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In order to improve their defense and give them some draft flexibility, I feel the Vikings need to at least sign a starting cornerback, linebacker or strong safety in free agency. Which position do you think is most likely or would be best based on team needs and the free agents out there?
-- Chad N.
Maple Grove, MN
Of the three position groups Chad mentioned in his question, I believe cornerback is the strongest in terms of top-end talent. Teams looking to add an impact starter at cornerback will be in luck this year during free agency because of the presence of guys such as Vontae Davis, Brent Grimes, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Charles Tillman and Alterraun Verner (pictured). That is not to say there aren’t impact free agents at linebacker and safety, too, especially with some teams destined to make surprise cuts as they try to free up salary cap space.
One thing that the Vikings need is a quarterback. It doesn't necessarily need to be an elite quarterback, but someone who can make a few plays and can keep us afloat until we can find that elite quarterback. For my part, being at the eighth pick and seeing the teams in front of us, I don't think we would be spending our draft picks wisely to pursue whichever quarterback was left at No. 8. Would it be a wise move to pick up Michael Vick in the offseason so that we can spend our first-round pick on a player at a different position, and still try for, say A.J. McCarron or Aaron Murray, in a later round? How often do teams find success using that strategy? Or is it not something that happens all that often?
-- Luke S.
A couple things here. First, with this much time before the draft we can’t assume which quarterbacks will be taken in front of the Vikings. We don’t know who will be there and who won’t be there, so it’s unfair to assume that any particular quarterbacks on the board at No. 8 won’t be worth the pick.
Secondly, let’s take out the specific names mentioned by Luke in the question and just analyze the idea of signing a veteran quarterback in free agency, not taking a quarterback at No. 8 and then selecting a quarterback later in the draft. This can be a good strategy for a team to employ, and in fact it’s something several teams have done recently. In 2012, Seattle signed quarterback Matt Flynn in free agency and then selected linebacker Bruce Irvin in the first round and linebacker Bobby Wagner in the second round before spending their third-round pick on Russell Wilson. I’d say that worked out for them. Also, both Cincinnati and San Francisco selected quarterbacks in the second round of the 2011 draft after using their first-round picks on players at other positions. They still wound up with solid quarterbacks – Cincinnati selected Andy Dalton and San Francisco selected Colin Kaepernick – while also taking a special player at another position earlier in the draft.
I keep hearing that the Vikings will pick the best available player in the draft. But wouldn't it be wiser to select the player that best fits the Vikings scheme? That might not be the best available player. It is a team sport after all.
-- Richard C.
Teams factor scheme fits into their evaluations of players, so if a team believes a certain player is too incompatible of a scheme fit then that will show in the grade assigned to that player by that team. Let’s use Auburn defensive end Dee Ford as an example. He had 10.5 sacks this past season and then was a standout at the Senior Bowl last month. But he measured in at 6-2, 243 pounds, which has led some to believe he’s a better fit as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme than as a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. Each team will have to look at Ford and determine if he’s a good fit for their scheme.
So far I've only heard talk about the Vikings going for a quarterback or a defensive player with the eighth overall pick. But how about bolstering our receiver corps with a big guy like Mike Evans out of Texas A&M?
-- Steffan L.
There is so much time between now and the draft that a lot of different scenarios about what the Vikings do with their first-round will be presented. As we know with Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, anything is a possibility. In 2007, the Vikings selected a running back even though they didn’t “need” one because
I have been very impressed with the hiring of Coach Zimmer and the procedures they have gone through to put the staff together. When I saw the list of coaches, I was most enthused about the retentions of Mike Priefer, Jeff Davidson and George Stewart; all coaches who have done a very good job. I am glad we retained them. I look forward to a much more aggressive game plan on both sides of the ball next year, and a quick turn-around.
-- Brad R.
The fact that Zimmer decided to retain a handful of coaches from the previous coaching staff is a sign to me that he was intentional and thorough in his evaluation of the existing staff when he arrived. Many times when a new coach arrives, you’ll see a “house cleaning” because that new coach wants to ensure that he’ll be able to establish his own culture. But Zimmer proved he was less concerned about that and more concerned about having the best possible staff in place for his first year on the job.