They thundered their way to the playoffs last season on a late run and the Minnesota Vikings made a bold statement about their intentions by going bonkers in the NFL draft. Do they have any gems who can step up to help the stars in a season billed as all about a title?
Offense – Jarius Wright
Much of the focus for Minnesota Vikings fans on offense will go towards 1st round draft pick Cordarrelle Patterson, free agent acquisition Greg Jennings and whether Jerome Simpson can live up to the promise people saw in him last year. At the same time, anyone who watched the team closely saw a connection begin to develop between quarterback Christian Ponder and wide receiver Jarius Wright. The 23-year old played in just seven games as a rookie but still caught 22 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns. He isn’t going to give them a height advantage, but his deceptive speed and foot quickness made him an unexpected deep threat as well as a solid option in the slot. It will be interesting to see how he develops with Ponder and a full 16-game slate ahead of him.
Defense – Desmond Bishop
One area Minnesota wanted to upgrade in the draft was linebacker. They did make two additions in Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti but they don’t look like solutions for the foreseeable future. It seems like a very big risk to take in a season billed as a Super Bowl year. On the other hand, they did make one addition that could end up paying huge dividends. Desmond Bishop spent 2012 on injured reserve with hamstring problems. Injuries are a regular part of his career, but so is excellent play. In just 13 games in 2011 he piled up 115 tackles and five sacks. He also brings championship experience have helped Green Bay win the title in 2010. If there is any player that can have an immediate, big impact for the Vikings it is him.
Special Teams – Jeff Locke
The Chris Kluwe era is at an end and the Minnesota Vikings made that clear when they surprisingly selected his replacement Jeff Locke in the fifth round of the draft. That is abnormally high for punters, but there was a reason for it. He has a huge leg. Locke led the NCAA last season in touchbacks on kickoffs. Respected NFL.com analyst Charles Davis claims he is every bit as good at punting as Brian Anger, the hot prospect Jacksonville selected in the third round a year ago who averaged 47.8 yards per kick in 2012. That is nothing but good news for the purple and gold.