If you are a believer that the Vikings are among the teams that will draft for need – and all teams do that to one degree or another – then identifying their needs is essential.
General manager Rick Spielman has told reporters in the past to get their list of team needs to him so he can review it – a jab at their analysis at times – but there are ways to identify needs. Some are obvious, like the hole at middle linebacker, where the Vikings have no incumbent starter on the roster after Jasper Brinkley signed a free agent deal with the Arizona Cardinals.
Others are a bit more subtle, like defensive tackle, where the Vikings have their top three in the rotation from last year – Kevin Williams, Letroy Guion and Fred Evans – returning but have reduced the dollars and years on Williams' contract. He and Evans are both scheduled to be free agents after the 2013 season. To date, the Vikings haven't had any reported predraft visits be defensive tackles, but there is another list that helps identify it as need and that's the list of players the team brought in for workouts last year.
Three of the nine veteran defensive prospects brought in for visits or workouts last year were defensive tackles, a list that includes names like Brian Price (once for a workout and another time for a visit), Terrell McClain and Isaako Aaitui. The fact that players are available during the season indicates they aren't starters, but their presence at Winter Park signals a need identified by the team.
Offensively, the Vikings dabbled in several positions with their 2012 workouts.
They worked out two running backs and signed Joe Banyard, and they worked out and signed tight end Lamark Brown. They also showed interest in a couple offensive linemen.
But no position garnered the attention on offense as much as wide receiver. Although they didn't sign any of them, the Vikings worked out at least five wide receivers – for good reason. Four of those workouts came after Percy Harvin was placed on injured reserve, but the fact that they signed Greg Jennings after trading Harvin to Seattle doesn't dismiss the need for an upgrade at the position.
Michael Jenkins was released in another financial move and Devin Aromashodu hasn't been re-signed.
In total, the Vikings had 1,035 offensive snaps last year. Vikings wide receivers played 2,289 snaps, meaning they averaged having two receivers on the field for more than half of their snaps. With the exception of Harvin, it could be argued that their losses at receiver are easily made up, but the combination of Harvin, Jenkins and Aromashodu accounted for 1,463 of those 2,289 receiver snaps last year.
Jerome Simpson is the returner with the most experience from last year – he played 453 snaps – so it's no wonder the Vikings have had at least two top-end receivers in for their predraft visit (Keenan Allen and DeAndre Hopkins) and shown serious interest in at least two others (Robert Woods and Tavon Austin).
Back on defense, interestingly no linebackers were among the reported in-season veteran visits in 2012. Instead, the rest of the concentration was in the defensive backfield with two cornerbacks and four safeties getting workouts during the season, including safeties Larry Asante and former Viking Tyrell Johnson. The re-signing of Jamarca Sanford following a solid season from him shows there isn't a pressing need there anymore, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Vikings use a mid-round selection on a safety to compete for the starting spot alongside Harrison Smith.
As for cornerback, there is no disputing the need there. The Vikings made the financial decision to release Antoine Winfield, who signed with the Seattle Seahawks last week. That leaves Chris Cook, who is in the final year of his rookie contract, and rotational players like A.J. Jefferson and Josh Robison at the top of the depth chart before the draft. Expect the cornerback portion of the depth chart to change early in the draft.
If you are looking for two positions the Vikings will target in the early stages of this year, wide receiver and cornerback are high among them. Logic backs that assessment, but so does the evidence provided in the veteran workouts the Vikings had last year and the predraft interests they have been showing.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.