Okay, I know before I mentioned I was a Bears fan and in my about me section. However, I will do my best to sound as unbiased as I can be in this article. With that out of the way I think the Vikings will be challenging the Bears for the basement of the NFC North. I know that sounded completely biased, but I have some reasons why I think that way. This team does have probably one of the better defenses in the division, but even with a good defense they showed down the stretch last season that their offense was definitely not good enough to get them wins either way. I know they tweaked the offensive roster some to be better on that side of the ball. However, I do not think they did enough in just one season to make this team anymore competitive than they were last season. It all starts with the quarterback and whether that's Sam Bradford who is so injury prone I think Vegas has an over/under on how many games he plays. I know he lasted all year last season, but I doubt his luck runs that long. Plus, the line is definitely not good enough to keep him upright. Even if by some miracle when Bradford does get hurt and Bridgewater is healthy again do I think this offense will be good enough to support the former rookie standout.
To me an offense lives and breaths by their offensive line. Not by their quarterback or how good their running back is or how great their wide receivers is. Without a good line to keep the quarterback upright or block for the run game an offense will not be able to thrive and be productive. The Cowboys are the greatest example of this where their line was the crux to how Zeke and Dak were able to look like Hall of Famers in their rookie year. On the opposite side for example with the Rams unable to block Todd Gurley who in my opinion is just as good as Zeke was unable to find any running room. What I am trying to say is the Vikings had a bad line last year and I think it will be marginally better this season. I know they did bring in more professional tackles like Mike Remmers and Riley Reiff who are much better than who they had last year. However, neither of those guys make me so confident to say that the problem has been fixed. Same can be said about the interior where last year's only decent blocker Alex Boone is back with Nick Easton at center and Joe Berger at the other guard spot. None of that sounds good for Bradford who is often easily scared by the interior pass rush. I loved their selection of Dalvin Cook who should be able to find more running room than what they had last year, including an aging Adrian Peterson who looked awful last season. Their receivers need work as well and I hope Laquon Treadwell can figure it out since I was very high on him coming out of the draft. Maybe their pick up of Michael Floyd can be a nice one after his suspension is up, but outside of Stephon Diggs who is just a solid slot receiver their down field passing game may not be good enough to keep defenders out of the box against Cook.
Again, the defense will be called upon to keep this team in games and under Mike Zimmer I think they should be just as good again this year. They obviously have a terrific line with Everson Griffen and break out star Danielle Hunter. Plus, locking up Linval Joseph was needed since he is one of the best nose tackles in the league, I just wish he can stay healthier as he has missed a few games throughout his career. It has been a disappointing career for Sharrif Floyd a former first rounder and starting the year on the injury list is not a good sign for him to turn it around. They did draft a possible gem in Jaleel Johnson who has nice upside. I love their linebackers between Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, but it will be interesting to see who wins the spot where Chad Greenway used to man. They did draft a few possible replacements that have some upside in Kentrell Brothers, Ben Gedeon, and Elijah Lee the past few drafts. Their secondary is definitely a strength for this defense. Xavier Rhodes is one of the best young corners in the league and is being compensated as such. Across from him there is some potential in the likes of former first rounder Trae Waynes and former second rounder Mackensie Alexander. If either of them show promise that would be excellent to make this one of the more formidable passing defenses in the league. Plus, Harrison Smith is one of the best safeties no one talks about, but his running mate Andrew Sendejo is a little underwhelming and could be upgraded next off season.
In the end, I think they have a lot of pieces to like, but like I said one injury to Sam Bradford and their whole season goes down the drain. I also do not think their blockers will do him any favors. If he does stay healthy all year he will just do what he did last year and do quick check downs. That's great if you love high completion percentages and low interception rates. However, that is not the best way to run an offense since defenses will just crowd the line preventing you from running the ball. Their schedule is kind of difficult with match ups against the Steelers, Bucs, Ravens, Falcons, Panthers, and of course two match ups against the far superior Packers. I think they end with a less than ideal 7-9 for a team with a good defense. If they want to get better they need to solve their perpetual quarterback issue.
2 (9) - Dalvin Cook RB - Like I said I think that Cook will definitely be a key part of this offense at least in his rookie season. I can see him competing for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award as long as the offensive line can open some holes for him. He does have some fumbling issues that may cause his coaches to bench him occasionally. However, his explosive play making ability will force them to keep him on the field more often than not. I am worried about his future with the people he surrounds himself that may cause his career to derail. He could have a similar career path as Chris Johnson who was the league's top running back for a few years and then once he got paid he mailed it in. I hope Cook is better than that, but many believe his attitude needs a lot of work.
3 (6) - Pat Elflein C - Many people leading up to the draft were all over the place on how to grade the former Buckeye product. He did not look great in a lot of the workouts leading up to the draft, but size and athleticism is not one of his calling cards. He is very technically sound in his hand usage and footwork. For the Vikings he may be able to crack the starting line up week one and may be able to surprise some people with how well he plays. I do worry about his strength and he may be exposed also. Elflein is one of the more intriguing rookies I want to keep track of.
4 (2) - Jaleel Johnson DT - I loved this pick and thought that Johnson was one of the least talked about prospects leading up to the draft. Possibly due to former Iowa linemen before him like Carl Davis who had high upside and proceed to flame out. Johnson to me is different with a higher stamina ceiling and quality savvy ability to be an effective interior pass rusher. He could easily beat out Sharrif Floyd when the former first rounder is healthy enough to get back to the field.
4 (14) - Ben Gedeon LB - I would have liked them take a better linebacker prospect like Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Blair Brown, Anthony Walker, or Jordan Evans. However, for a 5th rounder that is just a bit of nit-picking by my part. I can see Gedeon being a valuable back up at the worst and always be a nice special teamer. He does have some upside as a starter thanks to his intelligence and instincts. He may end up starting sooner than later for the Vikings as they try to find a replacement for Chad Greenway who retired this off season.
5 (27) - Rodney Adams WR - The Vikings needed to find some quality receiver depth behind Stephon Diggs who is just a solid slot option in my opinion. It is a bad sign that Adam Thielen is currently penciled in as the number two receiver who is just another slot option. They need Laquon Treadwell to show some promise, but Adams has the speed to maybe add a new wrinkle to the offense. I would have liked to see them go after a better prospect again here like DeAngelo Yancey, Trent Taylor, or Isaiah Ford. Though Adams may be able to double as a quality returner with his speed.
5 (37) - Danny Isidora OG - In a poor offensive lineman draft a team like the Vikings who were desperate for blockers were forced to take some less than ideal prospects to fill the void. Isidora did look good during the pre draft bowl games and even during the workouts. In most drafts he most likely be an undrafted candidate. He probably will compete for a back up spot at either guard positions with some upside to maybe win a job down the line.
6 (17) - Bucky Hodges TE - At 6'6" and with his athleticism Hodges can turn into a nice receiving tight end option. However, he is extremely raw and often labeled as an under achiever throughout the draft process. I can see him being a nice number two tight end and a red zone threat who can compliment Kyle Rudolph who is oft-injured. I doubt he can pick up the slack completely if Rudolph gets hurt, but he will not be a terrible back up as long as he keeps his head on straight. This is a nice upside pick late in the draft.
7 (1) - Stacey Coley WR - Another late round receiver with a lot of down field speed. I actually like him a lot more than the Rodney Adams pick since Coley has experience in big games and often hits many homeruns down the field. He does have some drive issues that scouts and coaches worried about coming into the draft, which is why he slides down the 7th round. I think he will stick on the roster as a return option and a possible scheme specific option on offense. If not no big deal being a 7th rounder.
7 (2) - Ifeadi Odenigbo DE - A nice late round rotational piece that can add some depth to a position with a few free agents down the line. I doubt he breaks the roster out of camp and most likely will land on the practice squad his rookie year. He may develop to be a nice rotational pass rusher down the line at the best. Maybe he can turn into a great late round gem, but that is highly unlikely.
7 (14) - Elijah Lee LB - Another nice linebacker who may be able to break into the starting rotation. I was a bit surprised he slid all the way down to the 7th round since many saw him as a player with a lot of upside. He may be a bit undersized to be a linebacker on the field on every down, but he is extremely fast and can be a good weapon to negate opposing tight ends and slot receivers on the inside. I can see him being one of the best late round players this season.
7 (27) - Jack Tocho CB - Tocho was listed as a corner coming out of college, but he is being converted to safety by the Vikings where his lack of speed will be less exposed. To me he will be a quality depth option behind Andrew Sendejo who needs to be upgraded eventually anyways. Maybe he can turn into something more than that, but his limited athleticism will hamper him to become an above average starter. Though for a 7th rounder this is not a bad prospect to see if they can turn into a gem.
2018 Off Season:
It will be a very interesting off season for the Vikings who have both Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater as upcoming free agents. I would imagine they would rather bring in the younger Bridgewater, but it would be interesting to see how they determine what he is worth for just an above average rookie season. To me Teddy was a bit over hyped after his rookie season where his style of play was about the same as Bradford where a lot of it was just dinking and dunking down the field. I can see them possibly trading up in the 2018 draft to take one of the top quarterbacks with higher upside than Teddy and hopefully better health than Bradford. Of course they can still use some better blockers on the line, but college only gives you a handful of quality blockers a year now a days so it may be a difficult task. Plus, if Laquon Treadwell looks lost again they may need to find another receiver to take attention away from Stephon Diggs. To me I think the Vikings are going to be stuck in the middle for a few years with a record around .500 until they find a quarterback to compete against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
My 2018 Mock Draft Selections:
1 (11) - Lamar Jackson QB Louisville
2 (10) - Daylon Mack DT Texas A&M