The Minnesota Vikings are among the more improved teams around the league after about three weeks of 2013 NFL Free Agency. Though the club lost a couple of solid contributors, their departures were overshadowed by the re-signings of OT Phil Loadholt, WR Jerome Simpson, S Jamarca Sanford and LB Erin Henderson and the additions of QB Matt Cassel and WR Greg Jennings.
Minnesota also cut ties with a tremendously talented piece of its offense that had become too much of a distraction by the name of Percy Harvin and acquired a first-round pick in this year’s draft from the Seattle Seahawks in the process.
Let’s take a look at the team’s updated needs heading into the 2013 NFL Draft (in no particular order).
1. Wide Receiver
Trading Harvin is probably for the best and could end up benefiting each side involved, but the Vikings will have a tough time trying to replace all of his production. Harvin, 24, hauled in 280 receptions for 3,302 yards and 20 touchdowns through the air in 54 games (43 starts) in four seasons with the Vikings.
The 5-11, 184-pound wide out also accumulated 3,183 yards and five TDs in the kicking game (averaging 27.9 yards a pop on 114 returns) with 683 rushing yards and four scores on 107 carries in four seasons—amounting to 7,168 all-purpose yards and 29 total TDs.
Harvin also led the team in receiving each year since his second season. He caught 62 passes for 677 yards and three touchdowns through the air in nine games (eight starts) before being placed on injured reserve in 2012.
Quarterback Christian Ponder threw for 200 yards or more five times when Harvin was in the lineup. When Harvin was on the sidelines for the final seven games, Ponder had just two games with at least 200 passing yards.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph, who was the MVP of the Pro Bowl, finished second on the team with 53 receptions for 493 yards and nine TDs. Running back Adrian Peterson and wide out Michael Jenkins were next with 40 catches each.
While the Vikings obviously don’t depend solely on wide receivers in the passing game, here’s how the position looks heading into the draft later this month with each receiver’s numbers from this past season listed in parenthesis.
- Greg Jennings (36 receptions for 366 yards and four scores in his seventh season)
- Jerome Simpson (26 receptions for 274 yards in 10 starts in his fifth season)
- Jarius Wright (22 receptions for 310 yards and 2 TDs in his rookie year)
- Stephen Burton (five catches for 35 yards and a score in his second year)
- Greg Childs (didn’t see any action in his rookie season due to injury)
Jennings, 29, missed the final eight games last year due to injury and will unquestionably help to alleviate the team’s problems in the passing game, which finished next-to-last in the league last year. Though this year’s class of receivers is loaded with talent and depth, Minnesota must pick up a new weapon right away on draft day to replace Harvin and compliment Jennings.
Several solid options should be available in the No. 23 or No. 25 spot, which could include DeAndre Hopkins, Keenan Allen, Justin Hunter and Robert Woods. The team would likely need to move up to land Tavon Austin or Cordarrelle Patterson.
2. Defensive Back
Harrison Smith proved to be a brilliant late-first round selection last April, as the former No. 31 overall pick out of Notre Dame started every game and finished his first year with a total of 104 tackles, 1.0 sack, one forced fumble and three interceptions (returned for 87 yards and two TDs). Nevertheless, the team needs to find a new starter to line up on the other side at strong safety, along with another corner in the early to middle rounds, especially if a deal doesn’t get done with Antoine Winfield.
Johnthan Banks, Darius Slay, Robert Alford, Jonathan Cyprien, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Kenny Vaccaro and David Amerson are among the potential targets for the Vikings in the first three rounds on April 25 and 26.
3. Defensive Line
Letroy Guion struggled last season alongside Kevin Williams. In his latest mock draft, Oren Shiri projects the team upgrade in the trenches with addition of Johnathan Hankins out of Ohio State with the No. 25 overall pick. Other options at the position on the first two days of the draft could include Jesse Williams, Sylvester Williams, John Jenkins and Everrett Dawkins.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. recently revealed that if Manti Te’o will likely wind up with the Vikings if he gets by the Chicago Bears.
”I tried to get him down to Minnesota, because it makes so much sense,” he said. “The Vikings at 23, the Vikings pick again at 25. They desperately need a middle linebacker. A big hole at that position. It would be perfect for what they do there.”
Kiper also added that the Vikings could move ahead of the Bears and Giants to land the star linebacker out of Notre Dame.
The connection between the team and Te’o is pretty logical, as the Vikings have had success with prospects coming from the confides of Notre Dame—not only with Harrison Smith, but also Robert Blanton in the fifth round last April, as well as 2o11 second round tight end Kyle Rudolph and center John Sullivan, who was selected in the sixth round in 2008.
Vikings general manager and former Bears director of pro personnel Rick Spielman is also the brother of Chris Spielman, who was the only GM to attend Notre Dame’s Pro Day on March 27.
Related Team Needs:
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- Oakland Raiders Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- Philadelphia Eagles Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- Detroit Lions Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- Cleveland Browns Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- Arizona Cardinals Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- Buffalo Bills Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- New York Jets Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- Tennessee Titans Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- San Diego Chargers Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- Miami Dolphins Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- Carolina Panthers Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- New Orleans Saints Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- St. Louis Rams Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- Pittsburgh Steelers Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
- New York Giants Updated 2013 NFL Draft Team Needs
Michael Gartman is a College Football and NFL Senior Writer, the AFC South and NFC West Lead Writer and the Founder, CEO of GridironGrit.com. He’s also about to start reporting on topics across all sides of the political spectrum and analyze important issues in the liberty movement for a political website. Follow him @_MichaelGartman on Twitter. Be sure to ‘like’ Gridiron Grit on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @GridironGrit to keep up with the latest coverage on college football, the NFL and more!