If the Vikings didn't think they were starting to rebuild at the beginning of the 2011 season, a 3-13 finish to the year should have them searching for youth and talent to begin restocking the roster. With plenty of holes and eight picks (maybe 10 after conditional picks are announced) there has been much written about how to best build the team and put it on a fast track to success. Here is a quick look at their current roster and where they might focus in the 2012 Offseason.
The debate has already begun amongst Vikings fans about how best to improve on an offense that averaged 21.2 points/gm and it will most likely continue to rage until draft day. GM Rick Spielman has openly questioned whether the team would be better served to add playmakers and then find a "functional" left tackle to improve the offense. The fact that he would present these thoughts to the media should be the first sign that he A) probably has an answer to that question already and B) he's keeping the Vikings intentions murky in an attempt to keep the teams options open once the draft begins. He'll never reveal his thoughts on the subject, but putting the question out there will force teams to question his intentions and possibly force their hands in a trade. What I find funny about it is that the Vikings could potentially be in line to get both a great O-Lineman and playmakers as this draft class is top heavy at OLT and deep at potential playmakers. Drafting say Matt Kalil (Yes please!) with the third overall pick won't hinder them from drafting playmakers in rounds 2-7.
OL: The Vikings haven't addressed the OL before the 5th round since taking ROT Phil Loadholt in the 2nd round of 2009. LOG Steve Hutchinson is aging and may be asked to take a pay cut or a hike. ROG Anthony Herrera may just get cut altogether. On top of that, they cut former LOT Byrant McKinnie just before the start of the season and replaced him with the out of place Charlie Johnson. If Hutchinson stays on the roster and a suitable LOT is drafted, Johnson could be moved to the ROG spot where it is believed he would be more suited. Two birds with one stone, another reason finding a talent to play LOT early should be highly considered. Either way, with the focus of the offense on a young QB and Adrian Peterson, restocking the OL over the next two drafts should be a priority.
WR: Michael Jenkins came to the Vikings in FA and was able to make some plays, but was hurt midway through the season and Percy Harvin became the only WR threat on the team. Even when Jenkins returns healthy, he is much better suited for a #2/possession receiver than a #1 playmaker. Harvin, while extremely talented, has been his best when allowed to work the middle of the field against linebackers and safeties than one on one outside CBs. Finding a legit threat on the outside of the hash marks to allow Harvin and Jenkins to maximize their roles is important for a team looking to improve in the scoring department.
TE: The Vikings have their TE on the future in the promising Kyle Rudolph, but with the potential departure of Visanthe Shiancoe and the guaranteed departure of Jim Kleinsasser, Rudolph may be the only TE with any NFL game experience on the roster. Look for them to make a nice offer to Shiancoe and maybe another FA TE. Don't be shocked if they draft a TE late in the draft, particularly one who is more of a blocker than receiver.
With all the talk focused on offensive playmakers, the defense could be in a much bigger need for one or two. The Vikings D averaged the 2nd highest points allowed (28.1/gm) and tied for the fewest INTs (8). A lot of that has to do with their inability to get off the field on 3rd down and a porous secondary. Playing in the pass friendly confines of the NFC North will continue to be difficult for the Vikings until they get better at defending against the pass.
CB: How bad is the Vikings corner situation? Their best CB is 35 and coming off back to back seasons that ended in injury. Their 2nd option also came back from multiple injuries, didn't perform, and became a malcontent that began running his own plays. Their best option to replace one of those two may spend the upcoming season in a jail cell. Combined with how awful the secondary performed in 2011, it may be the worst unit in the league. Sadly, there likely is no quick fix to the issues at CB and the Vikings have invested heavily at the position in recent years. As I am sure you've heard a billion times, the NFL is a passing league and the Vikings have to find an answer in defending against it.
DL: After leading the league in sacks, the Vikings seem pretty set at DE with Jared Allen, Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, and rookie Christian Ballard (who also plays 3Tech). Where the depth wains is on the interior of the DL. Kevin Williams is still his disruptive self and hasn't slowed much after a decade in the NFL. His backups though haven't done much to earn playing time and the four year project name Letroy Guion has bared little fruit. New addition Remi Ayodele did little to make people forget about the Williams Wall. A NT that can handle/force a double team would do a lot for a team that has great weapons along the DL.
LB: Chad Greenway maybe the only sure thing at linebacker at this point in the offseason. It is believed that MLB E.J. Henderson won't be retained and the only option to replace him (Jasper Brinkley) is coming off IR and may not be best suited for a Cover-2 role. Erin Henderson (E.J.'s brother) did quite well for himself in his first real shot to start, but he too is a FA. Outside of these four, there is little to no developed depth.
Safety: Like a majority of NFL teams, the Vikings are lacking in the safety department. However, they are also quite young at the position and may opt to grab one in FA over the draft. Jamarca Sanford is well suited for his role at SS, but hasn't made many plays outside the occasional big hit and needs to be a bigger presence in the passing game. Mistral Raymond is a nice young project at FS, but a project none the less and may take more time to truly make an impact. I have heard great things about Jarrad Page in the past, but haven't heard much about him since he left Kansas City for New England and then landing on the Vikings roster. Not sure what they have in Page, but it would be nice if he can contribute in 2012.