Despite adding QB Kirk Cousins in an attempt to push the Vikings over the top to reach the Super Bowl, Minnesota fell short in 2018.
Rather than going one step further in the playoffs, they actually failed to make the postseason, recording an 8-7-1 mark.
This remains a talented roster on paper with the elite receiving tandem of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen; a fearsome pass rush; a young, athletic linebacking core; and some highly touted prospects in the secondary.
The fact most of that praise was aimed at the defence indicates where I anticipate GM Rick Spielman focusing during the early rounds of the draft. In order for this team to become a legitimate Super Bowl contender, there are a couple of interconnected deficiencies on offense.
If you rank NFL offensive lines purely based on number of sacks and QB hits allowed, the Vikings’ unit doesn’t look too shabby. They sit squarely in the middle of the pack in that respect. However, when we look more closely, there is an obvious issue with the line in Minneapolis. As of week 15 of last season, Pro Football Focus ranked the Vikings 29th in its offensive line rankings, noting that over a 10-game span, left tackle Riley Reiff allowed 22 total pressures. In addition, Football Outsiders’ stats show that 21.5% of Minnesota’s run plays were stuffed behind the line of scrimmage, good for 25th worst in the league.
Offensive coordinator John De Filippo lost his job with the team last year, largely due to the team’s inability to establish the run as head coach Mike Zimmer wanted. The offense ranked 30th in the league in rush yards per game with neither of the Vikings chief running backs gaining even over 700 yards rushing. That partly is due to De Filippo choosing to emphasise the passing game, but that decision making may have been informed by the production (or lack of) of the Vikings in run blocking.
Either of the two top tier tackles Jawaan Taylor and Andre Dillard, are unlikely to fall to the Vikings at the 18th overall pick. They should, though, be in the right spot to pick up a top-rated interior lineman.
I mentioned the receiving duo of Thielen and Diggs earlier, but behind them there is very little in the way of quality. Laquon Treadwell hasn’t developed into the big bodied, possession receiver the Vikings envisioned when they drafted him in the first round of the 2016 draft. Beyond that, the receiving corps is made up of undrafted free agents and unknown quantities.
Both Thielen and Diggs picked up over 1,000 yards receiving last season, as well as nine touchdowns apiece. If either of those goes down with a long-term injury, the Vikings offense is sunk. Whilst it’s unlikely Spielman uses his first-round pick on a wideout, this could be a position the team chooses to address from the third round onwards.
There is a pretty significant hole besides All Pro free safety Harrison Smith after the Vikings allowed Andrew Sendejo and George Iloka to leave town. They have restricted free agent Anthony Harris able to play the strong safety position, but the lack of long-term contract for Harris perhaps indicates Minnesota aren’t entirely sold on him as a more permanent solution.
Big hitting safety Johnathan Abram of Mississippi State is ranked by NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah as his 23rd best prospect in the upcoming draft. The 18th overall pick could be a prime position to pick up a young player at a devalued position. Alternatively, the Vikings might go bargain shopping in the free agent safety market following the draft.