20th season in the NFL was the final piece to a Super Bowl run for a team that lost in the NFC Championship the season before. But the season started out downhill right away, with the team losing their first two regular season games to the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins, respectively. Bad turned to worse down the stretch as the team finished with a 6-10 record. Favre finished the season with a 69.9 quarterback rating and his touchdown to interception ratio was a putrid 11 to 19. The defense was anything but consistent, playing one of its worst games of the season in week 16 against the Chicago Bears, in which the Vikings fell 40-14.
Favre was also knocked out of that game early after taking a sack in which his head hit the hard turf at TCF Bank Stadium, in what would be his final play as an NFL player (or at least we think so right now). As the Vikings evaluate their roster for the 2011, quarterback must be at the top of the list as the team’s depth chart consists of only Rhett Bomar and 2010 rookie Joe Webb, who was originally drafted as a wide receiver with the No. 199 pick. Here is a projection of what the team might do in late April.
Round 1 (No. 12): Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
While I originally had Auburn DT Nick Fairley going to Minnesota with my first round mock draft last week, I feel the team might go quarterback here as we move closer to the draft. In my eyes, Joe Webb seems to have the ability and work ethic to be a starting quarterback in this league, however I am not sure the team wants to take a chance. As we have moved past the scouting combine and into pro days around the nation, draft analysts have Auburn QB Cam Newton shooting up their draft boards, with many projecting him to be picked first overall by the Carolina Panthers. Of the quarterbacks potentially left on the board at No. 12, I feel Mallett might be the best from a physical ability standpoint. At 6’7”, 253 lbs., Mallett is one of the biggest at the position in this class. He also has a strong arm and has the ability to fit passes into tight windows. He is prone to also take some risks with his passes, and they do not always turn out positively. With the team in need of a franchise quarterback, I am not sure they can pass up the ability that Mallett brings to the table.
Round 2 (No. 43): Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple
With DT Pat Williams set to leave as a free agent this offseason, the team should be getting to look a bit younger in this year’s draft. While 2008 draft pick Letroy Guion has shown improvement in the past season, there is no guarantee that he has the ability to man that position in the future for the Vikings. Wilkerson (6’4”, 315 lbs.) is a versatile athlete who has the ability to stop the run while also getting after the opposing quarterback. While he does not blow offensive linemen off the ball but has the strength to move them backward when engaged.
Round 4 (No. 105): Robert Sands, S, West Virginia
Safety is another primary concern for the Vikings entering the 2011 offseason. While Husain Abdullah did a very good job the entire season after being thrust into the lineup week 1, Madieu Williams seemed to struggle in both pass coverage and run support. Along with his large contract, his future in Minnesota is up in the air. Sands is an all-around good safety who has no trouble defending the deep half. While recording only six interceptions in the past two seasons at West Virginia might not blow any scouts away, he has shown to be a playmaker in the middle of the field who does not give up the big play. From what we saw from the Vikings safeties last season, this is exactly the type of player Leslie Frazier needs.
Round 5 (No. 136): Zach Hurd, OL, Connecticut
The offensive line was a concern for the Vikings during the 2010 season, giving up 36 sacks. While the run game seemed to reappear after a drop off in 2009, LG Steve Hutchinson is getting older and RG Anthony Herrera has not played consistently. Rookie guard Chris DeGeare played well in place of an injured Hutchinson late in the year and should be considered for the team’s future at the position. Hurd has the ability to play tackle but is probably better slated to play inside. He does not have elite quickness and can be beaten by quicker defensive ends at tackle. He has good size (6’7”, 316 lbs.) and is a good run blocker inside, showing he has the ability to get to the second and third levels of a defense.
Round 5 (No. 147): Darvin Adams, WR, Auburn
With the uncertain futures of receivers Sidney Rice and Bernard Berrian entering the 2011 season, the Vikings would be wise to gain some help in case one or both of them are not with the team. Rice is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent if a new CBA allows players with four years of experience to become unrestricted. Berrian has not produced enough for his large contract, catching only 28 passes for 252 yards and no touchdowns in 2010 and could be released before the season starts. Adams is one of the bigger prospects in this draft of all receivers at 6’2”, 190 lbs. He can be a nice red zone target with his size. He also does a nice job of finding holes in zone schemes.
Round 6 (No. 167): Chykie Brown, CB, Texas
While there are other positions that could be addressed before cornerback for the Vikings in this year’s draft, it has its share of consistency during the 2010 season. While Antoine Winfield was able to stay healthy after missing a chunk of the 2009 season, the position was hit hard again when starting CB Cedric Griffin tore his left ACL against the New York Jets in week 5. Griffin tore his right ACL in the NFC Championship Game the previous season. Chris Cook, the team’s top choice in the 2010 draft, was very inconsistent all season after tearing the meniscus in both knees early. With the injury problem, the defense might want to look at some potential for depth. Brown is a quick corner with long arms who has good straight line speed. Although he is below average in run support, he makes up with it for his skills in pass coverage.
Round 7 (No. 203): Henry Hynoski, FB, Pittsburgh
With FB Naufahu Tahi not receiving a tender as a restricted free agency, the team plans to look elsewhere for a lead blocker before the 2011 season. While Adrian Peterson has said in the past that he prefers no lead blocker on run plays, the offense probably would like to have a capable player in that position to use in different packages. Hynoski (6’0”, 257 lbs.) has a high football I.Q. and a tremendous work ethic. He has impressive speed for his size and rarely misses his blocking assignments. While he has dropped some passes in college, he still has the ability to be a receiver in new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s offense.