Minnesota Vikings (Last Year: 5-10-1)
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2014 NFL Season Preview:
WR Lestar Jean, TE Allen Reisner, G Vladimir Ducasse, DE Corey Wootton, DT Linval Joseph, DT Tom Johnson, ILB Jasper Brinkley, CB Captain Munnerlyn, CB Derek Cox, S Kurt Coleman.
Early Draft Picks:
DE/OLB Anthony Barr, QB Teddy Bridgewater, DE Scott Crichton, RB Jerrick McKinnon, G/OT David Yankey, CB/S Antone Exum, CB Kendall James. Vikings Rookie Forecast
QB Josh Freeman, RB Toby Gerhart, WR/QB Joe Webb, TE John Carlson, DE Jared Allen, DT Kevin Williams, DT Letroy Guion, ILB Erin Henderson, ILB Desmond Bishop, CB Chris Cook, CB A.J. Jefferson.
2014 Minnesota Vikings Offense:
As amazing as Adrian Peterson is, the Vikings had to find a franchise quarterback to help them advance deep into the playoffs. Peterson could only get them so far. He gained a ridiculous 2,097 rushing yards in 2012, yet Minnesota had a quick, first-round exit because it had poor play from the quarterback position. Matt Cassel provided more stability there this past season than Christian Ponder did, but he's just not good enough to lead a team to the Super Bowl. The Vikings knew this, and that's why they traded up into the back end of the first round to select Teddy Bridgewater.
Whether or not Bridgewater is the answer is debatable. Many of those on Twitter were big fans and couldn't believe that their favorite quarterback prospect fell so far into the draft. However, this Web site's sources have said that Bridgewater was never a highly regarded prospect to begin with, given that he's not great in any single category. In fact, one team that already had a franchise quarterback graded Bridgewater in the fourth round. Bridgewater doesn't have many negative traits though, so he should be an adequate starter at the very least. If the Vikings surround him with enough talented weapons, perhaps he can help Minnesota claim its first Lombardi Trophy.
Minnesota has some skilled weapons for Bridgewater to utilize. Peterson will obviously be a big help. The opposition will be focused on stopping him, which will open up more opportunities for Bridgewater downfield. Bridgewater's No. 1 target will be Cordarrelle Patterson. The 2013 first-rounder started his rookie campaign slowly, but flashed some serious potential down the stretch, including a 5-141-1 outing at Baltimore in December. New offensive coordinator Norv Turner plans to get Patterson heavily involved; in fact, the first thing he did upon getting hired was design 10 plays specifically for Patterson. The former Volunteer will start across from Greg Jennings, who predictably had a disappointing 2013 campaign after chasing money. Jennings, who was a product of Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, will never live up to expectations in Minnesota, though he should perform better this upcoming season with improved quarterback play.
The other options in the passing game include Jerome Simpson, who was re-signed to a 1-year deal, and tight end Kyle Rudolph, who is poised to have a huge campaign. Turner has always transformed his tight ends into big stat-producers - see Jordan Cameron in Cleveland last season - and Rudolph should be no exception. He played in just eight games in 2013 because of a foot injury, so Minnesota's offense will automatically be upgraded with him back on the field.
The offensive line is important for any young quarterback's progression, and Minnesota has a solid one. In fact, the Vikings had just one liability up front this past season, which was left guard Charlie Johnson. He'll be back, but fifth-round rookie David Yankey could push him. The rest of the interior is comprised of center John Sullivan and right guard Brandon Fusco, both of whom are coming off quality campaigns.
The most talented player up front is left tackle Matt Kalil. The No. 4 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Kalil has not disappointed as a pro. He surrendered just four sacks in 2013. He's bookended by Phil Loadholt, a tremendous run-blocker who lived up to the 4-year, $25 million contract he signed last March.
2014 Minnesota Vikings Defense:
If Matt Cassel and Charlie Johnson start for Minnesota, its offense will return every single starter from 2013. The same can't be said for the defense, however. In fact, nearly half of the starters are gone.
Long-time Vikings Jared Allen and Kevin Williams will no longer be starting on the defensive line. Allen has signed with the Bears, while Williams defected for Seattle. However, the Vikings spent lots of resources on bolstering a front that mostly struggled this past season. For example, they signed former Giant Linval Joseph to a 5-year, $31.5 million contract in free agency. Joseph is a 25-year-old monstrous defensive tackle (6-4, 323) who stuffs the run well and also gets to the quarterback effectively. He figures to provide an upgrade on the line next to 2013 first-rounder Sharrif Floyd, who didn't play well this past season. Floyd, however, was just a rookie, so he'll almost certainly improve in 2014.
Minnesota also spent a ton of money on one of its own players, re-signing Everson Griffen to a 5-year, $42.5 million deal. The contract was absolutely outrageous, as Griffen had just 5.5 sacks in 2013, proving to be just an above-average performer on the field. Still, he has lots of potential, so he could possibly blossom into a double-digit sack performer. He'll start across from Brian Robison, who has 25 sacks in the past three seasons. Third-round rookie Scott Crichton will provide depth for now, but he could emerge as a starter eventually.
The Vikings absolutely had to upgrade their atrocious secondary, so they managed to do so by signing former Panther Captain Munnerlyn, who is coming off an outstanding 2013 campaign. There are some concerns that Munnerlyn was a product of Carolina's ferocious front seven, but he should still prove to be an upgrade over the departed Chris Cook, who was torched regularly in 2013. Besides, Munnerlyn won't have to cover top receivers; that onus will fall on last year's first-rounder, Xavier Rhodes, who performed exceptionally as a rookie.
The safety position will also be better because Harrison Smith figures to be available for most of the season for a change. Harrison missed about half of 2013 because of a turf toe injury, and he wasn't the same when he returned in December. Smith will help upgrade one of the NFL's worst pass defenses. He'll start next to Jamarca Sanford, who was just adequate this past season. Also, it's worth noting that head coach Mike Zimmer's presence should aid the secondary. He constantly got the most out of old or mediocre secondary players as Cincinnati's defensive coordinator.
Zimmer's defenses love to utilize a pass-rushing linebacker, so it was no surprise that Minnesota chose Anthony Barr with the No. 9 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft. Barr is a bit raw as a former running back, but he has tons of potential, and he should be able to bolster the Vikings' pass rush. The rest of the linebacking corps needs help, however. Barr will start with Chad Greenway, who is coming off a poor season, and Jasper Brinkley, who is a huge liability in coverage. Greenway could improve a bit - he used to be a tremendous player for the Vikings - but he's on the down side of his career at the age of 31.
2014 Minnesota Vikings Schedule and Intangibles:
Minnesota is just 16-58-1 when playing outdoors in the past 12 seasons. That doesn't bode well for them in 2014, given that they'll be playing at University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium while their new home is being built. This is a huge deal. Back in 2002, the Bears, who were coming off a 13-3 campaign, were in a similar situation, having to play at the University of Illinois while Soldier Field was being renovated. Chicago didn't have a real home, and as a consequence, went 4-12. The Saints also struggled similarly when they couldn't use the Superdome in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The Vikings will essentially be on the road for 16 games, so victories will be extremely difficult to come by.
Blair Walsh took the league by storm as a rookie in 2012, drilling 35-of-38 tries, including a perfect 10-of-10 from 50-plus. He wasn't as impressive in 2013. He still managed to hit 26-of-30 tries, but was just 2-of-5 from beyond 50.
Punter Chris Kluwe was deemed too much of a distraction and was consequently dumped. The Vikings spent a fifth-round pick in 2013 on replacement Jeff Locke. He finished in the middle of the pack in terms of net average and attempts placed inside the 20.
The good news, in terms of Minnesota's special teams, is that it scored three touchdowns last year, thanks to Marcus Sherels and Cordarrelle Patterson. The bad news is that the Vikings surrendered two scores themselves, as they were outgained on kick returns.
So much for a last-place schedule. The Vikings open with the Rams, Patriots, Saints, Falcons, Packers and Lions. Things get easier after that, but a potential 1-5 start with no forthcoming home games could bury them.
2014 Minnesota Vikings Rookies:
Go here for the Vikings Rookie Forecast
, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.
2014 Minnesota Vikings Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2014 Minnesota Vikings Analysis:
The Vikings have some hope for the future with Teddy Bridgewater on the roster, but it'll be a major surprise if they compete for a playoff spot this year, given that they effectively have 16 road games on their slate. They'll be competitive at times, but another disappointing season could be in the works.
3-13 (4th in NFC North)
2014 Fantasy Football Rankings
More 2014 NFL Season Previews
NFL Draft Team Grade: B+ Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft:
The Vikings would love for either Blake Bortles or Khalil Mack to fall to them. There's no chance the latter will be available, but Bortles could be. If not, they'll probably have to decide between Anthony Barr and Derek Carr. An ideal situation would be for Minnesota to move down and snag Carr in the mid- or late-teens. After that, they'd have to find some upgrades for their lackluster back seven.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments:
I don't understand how Anthony Barr can be perceived as a reach for Minnesota. He was linked to them this entire time, and if Jake Matthews hadn't been on the board at No. 6, the Falcons probably would have chosen him at that juncture. Barr fit the range and filled one of Minnesota's top needs - and the team was able to obtain an extra pick in a trade with Cleveland before snagging him.
Barr is one of many solid selections the Vikings made throughout the weekend. In fact, excluding the seventh round, I gave just one of their selections lower than a B, which was the "C" I posted for Jerick McKinnon (there were better running backs available). Minnesota may have found its franchise quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater at No. 32. I'm not as crazy about Bridgewater as DraftTwitter is, but he should at least be a decent starter. Scott Crichton, meanwhile, was a steal in the third frame. He and Barr will help compensate for the loss of Jared Allen.
I liked the Vikings' draft overall. I would've done a couple of things differently, but there's no doubt that Rick Spielman improved his roster.
NFL Draft Individual Grades:
8. Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA: B Grade
This is a pretty decent pick. The Vikings needed someone to replace Jared Allen, and Anthony Barr is the top pass-rusher available. Some even considered Barr to be superior to Khalil Mack. If you're wondering about Barr's fit in a 4-3 defense, Mike Zimmer's scheme calls for a pass-rushing linebacker. Minnesota will use Barr like Von Miller. I don't have as big of a problem for Minnesota passing on Johnny Manziel because he doesn't really fit Norv Turner's offense. The Vikings can get Derek Carr later.
32. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville: B Grade
Many of Teddy Bridgewater's fan base on Twitter will praise this pick, but I'm not in love with it. It's solid, but remember that there's a reason nearly every single team in the NFL passed on him. Bridgewater doesn't have any great traits. He doesn't have any glaring negative ones either, but this all just means that he's going to be an average starter at best, and I'm concerned about him playing outdoors over the next couple of years. Having said that, "average starter at best" is a big upgrade over what the Vikings have had at quarterback since Brett Favre.
72. Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State: A- Grade
With Anthony Barr and Scott Crichton on the team, the Vikings are definitely going to put much more pressure on the quarterback in 2014. It's understandable that Minnesota is adding all of these pass-rushers, as it had to compensate for the loss of Jared Allen. This is nice value for Crichton, who could have easily gone in the middle of Round 2.
96. Jerick McKinnon, RB, Georgia Southern: C Grade
The Vikings had to find some depth behind Adrian Peterson after losing Toby Gerhart to Jacksonville. However, there were better running backs available than Jerick McKinnon, who doesn't really have a natural position. I thought McKinnon would come off the board around Round 5, so this is a slight reach.
145. David Yankey, G/OT, Stanford: B+ Grade
David Yankey was once seen as a possible first-round prospect - one known analyst declared that he would be the first guard chosen in the draft - but the Stanford product fell because of poor play this past season. I still think the Vikings are getting good value here, and Yankey could potentially challenge to start at left guard.
182. Antone Exum, CB/S, Virginia Tech: A- Grade
I like this pick a lot. The Vikings are addressing a big need in their secondary. A sixth-round pick normally wouldn't have a chance to start at any point, but Antone Exum would've been chosen earlier if it wasn't for injury concerns.
184. Kendall James, CB, Maine: B Grade
I have no issues with the Vikings taking another defensive back. Their secondary has to be bolstered. Kendall James fits the range as a Round 5-6 prospect. Solid choice.
220. Shamar Stephen, DT, Connecticut: A Grade
I had Shamar Stephen going a couple of rounds earlier than this, so I like the value Minnesota is getting here. The team passed on Aaron Donald in the first round, but Stephen is talented and could be a contributor at some point in the near future.
223. Brandon Watts, OLB, Georgia Tech: C Grade
It's odd that this is the first non-pass-rushing linebacker the Vikings have chosen. They could have waited on Brandon Watts, who wasn't projected to be drafted.
225. Jabari Price, CB, North Carolina: C Grade
This is Minnesota's third defensive back, so that should tell you how much of a perceived need this was for the team. I don't like this pick as much as the other two, however, because I didn't have Jabari Price as a draftable player.
Going from a playoff berth to last place in the division will get most coaches fired, and that's exactly what happened to Leslie Frazier. The decision to let him go was unjustified, however, as his team finished on a 4-3-1 run despite having Matt Cassel at the helm. The Vikings will have to find a new franchise quarterback for their new coach.
Seahawks sign DT Kevin Williams
Chiefs sign OT J'Marcus Webb
Seahawks sign CB A.J. Jefferson
Giants sign QB Josh Freeman
Vikings sign TE Allen Reisner
Vikings sign S Kurt Coleman
Vikings sign WR Lestar Jean
Bears sign DE Jared Allen
Vikings sign G Vladimir Ducasse
Panthers sign QB/WR Joe Webb
Vikings sign DE Corey Wootton
Vikings sign DT Tom Johnson
Packers sign DT Letroy Guion
Vikings re-sign G Charlie Johnson
49ers sign CB Chris Cook
Vikings re-sign WR Jerome Simpson
Vikings sign CB Captain Munnerlyn
Vikings sign CB Derek Cox
Vikings re-sign DT Fred Evans
Vikings sign DT Linval Joseph
Jaguars sign RB Toby Gerhart
Vikings re-sign C Joe Berger
Vikings re-sign DE Everson Griffen
Vikings sign ILB Jasper Brinkley
Vikings re-sign QB Matt Cassel
Vikings re-sign CB/KR Marcus Sherels
Cardinals sign TE John Carlson
Vikings cut DT Letroy Guion
Vikings cut TE John Carlson
Vikings cut ILB Erin Henderson
- Quarterback: Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, Josh Freeman... who can possibly win with these scrubs besides the likes of Bill Belichick and Jim Harbaugh? Cassel makes for a nice backup, but Minnesota needs a new starter. Perhaps it'll draft a quarterback at No. 8 overall this May. Re-signed Matt Cassel
- Cornerback: Chris Cook is a free agent, but he never lived up to expectations anyway. The Vikings will need a No. 2 corner to play across from Xavier Rhodes, who was awesome as a rookie. Signed Captain Munnerlyn and Derek Cox
- Defensive End: Jared Allen saw a drop in production this past season, which was to be expected considering that he turned 31 before the year began. Allen is a free agent and is not expected back with the team. Re-signed Everson Griffen; signed Corey Wootton
- Safety: Harrison Smith didn't play very much in 2013, so Minnesota will love to have him back on the field. The team will need to find another safety to play alongside him, however. Signed Kurt Coleman
- Inside Linebacker: The Vikings cut Erin Henderson because of his two DUIs since November, so they'll have to find a new middle linebacker. Signed Jasper Brinkley
- Defensive Tackle: As with Allen, Kevin Williams is another free agent-to-be on Minnesota's defensive front. His interior presence will be missed if he moves on to another team. The Vikings will need to add someone to play next to Sharrif Floyd. Signed Linval Joseph
- Strongside Linebacker: The Vikings can do better than Marvin Mitchell at strongside linebacker, especially if Chad Greenway struggles again.
- Left Guard: Charlie Johnson has performed better at guard than he did at left tackle, but he's not good enough. He happens to be a free agent anyway. Re-signed Charlie Johnson; signed Vladimir Ducasse
- Wide Receiver: Minnesota's new quarterback could use a better tertiary option to go along with Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson. Jerome Simpson is a free agent. Re-signed Jerome Simpson; signed Lestar Jean
- Running Back: Toby Gerhart is a free agent, so Minnesota will need to find a new running back to spell Adrian Peterson.
Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
2014 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Captain Munnerlyn, CB, Panthers. Age: 26.
Signed with Vikings (3 years)
Captain Munnerlyn wasn't even starting at the beginning of the 2012 season, yet he's turned into a terrific corner for the Panthers. He'll only be 26 in April.
Linval Joseph, DT, Giants. Age: 25.
Signed with Vikings (5 years, $31.5 million)
Linval Joseph is a monstrous run-stuffer who can get to the quarterback quite well for a 325-pound defensive tackle. He'll only be 26 in October.
Corey Wootton, DE, Bears. Age: 27.
Signed with Vikings (1 year)
Corey Wootton happens to be solid in run support, but he's only average when it comes to rushing the passer. He had seven sacks in 2012, but saw that number cut in half this past season.
- Derek Cox, CB, Chargers. Age: 27. -- Signed with Vikings (1 year)
- Jasper Brinkley, ILB, Cardinals. Age: 29. -- Signed with Vikings (1 year)
- Kurt Coleman, S, Eagles. Age: 26. -- Signed with Vikings
- Lestar Jean (RFA), WR, Texans. Age: 26. -- Signed with Vikings
- Tom Johnson (RFA), DE/DT, Saints. Age: 30. -- Signed with Vikings (1 year, $845,000)
- Vladimir Ducasse, G, Jets. Age: 26. -- Signed with Vikings (1 year)
- Allen Reisner (RFA), TE, Jaguars. Age: 25. -- Signed with Vikings
Minnesota Vikings Free Agents:
Salary Cap: TBA.
Jared Allen, DE, Vikings. Age: 32.
Signed with Bears (4 years, $32 million)
Jared Allen has been one of the NFL's top pass-rushers over the past seven years, but he struggled a bit at times this past season. A sign of age, or was this just a fluke? The team that signs him to a big contract will have to worry about Allen declining at 32.
Kevin Williams, DT, Vikings. Age: 34.
Signed with Seahawks
Kevin Williams, 34 in August, is no longer the disruptive force he once was, but he's still capable of flashing greatness, as he did in the Washington game when he had two sacks against Robert Griffin in the fourth quarter.
Chris Cook, CB, Vikings. Age: 27.
Signed with 49ers (1 year)
Chris Cook is a skilled cornerback, but has never lived up to his talent level. He also has some off-the-field baggage.
Erin Henderson, ILB, Vikings. Age: 28.
Erin Henderson played well for the most part this past season as a three-down linebacker, but he's been arrested twice for DUIs over the past four months.
Everson Griffen, DE, Vikings. Age: 26.
Re-signed with Vikings (5 years)
Everson Griffen is a quality nickel pass-rusher - he had eight sacks in 2012 - but it remains to be seen if he can be a full-time starter.
Desmond Bishop, ILB, Vikings. Age: 30.
Desmond Bishop is a very talented linebacker, but he tore his hamstring in 2012 and then his ACL this past season. He may have to settle for the veteran minimum, and if so, he'll be a hell of a high-upside bargain.
Matt Cassel, QB, Vikings. Age: 32.
Re-signed with Vikings (2 years, $10 million)
Matt Cassel had some solid performances down the stretch - his 26-of-35, 382-yard outing in a win over the Eagles in particular - but he's nothing more than a strong backup. If a team has plans for him to be its starter next year, it'll be making a big mistake.
Josh Freeman, QB, Vikings. Age: 26.
Signed with Giants
Josh Freeman can be a decent starting quarterback if he ever gets his act clean up and is once again paired with a quarterback guru (like he was with Greg Olson). Unfortunately, Freeman is just a project right now.
- Letroy Guion, DT, Vikings. Age: 27. -- Signed with Packers
- Fred Evans, DT, Vikings. Age: 30. -- Re-signed with Vikings
- Marcus Sherels (RFA), CB/KR, Vikings. Age: 26. -- Re-signed with Vikings
- Charlie Johnson, G, Vikings. Age: 30. -- Re-signed with Vikings (2 years, $2.5 million)
- John Carlson, TE, Vikings. Age: 30. -- Signed with Cardinals (2 years)
- Toby Gerhart, RB, Vikings. Age: 27. -- Signed with Jaguars (3 years, $10.5 million)
- Jerome Simpson, WR, Vikings. Age: 28. -- Re-signed with Vikings
- J'Marcus Webb, OT, Vikings. Age: 26. -- Signed with Chiefs
- Joe Webb, QB/WR, Vikings. Age: 27. -- Signed with Panthers
- Marvin Mitchell, OLB, Vikings. Age: 29.
- Joe Berger, C, Vikings. Age: 32. -- Re-signed with Vikings
- A.J. Jefferson, CB, Vikings. Age: 26. -- Signed with Seahawks
- Seth Olsen (RFA), G, Vikings. Age: 28.
- Troy Kropog (RFA), OT, Vikings. Age: 28.
- Larry Dean (RFA), OLB, Vikings. Age: 26. -- Re-signed with Vikings
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