With our beloved Minnesota Vikings team sitting at 2-8, and absolutely no hope at a playoff spot, it would seem there is very little reason for optimism. The 2009 Vikings team is a thing in the past, and we are clearly in the re-building process. It may be a rough road to travel these next few years.
But just hear me out here.
I think this season, and even last season, are blessings in disguise. Each team hits slumps like this, it happens around the league each year. We have just been fortunate enough not to have witnessed this with our own team in a while. The million dollar question is, how can a struggling team like us turn things around in the near future and become a contender again? The answer is no secret; The NFL Draft and free agency. It may seem obvious, but it is the truth. Just ask the Detroit Lions.
The Lions historically haven’t been a franchise that wins a lot of games, or even makes the playoffs (aside from the Barry Sanders era and way back before you and I were probably born), but just look at the team they are turning into. All of a sudden, the Lions are looking like a legitimate playoff contender. It was a long process, but they have scored on free agent aquisitions like Nate Burleson, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Chris Houston, and even a couple of their linebackers. But more importantly, they’ve had success through high draft picks in recent years, as this list below will show you:
2007: WR Calvin Johnson (2nd pick overall)
2009: QB Matthew Stafford (1st pick overall)
2009: TE Brandon Pettigrew (20th pick overall)
2009: FS Louis Delmas (33rd pick overall)
2010: DT Ndamukong Suh (2nd pick overall)
2010: RB Jahvid Best (30th pick overall)
2011: DT Nick Fairley (13 pick overall)
Notice a pattern? Most of these successful picks were high draft picks, and over time, it helped them build the team they are today. This is by no means the first time this sort of thing has happened, and it won’t be the last time. I think the Vikings have a great shot to take advantage of the situation they are in and score big in this year’s draft. We have already drafted our QB of the future in Christian Ponder, and yes, he has made some mistakes, but every rookie quarterback is going to make mistakes. He has also shown a lot of promise with his athletisism, his playmaking ability with both his arm and his feet, and his fight-to-the-finish attitude we have seen from him since he took over for Donovan McNabb. We need weapons to surround him, and better protection from the offensive line, and this draft is a great place to look for that talent.
In all likelyhood, the Vikings will end up with a top 5-10 pick. In this year’s draft, that is the perfect place to grab either an OL or WR, which is our two biggest areas of need on offense. USC OL Matt Kahlil and Stanford OL Johnathan Martin are both projected to be top 10 picks, and Wide Receivers such as Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon, Notre Dame’s Malcom Floyd, and South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery are also projected to go in the first round. There is WR value in the 2nd-3rd rounds as well, especially in Iowa WR Marvin McNutt. We all know our secondary is in need of desperate help, so maybe even taking Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
This year’s free agent market is impressive as well, especially for Wide receivers. Some of the top guys like Vincent Jackson and Stevie Johnson may be of interest to the Vikings.
I know I have been rambling, but hey, I’m a blogger. All I’m trying to say is we are in a very good position when the offseason rolls around, even though it seems like right now there may be no hope. I’m a big draft guy as well, and I’m very excited for the 2012 NFL draft, especially when we’re almost certain to have a top 10 pick. Hey, do you really think we would have been in any position to draft Adrian Peterson in 2007 if our record in 2006 hadn’t been 6-10? Like I said; Blessing in disguise.