Thursday, March 21, 2013

National Friday League: Roster Status Update

Going into the offseason, I would have (like many) ranked WR as the #1 weakness on the Viking roster.  By swapping Percy Harvin for Greg Jennings, I don't think that is the case anymore. I am not saying that Jennings is as good a football player as Harvin or that he can do as much for an offense. But I've long viewed Harvin as an undefined, unique RB/WR hybrid rather than a real wide receiver (I've usually called him a glorified third down back, but that's not quite right). He's a great football player, but he did not provide the Vikings a downfield passing threat. Replacing Harvin with Jennings may not be a better move for the offense, but it does make the wide receiver unit itself better.

I would have ranked the #2 weakness quarterback depth. After signing Matt Cassel, I don't think that's the case anymore. Oh, you could still argue that quarterback itself is the team's biggest weakness--you might have a case. But there is no longer such a gigantic dropoff after Christian Ponder. If Ponder is injured or ineffective, the Vikes could basically run the same offense with Matt Cassel. The position is still all about Ponder, but there's no longer such a glaring need at backup. At backup QB you can either go with young project or experienced veteran, and if you're going with experienced veteran, is there a better backup option than Cassel? Kyle Orton? Ryan Fitzpatrick? That's the world you're talking about at backup QB.

So after the additions and subtractions, as of this very moment, what are the biggest weaknesses on this roster? Where is a team with six picks in the first four rounds going to fill in players that may need to start immediately?

Cornerback/Secondary. It is always--always--a need, and the loss of Antoine Winfield makes it a glaring need. If the roster doesn't change, it appears, what, Chris Cook and Josh Robinson start? OK, there's some potential there, but you can't be sure how good that combo would be. Robinson is unproven, and plenty of CBs who show potential as rookies get burned as sophomores. And who is the third CB on the field, which in today's NFL is quite an important position? How disastrous would the situation be if a starter gets injured? And couldn't the team use a legitimate upgrade at safety opposite Harrison Smith? We're still facing the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Calvin Johnson regularly, right?

Middle Linebacker. This is a pretty obvious point: Jasper Brinkley started 16 games at middle linebacker last season and he's not on the roster anymore. Audie Cole was second on the depth chart. Presumably Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson are asked to do the same things they did last year. Is Audie Cole ready to start? Is somebody else? Do you even need a middle linebacker in this defense?

After that, the Vikes can largely target the proverbial best player available. Teams always have to be adding offensive and defensive linemen, and there's no reason to ignore the wide receiver position (the Vikes could seriously seek out another starter at the position, including in the first round). But outside of these holes, the Vikings simply need to add talent to the roster and be willing to find potential starters at any position.

5 comments:

  1. Harvin seemed to work downfield more often when Favre was a Viking. I wonder how much of the role Harvin grew into (an Eric Metcalf 2.0 who runs, catchs quick bubble screens, etc.)is due to scheme, quarterback, playcalling, etc.

    I get Harvin's not going to run all the routes like Jennings, but I still see Harvin at 25 being a better option (pure WR or no) than Jennings at 30.

    That being said, I don't disagree that WR is probably behind CB and LB in terms of (immediate) need. CB in particular is worrisome, as the experts don't seem to think much of the corners in this draft, particualy where the Vikings are picking. I wouldn't think their plan is to draft someone to plug-and-play next year, but maybe it is. Spielman had a fantastic draft last year; maybe he's having an "I'm Keith Hernandez" wave of confidence. We'll see what happens, though. (Random factoid, they haven't drafted a corner in round 1 since 1994, Dewayne Washington; although Cook was a top-of-the-2nd round choice, and the team's first selection).

    Also, what would people think of trading one of the first rounders if it got them a 2014 first plus change)? Obviously much could (and likely will) change, but next year's draft seems to have more blue chippers at pass rusher, wide receiver, and (ah-hem) quarterback. On the one hand, I wouldn't mind having assets to use next year instead of this year; on the other, that's some serious getting-my-head-over-my-skies potential.

    --jianfu

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    1. When it comes to drafting CBs, the theory I've read is team's that run zone coverage the majority of the time - like the Vikes - don't draft corners high because you don't pay big money for a potentially elite corner so he can play zone.

      That doesn't explain why Washington is the most recent first rounder who was a corner, but it does explain the Vikings drafting philosophy since 2006.

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    2. Jianfu - I like the idea of trading a 2013 first for a 2014 first plus more. the Vikes are a candidate to regress this year and go 10+ wins in 2014 anyway, so load next year's gun.

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    3. The more I think of it, the more I'd like it. Best case scenario would be a team like Arizona misses a QB at the top, so they take one of the OTs and then trade for the Vikings pick to get Matt Barkley (or whomever). Arizona would have then (finally) drafted their constant problem areas (QB and LT), but would likely be pretty bad (in a suddenly strong division), getting the Vikings an upgraded pick next year.

      But that's easy for me to say as a fan. As far as I know, Spielman and Frazier aren't under contract yet for 2014. So I doubt they'd be interested.

      -jianfu

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    4. That's a really good point. if they trade away a first rounder and have a disappointing season and get canned, it would be regrettable.

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