2015 NFL Offseason: Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota Vikings (Last Year: 7-9)

2015 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
RB DuJuan Harris, WR Mike Wallace, ILB Casey Matthews, CB Terence Newman, S Taylor Mays.
Early Draft Picks:
CB Trae Waynes, ILB Eric Kendricks, DE/OLB Danielle Hunter, OT T.J. Clemmings, TE MyCole Pruitt, WR Stefon Diggs. Vikings Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB Matt Cassel, QB Christian Ponder, FB Jerome Felton, WR Greg Jennings, G Charlie Johnson, G Vladimir Ducasse, DE Corey Wootton, ILB Jasper Brinkley.

2015 Minnesota Vikings Offense:
Prior to 2014, losing Adrian Peterson for 15 games would have been disastrous. The offense was centered around Peterson, so seeing him get hurt or suspended would’ve crushed Minnesota’s chances, perhaps relegating them to one or two victories for the entire year. That wasn’t the case this past season, however, as the Peterson-less Vikings went 7-9 and were close to the opposition in many of their defeats, as five of the losses came by eight points or fewer.

The difference was obvious. Teddy Bridgewater, who predictably slipped in the 2014 NFL Draft, proved almost every team wrong by thriving as a rookie. Taking over the starting job in Week 4, Bridgewater posted a 6-6 record while throwing for 2,919 yards, completing 64.4 percent of his passes in the process on a solid 7.3 YPA. He also rushed for 209 yards and a touchdown. He ignited a Minnesota offense that was lacking explosion with either Matt Cassel or Christian Ponder at the helm, becoming the type of leader at the position that the Vikings have lacked since the early Daunte Culpepper days.

Bridgewater should be even better with Peterson lining up in the backfield. Peterson played in just one contest in 2014 because of a bogus suspension; the Vikings simply overreacted to the usual idiots on Twitter, which proved to be a big mistake because Peterson is now rightfully angry at the front office. He also could be prone to injury after taking an entire year off, and if he gets hurt, the unspectacular duo of Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata will line up in the backfield. McKinnon has talent, but he isn’t durable to carry a full workload.

Bridgewater will be playing with at least one other new starter. That would be receiver Mike Wallace, who was exiled from Miami because he often quit on the team. Wallace is a bum, but he has loads of talent as a deep threat. Perhaps the tough-nosed Mike Zimmer will keep Wallace in line, unlike pushover Joe Philbin, who wasn’t even aware that bullying was happening in his own locker room. Wallace will at least make opposing defenses respect the deep ball, which should open things up for Peterson (perhaps), McKinnon and the other targets underneath.

The other targets include Charles Johnson, Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Rudolph. Johnson is the best of the bunch; the tall (6-2, 215), athletic receiver was solid down the stretch last year, catching 31 balls for 475 yards despite barely doing anything before Week 11. Patterson, a former first-rounder, has been a bust thus far, but he has loads of talent and could be a dynamic threat if he can get his head screwed on straight. Rudolph, meanwhile, could serve as a potent intermediate threat if he can manage to stay healthy. Durability has been a huge issue for Rudolph, however, so Minnesota spent a fifth-rounder on tight end MyCole Pruitt as a possible replacement.

Bridgewater’s offensive line figures to be better as well. Left tackle Matt Kalil was a human turnstile in 2014, but he was dealing with knee problems. He can’t possibly be worse than what he was this past season, but there’s no guarantee he’ll rebound back to previous form. If he continues to struggle, perhaps fourth-round rookie T.J. Clemmings can take his spot. Charlie Johnson, who played next to Kalil last year, was Minnesota’s second-worst lineman. He’s gone, and he’ll be replaced by right guard Brandon Fusco, who is moving over to the left side.

The rest of the front should be pretty solid. Center John Sullivan is a quality blocker who allowed just two sacks in 2014. The aforementioned Clemmings will battle for the right guard job. Clemmings was seen as a first-round prospect by some, so he could play well right away. He’ll line up next to right tackle Phil Loadholt, who isn’t the best pass protector, but can get things done in terms of blasting open huge running lanes.

2015 Minnesota Vikings Defense:
The Vikings said farewell to some long-time members of their defense last offseason, including Jared Allen and Kevin Williams. The consensus opinion was that their defense would decline, but that was hardly the case. In fact, the Vikings improved dramatically on this side of the ball; they surrendered 30 points per game in 2013 and just 21.4 points per contest last year.

Several players obviously stepped up, and a couple of those were on the defensive line. The best player up front was Sharrif Floyd, who dominated the trenches in all aspects. Floyd, another first-round pick who slipped, was monstrous in shutting down the run and put plenty of heat on opposing quarterbacks, notching 4.5 sacks in 14 contests. He missed a couple of games at the end of the year because of a minor knee injury. He’ll once again start next to Linval Joseph, who played well in the second half of the season after getting off to a slow start. Still, Joseph hasn’t proven that he’s worthy of the 5-year, $31.5 million deal Minnesota gave him last spring. Perhaps he’ll step up in 2015.

One player who has definitely lived up to his contract thus far is defensive end Everson Griffen, who was handed a 5-year, $42.5 million deal an offseason ago. It was a criticized move, given that Griffen had previously been unproven, but he made the front office look brilliant; he racked up 12 sacks in his first season as a starter. It’s a good thing that Griffen had a huge 2014 campaign because the other defensive ends on the roster struggled. This includes Brian Robison, who had a surprisingly poor year. Making matters worse, Robison tore his pectoral this spring, so at 32, it could be difficult for him to rebound. If so, 2014 third-rounder Scott Crichton, who barely played as a rookie, will have to step up.

Anthony Barr will have to pick up the pass-rushing slack as well. Barr had a terrific rookie campaign, collecting four sacks in 12 games and also thriving as a run-defender. He showed lots of promise as a franchise cornerstone, and he and Gerald Hodges played well for Minnesota’s blossoming linebacking corps. However, there was one liability in the group, and that was Chad Greenway, who has suffered a huge decline in recent years. Greenway won’t be on the team much longer, so Hodges will have to take his place. That’ll open up the middle linebacker slot, which will be filled by second-round rookie Eric Kendricks. The UCLA product generated some first-round discussion, but Charlie Campbell reported that some teams didn’t like his body. Still, he’s a skilled defender who should be able to help the Vikings improve even more.

Another big difference between the 2014 defense and the 2013 version was Harrison Smith’s presence. The stud safety dominated in all regards this past season, whereas he barely played in 2013 because of an injury. Smith made it very difficult to throw on the Vikings, even though the other safety, Robert Blanton, wasn’t nearly as good in coverage. Blanton, however, thrived in run support, so he wasn’t useless.

It helped Smith and Blanton that they had assistance from a shutdown cornerback, as well as a talented nickel. Xavier Rhodes qualified as the former, routinely clamping down opposing No. 1 receivers. Captain Munnerlyn thrived in the nickel, but the team needed another corner on the outside. That would explain the Vikings’ first-round selection this April. Minnesota chose Trae Waynes, the consensus top cornerback in the class. He’s expected to start right away, and he figures to serve as an upgrade over Josh Robinson.

2015 Minnesota Vikings Schedule and Intangibles:
Minnesota is just 17-62-1 in outdoor road games the past 13 seasons. Playing outside at home this past year didn’t help, as the Vikings were just 1-4 in such contests.

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. However, he has regressed each season, and he was just 26-of-35 in 2014, though he did go 5-of-9 from 50-plus.

Jeff Locke is a mediocre punter. He finished in the middle of the pack in terms of net yardage in 2013, and he ranked 21st last season.

The Vikings didn’t score or allow any special-teams touchdowns in 2014, but they managed to outgain the opposition in both punt and kickoff returns. They were especially effective when taking back punts, thanks to Marcus Sherels.

Minnesota has a very balanced schedule. It seems like easy and difficult opponents rotate every week. For example, the year begins with: San Francisco (easy), Detroit (hard), San Diego at home (easy), Denver on the road (hard), Kansas City at home (easy), Detroit on the road (hard), and so on.

2015 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.

2015 Minnesota Vikings Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2015 Minnesota Vikings Analysis: The Vikings could easily be one of the surprise playoff teams in 2015. With Teddy Bridgewater entering his sophomore campaign, Adrian Peterson returning to help, and better players added to the defense, things are looking extremely bright for Minnesota.

Projection: 10-6 (2nd in NFC North)

NFL Draft Team Grade: A Grade

Goals Entering the 2015 NFL Draft: Receiver and cornerback are the two positions of greatest need. They’ll both have to be addressed early. Elsewhere, the Vikings will have to consider a running back to replace Adrian Peterson, a left tackle for insurance, and a linebacker to improve the middle of the defense.

2015 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Vikings emerged from this weekend with one of the top classes in the 2015 NFL Draft. To quote an e-mailer who is 100-percent correct, the Vikings, quite simply, “killed it.”

Their initial selections were excellent. They obtained the top cornerback in the draft with the No. 11 pick, which seems like a theft, especially after hearing that he was drawing some consideration at the seventh pick. The Vikings also secured the best prospect at another position – inside linebacker. I don’t know why Eric Kendricks was available in the middle of the second round, but Minnesota got a steal.

Speaking of steals, T.J. Clemmings in the fourth qualifies as one. Even the teams that were down on Clemmings listed him as a third-rounder before his injuries came to light, so he was definitely a bargain early on Day 3. He could eventually emerge as the Vikings’ starting left tackle. Not bad for a third-day selection!

Other picks like Danielle Hunter and Stefon Diggs made a ton of sense, and Minnesota added lots of depth to its roster elsewhere. Viking fans have to be thrilled heading into what appears to be a promising 2015 campaign.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

11. Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State: A- Grade
It was either Trae Waynes or DeVante Parker, and either would’ve made a ton of sense. But whereas Parker was the No. 3 receiver, Waynes was the top cornerback on the board. With that in mind, doesn’t it seem like a huge steal that the Vikings were able to obtain the No. 1 corner in the draft with the 11th pick? This is a strong choice, as Waynes fills a need as a starter across from Xavier Rhodes. The Vikings had to find another corner to help them against all of the talented receivers on Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

45. Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA: A+ Grade
This is my favorite pick of the second round so far. Eric Kendricks is a first-round prospect. I had him going to Nos. 24 and 30 in various updates of my mock draft. He should’ve been the first inside linebacker off the board, so he’s an absolute steal in the middle of the second frame. He fills a huge need for Minnesota in the middle of its defense.

88. Danielle Hunter, DE/OLB, LSU: B+ Grade
Danielle Hunter’s draft stock was all over the place. Some had him as a second-round prospect. One team we spoke to scoffed at this, listing him as a fifth-round prospect. This range should be right for him. Hunter isn’t much of a football player right now, but he has the athleticism to develop into a strong starter. The good thing is that Hunter doesn’t have to play much right away. He’ll have time to eventually emerge as a key player down the road.

110. T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh: A Grade
T.J. Clemmings was never viewed as a first-round prospect. Teams we spoke to had him in the second or third round, and that’s before his injury came to light. However, there’s no denying that Clemmings provides fantastic value in the fourth frame. He’s a potential starting left tackle with plenty of upside. He might be able to take over for Matt Kalil if Kalil continues to struggle.

143. MyCole Pruitt, TE, Southern Illinois: B Grade
Kyle Rudolph has not been able to stay healthy, so it’s hardly a surprise that the Vikings addressed the tight end position in the 2015 NFL Draft. The highly athletic MyCole Pruitt fits the range as a fifth-round prospect, and he could eventually evolve into a starter.

146. Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland: B+ Grade
I like what the Vikings are doing with these mid-round picks. I had numerous readers yell at me for having Stefon Diggs too late in my mock draft, but I always thought the fourth round was the right spot for him. Diggs had injury issues in Maryland, but he could develop into a No. 2 wideout if he can stay healthy. He’ll also be able to contribute as a return specialist, if needed.

185. Tyrus Thompson, OT, Oklahoma: B Grade
Tyrus Thompson battled through injuries this past season and struggled at times as a result. He has the talent to be chosen at this spot, or perhaps even earlier, but he has some work-ethic concerns. If Thompson can get his act together, he could be a decent swing tackle for the Vikings down the road.

193. B.J. Dubose, DE, Louisville: C Grade
B.J. Dubose would’ve been a better fit as a five-technique, so maybe the Chargers and Vikings can swap picks? Dubose will serve as a run-stopping left end if he makes the roster, but I’m not so sure he will. The Vikings could’ve done better with this selection.

228. Austin Shepherd, OT, Alabama: B- Grade
Minnesota’s third tackle. I felt that Austin Shepherd had a chance to be drafted, and I had him as a sixth-round prospect at one point. The Vikings must have agreed on his value, but I’m not sure where he fits in with all the players at the position currently on the roster.

232. Edmond Robinson, LB, Newberry: B Grade
I had Edmond Robinson going a bit earlier than this, so he makes sense at this spot. As for the fit, I’d like it more if the Vikings didn’t already spend two selections on linebackers. It’ll be tough for Robinson to make the final roster.

Season Summary:
Things were bleak for the Vikings when Adrian Peterson was suspended for hitting his son prior to the second week of the season. Teddy Bridgewater, however, gave the team life with his play once he took over as the starter. Bridgewater was inconsistent following a strong debut versus Atlanta, but he ultimately finished his rookie campaign on a strong note, completing at least 68 percent of his passes during the final five weeks of the season. The Vikings definitely have hope going forward, now that they finally have a possible solution at quarterback.

Offseason Moves:
  • Vikings cut S Taylor Mays
  • Dolphins sign WR Greg Jennings
  • Vikings sign ILB Casey Matthews
  • Vikings sign CB Terence Newman
  • Vikings sign S Taylor Mays
  • Vikings sign RB DuJuan Harris
  • Vikings re-sign OT Mike Harris
  • Bears sign G Vladimir Ducasse
  • Vikings cut WR Greg Jennings
  • Raiders sign QB Christian Ponder
  • Vikings acquire WR Mike Wallace and 7th-round pick from Dolphins for 5th-round pick
  • Cowboys sign ILB Jasper Brinkley
  • Vikings re-sign QB Shaun Hill
  • Bills sign FB Jerome Felton
  • Vikings re-sign C/G Joe Berger
  • Vikings re-sign RB Matt Asiata
  • Vikings re-sign DT Tom Johnson
  • Bills acquire QB Matt Cassel from Vikings for draft picks
  • Vikings cut G Charlie Johnson

    Team Needs:
    1. Two Guards: Most point to left tackle, but the left guard position is the one that needs to be addressed the most on the offensive line. Charles Johnson struggled mightily there. Perhaps the Vikings will spend the 11th-overall pick on a tackle who can play guard in the short term, much like the Rams did with Greg Robinson last year. The right guard spot will need to be fixed as well if Joe Berger leaves via free agency. Re-signed Joe Berger

    2. Linebacker: The Vikings were weak at middle linebacker this past season, which would explain why they struggled to stop the run. Chad Greenway, meanwhile, has regressed. Gerald Hodges showed a ton of promise when filling in for an injured Anthony Barr, so he can be the team’s second linebacker. A third will have to be acquired. Signed Casey Matthews

    3. Running Back: It’s possible that Adrian Peterson may never play for Minnesota again. The front office may spend a second-day selection on a running back to pair with Jerick McKinnon. Signed DuJuan Harris

    4. Cornerback: The Vikings could use the No. 11 overall pick to draft a cornerback to start across from Xavier Rhodes, who had a terrific year. Signed Terence Newman

    5. Wide Receiver: Cordarrelle Patterson has proven to be a huge disappointment, as he has shown that he’s incapable of being nothing more than a freak athlete. A No. 1 receiver is needed, though Patterson is likely to get a second chance. Traded for Mike Wallace

    6. Safety: Robert Blanton, chosen in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, was inconsistent next to Harrison Smith last year, but he played well on occasion. With other needs, the Vikings can allow him to start another season.

    7. Left Tackle: Matt Kalil was a human turnstile this past season, but it must be noted that he was nursing an injury. Kalil will get another opportunity next year, but insurance should be added.

    8. Defensive Line Depth: Better backups are currently needed at defensive end. The same will go for defensive tackle if Tom Johnson leaves via free agency. Re-signed Tom Johnson

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2015 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Shaun Hill, QB, Rams. Age: 35.
      Signed with Vikings (2 years, $6 million)

      Shaun Hill is one of the better backup quarterbacks in the NFL, but he had to start this past season because of Sam Bradford’s injury.

    2. Terence Newman, CB, Bengals. Age: 36. — Signed with Vikings (1 year)
    3. DuJuan Harris, RB, Packers. Age: 26. — Signed with Vikings
    4. Casey Matthews, ILB, Eagles. Age: 26. — Signed with Vikings

    Minnesota Vikings Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Jerome Felton, FB, Vikings. Age: 29.
      Signed with Bills

      Jerome Felton is one of the better run-blocking fullbacks in the NFL. He helped pave the way for Adrian Peterson’s 2,000-yard campaign in 2012.

    2. Greg Jennings, WR, Vikings. Age: 31.
      Signed with Dolphins

      Greg Jennings derailed his career by leaving Aaron Rodgers for the money. Perhaps he can still play, but he may have to take a short-term “prove it” contract. Jennings turns 32 in September, so time is running out for him.

    3. Matt Asiata (RFA), RB, Vikings. Age: 28.
      Re-signed with Vikings (1 year)

      Matt Asiata is a tough, short-yardage runner, who excels at catching passes out of the backfield. He’s just a No. 2 back though.

    4. Joe Berger, C/G, Vikings. Age: 33.
      Re-signed with Vikings

      Joe Berger took over at right guard for the ineffective Vlad Ducasse this season and offered an upgrade in the running game. Berger can play center and guard, but he’ll be 33 in May.

    5. Tom Johnson, DT, Vikings. Age: 31.
      Re-signed with Vikings (3 years, $7 million)

      Tom Johnson can’t hold up against the run, but he’s a quality interior pass-rusher who collected a handful of sacks in 2014. He’s on the wrong side of 30, unfortunately.

    6. Jasper Brinkley, ILB, Vikings. Age: 30. — Signed with Cowboys
    7. Charlie Johnson, G, Vikings. Age: 31.
    8. Christian Ponder, QB, Vikings. Age: 27. — Signed with Raiders
    9. Corey Wootton, DE, Vikings. Age: 28.
    10. Vladimir Ducasse, G, Vikings. Age: 27. — Signed with Bears
    11. Taylor Mays, S, Vikings. Age: 27.
    12. Mike Harris (RFA), OT, Vikings. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Vikings
    13. Justin Trattou (RFA), DE, Vikings. Age: 27.


    Fantasy Football Rankings - May 23

    2025 NFL Mock Draft - May 21

    NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22

    NFL Picks - Feb. 12