The Minnesota Vikings did not have the best season in 2014, but for playing nearly the entire season without their best player they did relatively well. 2012 NFL MVP Adrian Peterson was only able to play Week One before being suspended for the rest of the season due to his child abuse scandal.
Without their superstar running back the Vikings struggled greatly, especially on offense. Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater took over for the injured Matt Cassel Week 3 against the New Orleans Saints, and he completely shook up the NFL world. Bridgewater did fantastic in his first few games, including a season-high 317 yards in his home debut against the Atlanta Falcons the next week; but it was all downhill from there for the rookie.
The Vikings finished 7-9, second to last in the NFC North; and all things considered Mike Zimmer’s first season as head coach went pretty well. There is no guarantee that Peterson will return to the Vikings, so the Vikings will really need to dig deep in this coming draft. Here’s the Vikings top needs before heading into the 2015 season:
Running Back: As I said, Peterson’s return is not written in stone. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has been trying to get Peterson to jump ship since the running back got to Minnesota. This team was built around Peterson, so having a good running back to fill in the void would be helpful. Sure, the odds of finding an Adrian Peterson outside of the top five is slim to none; but the Vikings don’t need another Peterson, just someone good enough to split the carries with Jerick McKinnon. An early to mid-round selection should suffice.
Linebacker: The Vikings selected Anthony Barr with their first round pick last season, and he has turned out great so far. Chad Greenway is also an above average linebacker. The problem is the Vikings have no one else and no backup plan if either of them get injured. The Vikings really need to consider using a mid to late round pick this season to grab a solid backup for their two stars.
Offensive Tackle: The Vikings offensive line saw a lot of injuries this season, but even when they were all healthy they struggled to protect Bridgewater. One tackle, Matt Kalil, had an especially tough season. Finding a starting caliber left tackle outside of the first round might be asking a little too much, but drafting some competition for Kalil can’t hurt. If he can’t compete with an early round rookie then obviously he doesn’t deserve to start anyways.
Defensive Secondary: The Vikings boast Harrison Smith, arguably their best defensive player. Well, the free safety can’t do it all. The Vikings need some help around Smith, some depth at cornerback, and a new strong safety all together. The Vikings would be smart to use the majority of this draft restocking their secondary with some fresh young talent. The more depth, the better.
Wide Receiver: This seemed to be the one position that the Vikings had covered heading into the 2014 season. Cordarrelle Patterson had an outstanding season in 2013, but he wasn’t able to come even close to living up to the hype around him in 2014. As a result, adding a number one guy to the roster is a pressing need for the Vikings; and the improvement in Bridgewater’s numbers will certainly thank them. The Vikings have the 11th pick in the 2015 Draft, so moving up to draft Amari Cooper isn’t out of the question. Whatever the Vikings decide, their first round pick would certainly go a long way with the right receiver.