No team faced more of a mix of emotions in 2016 than the Minnesota Vikings. Early injuries dashed hopes, a 5-0 start brought Super Bowl aspirations, then a 3-8 finish left fans frustrated and disappointed. While the Vikings were unable to make it back to the playoffs, they still showed they have some key pieces in place to become a contender if they add the right picks in the draft. Their elite defense remains largely the same, so the biggest objective for the Vikings in the 2017 NFL Draft is simple: Surround the quarterback with as much help as possible.
Even with Teddy Bridgewater likely gone for the entire 2017 season, the Vikings have a solid quarterback situation.
Sam Bradford was able to step right in and play the best football of his career in 2016. He made throws everyone expects out of a top overall draft pick. He even set the single-season record for completion percentage. While he did not lead the team to the postseason, Bradford was at the bottom of the list of the Vikings’ problems.
At the top of that list lies the offensive line. Minnesota’s line was just putrid all season long. Bradford never had any time to go through his progressions and find the open man. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur had to completely change their system so Bradford could get off short, quick passes just so he could stay upright. Because of this, the Vikings sported one of the worst rushing attacks in all of football.
It is vital that the Vikings address this in the draft. Without a first-round pick, they have even less room for error when selecting their newest players.
There is no debate, Minnesota must deal with the offensive line in the early stages of the draft.
Dan Feeney out of Indiana is a good bet to still be on the board when they make their first selection and there is no reason he should not be picked. He is the best guard prospect in the draft and that is an area in which the Vikings have great need.
The Vikings do not only have needs on the offensive line, but they also need some play-makers to assist Bradford.
Minnesota has two selections in the third round, so they should use one of them on another lineman, but they need to use the other on a running back.
With Adrian Peterson gone, the Vikings decided to add Latavius Murray to their backfield. While Murray is a talented player, he is most likely not going to immediately fix their rushing woes. If things go right, D’Onta Foreman of Texas should still be hanging around. He is a slam-dunk selection in the third round and could push Murray for the starting spot. If he is unavailable, Samaje Perine out of Oklahoma would be the next-best selection, as his receiving ability makes him a huge threat and has all the makings of a leading rusher.
With five more selections following the third round, expect the Vikings to select a mix of receivers, linemen and players to help strengthen the defense. It is important to ensure the defense remains elite, so bringing in young talent will surely help with that.
If the Vikings’ front office can get the draft right, 2017 should be a positive year. They have the defense to compete, they just now need the offense to score points. They have already addressed some of their needs in free agency, but a lot of work still remains. There is not a quick-fix to get the Vikings to title contention, but their best shot at getting back into the playoffs lies in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Caleb Ikerd is the lead staff writer for the Indianapolis Colts, Indiana Hoosiers, Oklahoma Sooners and Minnesota Vikings at Endzone Score. Follow him on Twitter @calikerd.