After somehow making the playoffs in 2012, the Vikings came crashing back down to earth in 2013, and amid injury problems for Adrian Peterson and issues across the board at quarterback, they ended up making wholesale changes.
Leslie Frazier was fired as head coach, and Minnesota brought in Mike Zimmer to be the new head man as well as Norv Turner for the offensive coordinator position.
The experiment with Josh Freeman at QB was a complete failure, as was Rick Spielman’s selection of Christian Ponder in 2011. The Vikings have made a whole lot of questionable decisions over the last few years, but with Adrian Peterson, a new coaching staff, and a lot of first round picks in the last three drafts, they can make a splash in 2014 and potentially give some fits to the other teams in the NFC North.
The Vikings used their top pick in the draft on linebacker Anthony Barr, one of the more intriguing pass rushers coming out this year. Barr only played two years of defense at UCLA but he was dominant in both, racking up 66 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, and six forced fumbles this past season and 82 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles the season prior.
Many thought Barr would leave after his junior season, but he was still pretty raw and decided to come back and develop some more. It paid off in a big way.
Barr was a top 10 pick, as was expected nearly the entire year until some people had him sliding late in the process. But this is a guy who brings a ton of athletic ability and while he’s not Von Miller in terms of speed, he can give the Vikings that type of versatility as a pass rush prospect and a guy with length who can make plays behind the line and strip the ball away from quarterbacks.
Mike Zimmer is pumped about the size and speed of Barr, who will be a fantastic weapon in a defense that lost Jared Allen, but gained some really nice pieces like defensive tackle Linval Joseph, defensive end Corey Wootton, and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.
While the Vikings were patient with Christian Ponder, they knew it was time for something to give. Sitting there at pick number 32, there was no way they could pass on the opportunity to trade up for Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who up until his pro day performance was considered a lock to be the top QB taken.
That obviously didn’t happen, but the Vikings weren’t complaining.
Bridgewater was arguably the most pro-ready quarterback coming out in the draft, and he can provide a spark for this offense sooner rather than later. With Cordarrelle Patterson, Adrian Peterson, and Kyle Rudolph already set to go at the key skill positions, the Vikings need only a QB who can get them the ball. In Bridgewater, I believe they’ve gotten one that can give them a whole lot more than just that.
Since 2012, the Vikings have had seven first round picks, Barr and Bridgewater the latest. If those players don’t start developing and translating to wins, there will be problems in Minnesota. The Vikings have already seen some nice things out of Matt Kalil, Cordarrelle Patterson, Harrison Smith, and Xavier Rhodes. They now need to see what they’ve got with Sharrif Floyd as well as the two new young guys.
2014 could be the year the Vikings get back on the map for good, and it’s all thanks to the fall of a young QB who had a bad pro day.