We’re at a current slow period as NFL decision-makers are hot on the trail of young talent at the numerous college pro days – Mike Zimmer is in the middle of a three-day Big 10 tour and Rick Spielman reportedly joined him to work out Michigan State DT Malik McDowell – so the questions of whether the Minnesota Vikings are going to make more free agent moves before the draft are numerous.
If they remain dormant in free agency, what positions will they be looking at most for a youth infusion?
Barring a signing that drops down a need further on the depth chart, here’s one take on what the Vikings need and, given Rick Spielman’s horizontal draft board, could be in the direct line of fire for the flurry of Day 2 and 3 picks that are the current focus of the draft.
Guard – The Vikings were shorthanded at guard all season last year and released Brandon Fusco and Mike Harris after the season ended. Alex Boone is set at left guard, but the Vikings need not only a guard to contend to be an immediate starter, but depth as well because they simply don’t have enough of it right now.
Defensive Tackle – Linval Joseph is a Pro Bowl talent, but depth is a significant issue. Sharrif Floyd, according to head coach Mike Zimmer, still isn’t 100 percent more than six months after suffering a leg injury and Tom Johnson is on the wrong side of 30 (32) and not getting any younger. Shamar Stephen has exceeded what is expected of a seventh-round draft pick, but he is a situational player. It wouldn’t be a shock if, despite offensive needs, the Vikings use their first selection to make their defense even stronger if a defensive tackle they like is available in Round 2.
Center – Joe Berger has outplayed his contract the last two years since at center, but, at age 34, the Vikings have to start the process of looking beyond his playing career. They can likely land a decent replacement on Day 3 of the draft and, considering their past success with Matt Birk and John Sullivan is the sixth round of previous drafts, there is developmental talent to be had in the late rounds.
Linebacker – Chad Greenway retired and has yet to be replaced. Zimmer has a thing for developing young defensive players – not just cornerbacks – so he’s likely going to look for an impact player to pair up with Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks. It may be a long shot pick for the Vikings’ first selection, but far from out of the realm of possibility if a player they covet is still on the board.
Tight End – It would seem the linkage between the Vikings and free agent Jared Cook should be evidence enough that the organization is looking to have more than just Kyle Rudolph be a downfield tight end threat. They didn’t get a deal done with Cook but sent the message that, despite drafting a tight end in each of the last two drafts, the third time in a row could come next month.