Rick Spielman made huge splashes last year in the draft, maneuvering around as he wound up with three first-round picks. He let cornerstones of the franchise and seemed to go towards a youth movement. Spielman spent three first-round selections on defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. All three rookies have had an impact this season but unfortunately the team has just two wins through nine games.
Entering the 2014 NFL Draft, Spielman will have another tall task on his hands filling needs on defense and of course finding another franchise quarterback. Quarterback is the highest priority for the Vikings in the offseason but because of two wins, they may not be in position to land the elite names. If that’s the case, Spielman will have to stay patient and not reach for a quarterback like the Vikings did in 2011 with Christian Ponder. The Vikings have the best running back in football but he is going to need some help if he ever wants to reach the playoffs again as a member of the Vikings.
First Round: Jadeveon Clowney, Defensive End, South Carolina
While the Vikings would love to land a quarterback with their first round pick, there isn’t a third quarterback worth spending a top-three selection on. So they go with another need and end up with the best defensive prospect in the past decade.
While some casual fans will see Jadeveon Clowney’s 2013 season as a disappointment, he has dominated once again this year.
He fights off double and triple teams and still manages to create pressure and create opportunities for his teammates to get the glory stats.
The Vikings will not be able to bring back Jared Allen in the offseason but by drafting Clowney they are actually upgrading at the position. The Vikings wait another round for a quarterback but end up getting a rare prospect for their defense.
Second Round: Bryce Petty, Quarterback, Baylor
The Ponder era is over in Minnesota, after being selected 12th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft, this will be his last year as the Vikings starter. The Vikings even tried to hand the job over to Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman, further proving the ineptitude of their passing attack. Minnesota would love to land the first pick and take Teddy Bridgewater but two wins will keep them outside of the picture and they will have to wait until round two.
Petty was an unknown until this past season when he broke onto the scene and has now established himself as a serious Heisman Trophy candidate. He gets knocked for playing in Baylor’s spread out attack but as we have seen in recent years that is becoming less of a problem when transitioning to the NFL. He has a big arm and knows how to put just the right touch on the ball. He knows how to control the speed and timing of the ball and can place it right where he wants it. He will need to improve his footwork and handling pressure but he has all the tools to be a starting quarterback and replace Ponder in 2014.
Third Round: Shayne Skov, Inside Linebacker, Stanford
The Vikings should continue to build their defense in the offseason and another area they will have to address is in the middle of their defense.
Erin Henderson has been solid but Minnesota can’t pass up on a player like Shayne Skov.
Skov was a major disappointment during the 2012 season and caused a lot of people to have doubts about his future in the NFL entering this season.
But Skov has shown remarkable improvement and his year was highlighted by his fantastic performance against Oregon.
He did an excellent job breaking through the middle of the Ducks’ offensive line and getting in the face of Marcus Mariota. Against a team that loves to run the ball, Skov shut down Oregon’s offense especially in the first half when the Ducks just couldn’t get anything going. Getting him in the third round would be great value for the Vikings and another piece to build their front seven.
Third Round: Aaron Colvin, Cornerback, Oklahoma
One of the many reasons the Vikings have struggled this year is because their offense has the unfortunate position of trying to play catch up with their defense continuously giving up big plays. After drafting Rhodes last year, this defense still ranks 29th in the league allowing 285.7 passing yards per game and that’s even with teams running out the clock at the end of games. Minnesota needs to continue to add depth to their secondary and find more cornerbacks to plug in for their defense. Chris Cook has been inconsistent again this season although there may be more bad than good. By bringing in Aaron Colvin, they take a chance on an injury risk but add someone who is a magnet to the football. Playing in a division with Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler, the Vikings need all the help they can get in the secondary.
Fourth Round: DaQuan Jones, Defensive Tackle, Penn State
Remember the days when the Vikings had a dominant defensive line that was highlighted by the duo of Pat and Kevin Williams on the inside. Well years later Pat Williams is long retired while Kevin Williams will turn 34 next season and needs to start working on his own retirement papers.
Minnesota drafted Floyd early last year but now they need to find the next defensive tackle to pair with him. The Vikings just need to take a trip to Pennsylvania and visit Penn State where they can find defensive tackle DaQuan Jones. While Jones strength may be evident what pops out at you is his quickness off the snap, he shows quick reaction that helps him gain leverage on his opponent and get himself into the backfield. Jones has always had promise but has only started to really deliver on his physical gifts with the ability to create interior pressure and disrupt the backfield. You pair him with Clowney, Floyd and Brian Robison presents a scary front four in 2014 and for the future.
Fifth Round: James White, Running Back, Wisconsin
Yes, Adrian Peterson is the best running back in football and should be getting all the carries. But having a second running back is vital in the NFL and with Toby Gerhart set to test free agency, it becomes a need for the Vikings.
In the NFL Draft community, when people think of Wisconsin running backs the immediate thought is Melvin Gordon. While Gordon may be a stud and a potential first-round selection, not enough credit is going to his counterpart James White.
The Badgers have used a balanced attack with White and Gordon and both backs have been excellent so far this season. White offers a nice blend of speed and vision, he finds a hole and bursts through it then uses quick cuts to make a few defenders miss and the rest is history.
He also works very well as a wide receiver, taking short passes then using his speed and agility to break the big play. He will never get a lot of carries working behind Peterson, but he provides excellent insurance and can step in if Peterson needs a break.
Sixth Round: Cody Hoffman, Wide Receiver, BYU
After trading away Percy Harvin in the offseason, Minnesota had big plans for Greg Jennings and Patterson. But the big expectations of the wide receivers lifting the quarterback play and being productive have fallen way short and the Vikings need for another wide receiver is evident.
Jennings just turned 30 in September but injuries in the past few years have clearly taken away from the player he used to be. The speed and ability to separate from coverage isn’t there anymore and it’s clear he benefited from playing with a great quarterback. Minnesota needs to find another physical wide receiver for their quarterback to work with and Cody Hoffman may be just the guy. He doesn’t offer great speed but has the size, toughness and strength that really make up for it. While Patterson stretches the field and makes plays in the open field, Hoffman can pick up chunks of yards and move the chains. A group of Patterson, Hoffman, Jennings and Jerome Simpson would definitely be enough on a team with AP.
Seventh Round: Wesley Johnson, Offensive Tackle, Vanderbilt
One of the biggest disappointments for the Vikings this year has been right tackle Phil Loadholt. After signing a four-year extension in the offseason, Loadholt hasn’t been the same player the team hoped for when they have him 25 million. He is still young and has plenty of time to improve, but the Vikings have to consider bringing in more depth on the right side to fill in when he is injured and give him the motivation from potential competition. Johnson offers a lot of versatility with the ability to play either tackle spot or even play guard, but offers upside as a tackle. Once he can settle down to one position and work with coaches on his technique, he could be just what the Vikings are looking for.