Minnesota improved from 8-8 in 2007 to 10-6 in 2008 by using the 2008 draft to fix a big hole on their team; their pass defense. In 2009, their defense doesn't need much help, but they had to do something to address the pass offense. Unfortunately with an improved record comes a lower draft position, and they would have to wait until the No. 22 selection overall to fix it. This April's draft was lean on impact quarterbacks or receivers, so they went and took a big chance.
When Minnesota finished 8-8 in 2007, they had two glaring problems on their team. First, the pass offense was mediocre, and it might have been plain awful if teams hadn't started stacking 8 guys in the box to stop RB Adrian Peterson. Second, the pass defense was terrible. They did a good job in free agency, signing WR Bernard Berrian to help the pass offense and FS Madieu Williams to help the pass defense. But the best move they made was basically trading their 2008 draft to Kansas City for DE Jared Allen. His 14.5 sacks transformed the pass defense.
Despite the outstanding run and pass defense now in Minnesota, all it brought them was a 10-6 record, a playoff birth, and a one-and-done result. And this defense is built for today; it's not loaded with young players. Allen, DT Pat Williams and DT Kevin Williams, and CB Antoine Winfield (to name four) are all great players, but they aren't going to get any better. The window of opportunity for their defense is now.
Unfortunately their offense took a step back in 2008. Peterson's yards per carry slipped from 5.6 to 4.8, and he led the league by a large margin with 9 fumbles. It was worse for RB Chester Taylor. His yards per carry fell from 5.4 to 4.0. Still solid, but not what it was in 2007. Although Berrian had a solid season to provide the pass offense a boost, the QB carousel continues moving from QB Tarvaris Jackson to QB Gus Frerotte to QB Sage Rosenfels to QB Brett Favre?.
With the top 3 QBs off the board by the time Minnesota selected at No. 22 overall, there wasn't a QB with a 1st round grade still available. They would have to do something else to help the passing game, and here's what they did:
- 1st round - WR Percy Harvin. The Vikings have been worried about their public perception for a few years now, trying to avoid anything like the Love Boat Party Scandal or the Whizzinator. Then they draft a guy who flunked his marijuana test. Before the draft, Gonzo at Daily Norseman was sure they wouldn't draft Harvin, but now believes Harvin will "add another dimension to the offense." From an onfield POV alone, this pick doesn't help the Vikings. At 5'11" and 184 lbs., he's one of the smaller guys in the NFL and he's already shown some durability concerns. With his smaller frame, he'll have trouble separating from cornerbacks in coverage.
- 2nd round - RT Phil Loadholt. There is no concern Loadholt is too small to play in the NFL. At 6'8" and 332 lbs., mammoth is often used to describe him. But he had trouble with speed rushers in college, Washington's 1st round pick, DE Brian Orakpo, dominated Loadholt in college with his speed move, which is why he fell into the 2nd round. He only projects at right tackle. But the incumbent starting RT Ryan Cook is a poor fit, so Loadholt fills an immediate need at right tackle.
- 3rd round - CB Asher Allen. At first glance, he's not an impressive pick. At 5'10" with a 4.64 time in the 40, he's not big or fast. The Vikings need him to provide depth and challenge for the job as nickel back.
There were two other players drafted in the 5th and 7th round to provide depth at linebacker and in the secondary. It might come back to haunt the Vikings that they've drafted so few players in 2008 and 2009.
Loadholt seems like a good player, although he'll need help with speed rushers on passing downs from a back or tight end. So that won't help the passing game as it should mean one less receiver will be running a route. And I don't like undersized players like Harvin and Asher. If Harvin and Loadholt become solid starters, then it could be a solid draft. But this draft will certainly not provide much depth and it has bust potential.