QB Gus Frerotte, RB Maurice Hicks, FB Thomas Tapeh, WR Bernard Berrian, G Mike Jones, DE Jared Allen, DT Kendrick Allen, DT Ellis Wyms, OLB Derrick Pope, CB Benny Sapp, S Madieu Williams, S Michael Boulware.
QB John David Booty, WR Jaymar Johnson, C John Sullivan, DT Letroy Guion, S Tyrell Johnson.
QB Kelly Holcomb, RB Mewelde Moore, FB Tony Richardson, WR Troy Williamson, WR Joel Filani, DE Erasmus James, DE Darrion Scott, DT Spencer Johnson, OLB Dontarrious Thomas, OLB Dallas Sartz, ILB Derrick Pope, S Dwight Smith, S M.S. Doss.
2008 Minnesota Vikings Offense:
Tarvaris Jackson... the name alone should send chills down the spine of every Vikings fan on this planet. But apparently it doesn't; I've received tons of e-mails from the team's fan base, citing their support for the young quarterback.
In three must-wins, Jackson had three touchdowns, five interceptions and three fumbles, resulting in a close call against the pathetic Bears, and two losses to the Redskins and Broncos. But numbers don't tell the whole story because Troy Williamson dropped two important catches in the Denver game alone, including one wide-open touchdown, which you can easily find on YouTube. That's fine; let's talk about how Jackson actually plays. Sure, he has the physical tools you look for, including a powerful arm and great mobility. However, Jackson lacks more important attributes, namely deep accuracy and decision-making. He can't read defenses, and his mechanics are terrible. In my opinion, he's one of the five worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL, though I'd take him over John Beck, Brodie Croyle, Kyle Boller/Troy Smith and maybe Alex Smith.
It's a shame Jackson will hinder Minnesota's ability to advance deep into the postseason because the team looks set to win now. Even a guy like Sage Rosenfels, an effective game-manager, would make the Vikings a Super Bowl contender.
The most renown player in Jackson's supporting cast is Adrian Peterson. Named 2007 Offensive Rookie of the Year, Peterson rushed for 1,341 yards and 12 touchdowns despite starting just nine games. That may be misleading because he saw a lot of action behind Chester Taylor early in the year, but the fact remains that Peterson put up those numbers on a mere 238 carries. Oh yeah, and he broke Jamal Lewis' single-game rushing record (296 yards) against San Diego's sterling defense. Peterson's not the most durable back in the world, which is what makes Taylor so vital to the Vikings' success. Taylor came close to Peterson's yards-per-carry average of 5.6; Taylor maintained a figure of 5.4.
Of course, it's pretty easy to rush for a billion yards when you're running behind the left side of Minnesota's line. It really doesn't get much better than Bryant McKinnie, Steve Hutchinson and Matt Birk. Unfortunately, McKinnie has encountered legal issues this offseason; he'll be on trial on four charges (including felony battery) in September. The Vikings' entire offense will self-destruct if McKinnie is suspended. As for the right side, guard Anthony Herrera is pretty solid, as Minnesota thought enough of him to sign him to a 5-year, $13.75 deal in November. Meanwhile, right tackle is a major position of need; neither Ryan Cook nor Marcus Johnson is starting material in this league.
The Vikings' receiving corps received a major face lift just by the departure of Williamson, one of the worst starting wide outs I've ever seen. Oh, and the addition of Bernard Berrian doesn't hurt either. Despite having Rex Grossman, Brian Griese and Kyle Orton at quarterback, Berrian had 71 catches, 951 yards and five touchdowns with the Bears in 2007. Berrian is a quick receiver but sometimes has trouble with drops. Hey, if I were catching balls from three terrible signal callers, I'd have trouble concentrating as well. Starting across from Berrian, Sidney Rice had just 31 receptions, 396 yards and four touchdowns as a 21-year-old rookie. Rice has put on some muscle this offseason, so at 22, he'll be much more effective.
Meanwhile, the team's leader in catches (54) and receiving yards (647), Bobby Wade will be the No. 3 wide out. Marginal tight end Visanthe Shiancoe remains the starter at that position; Shiancoe had a mere 27 receptions last season.
Here's Minnesota's best-case scenario: The team will start out 4-2 despite Jackson's struggles. Because a Lombardi Trophy is a possibility, the Vikings decide to trade for a veteran signal caller, who carries the franchise to its first Super Bowl victory. But if Jackson plays adequately and maintains his job, Minnesota will be one and done in the postseason. I just can't see someone like Jackson succeeding in the playoffs. And it's not like the team has anyone to replace him with on the roster. Gus Frerotte sucks, while John David Booty figures to be an Alex Smith-type fumbling machine in the NFL.
2008 Minnesota Vikings Defense:
The reason I think the Vikings have a shot at the playoffs despite having Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback is their defense. Already ranked 12th in points allowed and first versus the run, Minnesota landed arguably the top defensive end in the NFL when it traded a whole slew of draft picks, including the 17th-overall selection, to the Chiefs for Jared Allen.
The trade couldn't have come at a better time, as former first-round defensive ends Erasmus James and Kenechi Udeze are done. James was traded for a case of moustache combs for owner Zygi Wilf. Udeze, unfortunately, was diagnosed with Leukemia, and is obviously out indefinitely.
Allen, who will start at right end, recorded 16 sacks in 2007. In his four NFL seasons, Allen has never notched less than eight sacks. Oh, and he's also pretty good at stopping the run. Ray Edwards, penciled in at left end, will greatly benefit from Allen's presence. Edwards had five sacks in 12 games last season, but definitely won't face any double teams with Allen drawing all the attention. Don't be shocked if his sack total doubles. Brian Robison (five sacks as a rookie) will also see action on long-yardage situations.
Allen's presence will also have a major impact on Minnesota's beleaguered secondary, which was responsible for the team's dead-last ranking versus the pass. With the Vikings placing tons of pressure on quarterbacks, the defensive backfield will generate way more than last year's total of 15 picks.
The only player I don't have a problem with in this group is Antoine Winfield. The former Buffalo Bill was hampered with hamstring injuries last season, but was effective when he was in the lineup (he missed six starts). It's the corner position across from Winfield that gave the Vikings major problems. Cedric Griffin was anemic at times in 2007, while Marcus McCauley, expected to challenge Griffin for the starting gig, was even worse. Rookie safety Tyrell Johnson will likely replace McCauley at nickel this year.
Minnesota spent $33.75 million over six years this offseason on free safety Madieu Williams. In my opinion, they overpaid. Williams was once considered one of the top young safeties in the league, but has been slowed down by a slew of injuries. And speaking of being slowed down, strong safety Darren Sharper turns 33 in November. Sharper is always a candidate to take an interception into the end zone, but I'd be lying if I said he isn't one of the many liabilities the Vikings have in their secondary.
Allen also impacts the linebacking corps. With a 16-sack end on the defensive line, E.J. Henderson won't have to blitz as much. Thus, look for the middle linebacker to have a Pro Bowl-caliber year in terms of production. Remember, with Pat and Kevin Williams in front of him, Henderson will have the freedom to make tons of big plays this season. Chad Greenway was second on the squad with 105 tackles in just his first season as starting weakside linebacker. Greenway was a first-round pick in 2006, but missed that entire year with a torn ACL. He played pretty well coming off that injury, and should be even better in 2008. Strongside linebacker Ben Leber is a pretty good tertiary player in the group.
It's amazing what one player can do for a defense. If Allen plays at least 14 games, stays healthy, leads the Vikings to the playoffs and puts up solid sack figures, he's got my vote for Defensive Player of the Year.
2008 Minnesota Vikings Schedule and Intangibles:
Minnesota is just 9-33 when playing outdoors the past six seasons, though it was 3-3 in 2007. Remarkably, three of those nine victories came at Lambeau Field.
Speaking of Lambeau, a big signing two years ago was former Packer Ryan Longwell. After a disappointing 2006 campaign in which he was 4-of-8 from 40-plus, Longwell rebounded, nailing 11-of-15 attempts from that distance last season. Longwell will be 34 in August, which could explain why he's 1-of-6 from beyond 50 yards since joining the Vikings.
Punter Chris Kluwe performed admirably last year, maintaining a 44.7 average while hitting 34-of-81 kicks inside the opposing 20.
The Vikings scored on a kickoff return (Aundrae Allison) but surrendered a punt for a touchdown. Bobby Wade was really ineffective as a punt returner. It looks like he may stay in that role this season.
If Minnesota beats Green Bay for the NFC North crown, it could be a difference of one game. Well, instead of battling the Seahawks, the Vikings have the Cardinals. That could be huge.
Other than that, the Vikings have a balanced schedule. Easy opponents include Chicago (twice), Detroit (twice), Carolina, Arizona and Atlanta. However, beating the likes of the Packers (twice), Colts, Titans, Saints, Buccaneers, Jaguars and Giants could prove to be difficult.
2008 Minnesota Vikings Analysis: Remove Tarvaris Jackson off the roster and replace him with a proven, veteran signal caller, and I'd probably pencil the Vikings into the Super Bowl. But that doesn't mean they can't win in the regular season. In fact, their defense and running game can carry them to a divisional title.
Minnesota's slightly easier schedule gives it somewhat of an edge over the Packers in the NFC Norris race. But if the two teams both qualify for the playoffs, my money's on Green Bay to advance deeper than the Vikings (think the Giants passing the Cowboys, who were handicapped by Wade Phillips' ineptness).
Projection: 11-5 (1st in NFC North)
2008 Fantasy Football Rankings:
Tarvaris Jackson: Last year, I projected Tarvaris Jackson to throw for 1,900 yards and nine touchdowns. Well, guess what? Jackson had 1,911 yards and nine touchdowns. Hmm...
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 2,600 passing yards. 14 passing TDs. 350 rushing yards. 4 rushing TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 273.
Adrian Peterson: It seems like Adrian Peterson is the consensus No. 2 player in most fantasy drafts. I can't blame people for taking him so high, as he totaled 1,341 yards and 12 touchdowns despite missing action and splitting carries with Chester Taylor.
That said, I wouldn't take Peterson second. There are a few things that concern me. The first is his inability to stay healthy. The second is an odd decline the final four weeks of the 2007 campaign (54 carries, 144 yards, two touchdowns). The third is the possibility that left tackle Bryant McKinnie could be suspended for at least a portion of the season; McKinnie is on trial with four charges in the wake of a fight outside a night club (big surprise).
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 1,200 rushing yards. 300 receiving yards. 12 total TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 222.
Chester Taylor: Poor Chester Taylor. He'd be a fantasy stud if Adrian Peterson were on another team. Taylor gained 5.4 yards per carry behind Minnesota's stellar offensive line. It's definitely worth taking him, even if you don't have Peterson; All Day is very injury-prone, so Taylor will get at least a few starts this season.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 750 rushing yards. 250 receiving yards. 6 total TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 136.
Visanthe Shiancoe: In his five NFL seasons, Visanthe Shiancoe has never accumulated more than 325 receiving yards or two touchdowns in a single season. Stay away.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 300 receiving yards. 1 TD.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 36.
Bernard Berrian: Bernard Berrian has put up some pretty respectable numbers despite playing with terrible quarterbacks in Chicago. He had 71 receptions, 951 yards and five touchdowns last season. Unfortunately, Berrian will still be stuck with horrible signal callers in Minnesota - at least for the time being.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 800 receiving yards. 3 TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 98.
Sidney Rice: The former Gamecock turns 22 in September, so he's a really young second-year player. He'll exceed his 2007 production (31 catches, 396 yards, four touchdowns), as he'll be a full-time starter across from Bernard Berrian. Just don't expect miracles, especially with Tarvaris Jackson at the helm.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 525 receiving yards. 5 TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 82.
Bobby Wade: Bobby Wade led the Vikings in catches (54) and receiving yards (647). For his efforts, Wade will be benched in favor of Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 325 receiving yards. 2 TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 44.
Ryan Longwell: Ryan Longwell bounced back from a horrid 2006 campaign, in which he was just 4-of-8 from 40-plus. He was 11-of-15 from that distance in 2007. Still, I'd stay away from Longwell; he won't get as many opportunities in Minnesota's offense, and he's just 1-of-6 from beyond 50 yards the past two years.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 21-26 FG (0-2 50+). 40 XP.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 109.
Minnesota Defense: The Vikings should be one of the first defenses chosen in your fantasy league draft. If Jared Allen plays at least 14 games, there's a potential for 50 sacks, 20 interceptions, eight touchdowns, and perhaps a shutout or two. They'll eat offenses like the Bears and Lions alive.
Projected Fantasy Ranking: Top 3 Defense.
2008 NFL Draft Grade:
I like Tyrell Johnson as a player, but I can't agree with the pick (more on this in the next section.) ... Letroy Guion and John Sullivan were both very decent late-round selections. Sullivan doesn't fill an immediate need, but he'll take over for Matt Birk once the Pro Bowl center leaves or retires. Guion will be a rotational player at defensive tackle ... Oh, and the Vikings traded for some guy named Jared Allen. You may have heard of him. All he did was generate 15.5 sacks in 2007. No biggie.
How can you let Brian Brohm get away at No. 43 and allow your most hated rival to take him off the board? Tarvaris Jackson will be the death of the 2008 Minnesota Vikings ... I don't like John David Booty for one small reason - he has tiny hands. Daunte Culpepper and Alex Smith also have small hands. Culpepper has the NFL record for most fumbles in a single season, while Smith is good for 4-5 turnovers per game.
Grade give on 4/28/08: B
2008 NFL Draft Picks:
43. Tyrell Johnson, SS, Arkansas State
Tyrell Johnson is a solid prospect, but how do you pass up on Brian Brohm at 43 when he was an option at 17? Minnesota's defense will be great next year, but Tarvaris Jackson will once again debacle the team's Super Bowl aspirations. (Pick Grade: C)
137. John David Booty, QB, USC
I like the fact that the Vikings drafted a quarterback, but Andre' Woodson would have been a better option. John David Booty has the smallest hands of any significant quarterback in this draft. Don't think that's a big deal? Daunte Culpepper and Alex Smith have tiny hands too - and they're renown for fumbling. (Pick Grade: C)
152. Letroy Guion, DT, Florida State
An eventual replacement for Pat Williams. The Vikings better hope he gets over his off-the-field issues. (Pick Grade: B)
187. John Sullivan, C, Notre Dame
John Sullivan was a Round 2 prospect last year. He'll be able to take over for Matt Birk once he moves on. (Pick Grade: B)
193. Jaymar Johnson, WR, Jackson State
Receiving depth is needed, but Jaymar Johnson isn't the best wideout on the board. (Pick Grade: C)
Vikings 41, Giants 17. It's hard to believe Minnesota stormed into the Meadowlands as huge underdogs and upset the eventual Super Bowl champion. Thanks to Adrian Peterson, who broke Jamal Lewis' single-game rushing record (296 yards), the Vikings came within one victory of reaching the postseason. Unfortunately, Tarvaris Jackson's ineptitude thwarted that possibility.
Vikings cut ILB Derrick Pope
Vikings announce retirement of QB Kelly Holcomb
Vikings sign G Mike Jones
Vikings trade DE Erasmus James to the Vikings for a conditional 7th-round pick
Vikings cut DE Erasmus James
Vikings cut OLB Dallas Sartz
Vikings cut WR Joel Filani
Vikings receive DE Jared Allen from the Vikings for pick Nos. 17, 73, 82 and an exchange of sixth-round selections
Vikings sign QB Gus Frerotte
Vikings re-sign OLB Heath Farwell
Vikings sign CB Benny Sapp
Vikings sign SS Michael Boulware
Vikings sign DT Kenderick Allen
Vikings sign DT Ellis Wyms
Vikings re-sign OLB Dallas Sartz
Vikings re-sign WR Robert Ferguson
Vikings sign OLB Derrick Pope
Vikings sign RB Maurice Hicks
Vikings sign WR Bernard Berrian
Vikings sign FS Madieu Williams
Vikings sign FB Thomas Tapeh
Vikings cut QB Kelly Holcomb
Vikings trade WR Troy Williamson to the Jaguars for a sixth-round pick
Vikings cut FS Dwight Smith
Quarterback: I'm not sure if Tarvaris Jackson is color-blind, or if he's just brutally inaccurate. But the fact remains that the Vikings cannot advance deep into the Doggone Playoff with Jackson under center (even with Adrian Peterson carrying them there). Trading for Donovan McNabb, giving up picks for Derek Anderson or taking a quarterback in the third round are all options. Drafted John David Booty; signed Gus Frerotte
Free Safety: Current starter Dwight Smith is terrible, and was one of the main reasons the Vikings were ranked dead last versus the pass. Minnesota could draft a free safety in one of the earlier rounds. Getting a corner and moving Cedric Griffin to safety could also work. Signed Madieu Williams
Strong Safety: Darren Sharper, who turns 33 at some point during the 2007 campaign, has lost a step. More assistance for the Vikings' secondary needs to come here. Tom Zbikowski, Jamar Adams and Craig Steltz wouldn't be bad choices in Round 3. Drafted Tyrell Johnson; signed Michael Boulware
Wide Receiver: As inconsistent as Jackson was last year, I'll admit he didn't have much of a chance, given how horrendous his receiving corps was. Thankfully, Minnesota can grab one of the wide outs in this extremely deep draft class. Signed Bernard Berrian; re-signed Robert Ferguson; drafted Jaymar Johnson
Defensive End: The Vikings needed a premier pass-rusher even before Kenechi Udeze was diagnosed with Leukemia. No one on Minnesota's roster had more than five sacks in 2007. Derrick Harvey and Calais Campbell could both be there at No. 17. Traded for Jared Allen
Nose Tackle: Pat Williams is an awesome force in the middle of Minnesota's defensive front. Unfortunately for them, he turns 36 in October. Time to find a successor. Drafted Letroy Guion; signed Kenderick Allen
Re-Sign Tony Richardson: Even though he's 36, the Vikings must re-sign the guy who blocked for Peterson on his record-setting day. They have the money to do so.
Tight End: The Vikings didn't get much production out of their tight ends this year. Jermichael Finley and Jacob Tamme could be available in Round 4.
Minnesota Vikings Free Agents:
Salary Cap (As of Feb. 15): $14.88 million
Tony Richardson, FB. Age: 36. Signed with Jets (1 year)
Tony Richardson's still one of the better lead-blockers in the NFL, but age is definitely a concern at this point.
A top reserve and a solid special-teams player, Heath Farwell will likely be re-signed.
Dwight Smith, FS. Age: 30. Lions sign Dwight Smith (2 years, $5 million)
In the same boat as Sammy Knight; any team that needs Dwight Smith as a starter really sucks.
Mewelde Moore, RB. Age: 26. - Signed with Steelers (3 years, $4.95 million)
Spencer Johnson, DT. Age: 26. - Signed with Bills (5 years)
Derrick Pope, ILB. Age: 26.
Robert Ferguson, WR. Age: 28.
Dontarrious Thomas, Vikings. Age: 28. - Signed with 49ers (2 years)
Darrion Scott, DE. Age: 26.
Tank Williams, SS. Age: 28. - Signed with Patriots (1 year)
Mike Doss, S. Age: 27.
Kelly Holcomb, QB. Age: 35. - Announced retirement
Chase Johnson (ERFA), OT. Age: 24.
Dallas Sartz, OLB. Age 25.
Joel Filani, WR. Age 24. - Signed with Seahawks
Divisional Rival History: Chicago Bears: The home team has claimed 10 of 12. Detroit Lions: Pure domination. The Vikings have somehow won 16 of the past 18 meetings. Green Bay Packers: Remember when Favre couldn't win domes? Yeah, not the case anymore. The Packers have won four in a row and six of eight.