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Monday Morning Mailbag: Paton's Departure & Vikings Draft Needs

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How big of a loss is George Paton going to the Broncos? I'd never really heard much about what he did.

— Jim Jenkins

I'll be frank in starting this Mailbag out … George's departure is a huge loss for the Vikings. Yes, many people may not have known what he did on a day-to-day basis, but just because he was mostly behind the scenes doesn't mean he didn't make a massive impact.

Look back at the Vikings draft history over the years. No team is ever perfect in the draft, but Minnesota has drafted 16 Pro Bowlers since Paton arrived in 2007. The list includes key players ranging from Adrian Peterson, to Kyle Rudolph, Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Danielle Hunter and Justin Jefferson. Paton had a hand in making sure they ended up in Purple.

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman explained last week how the Vikings were going to fill Paton's void.

"We're going to stay status quo. I know I have a lot of very talented people in this building," Spielman said. "I know it's a hard void to fill, but I also have a lot of confidence in the people that I have in this building and of all of us."

Spielman also noted that Minnesota's loss is Denver's gain. While the Vikings will certainly miss Paton, I can't think of anyone in the organization who isn't happy for Paton and his family.

From a personal standpoint, Paton was always great to me. We bonded as being a couple of Southern California guys in frigid Minnesota and I'll always remember chatting with Paton about Kobe Bryant and the Lakers after the basketball star's tragic passing almost a year ago.

So yes, Paton's voice and expertise will be missed in Minnesota. But when a guy spends 14 seasons with one team and gives his all to that franchise, you can't be anything but happy for him when he's rewarded with a GM job.

Vikings … you guys better draft two strong and fast defensive ends. You need a lot more pressure on quarterbacks. Also, the offense looks kind of good, but you need new guards and tackles. Also important are linebackers. These are some serious draft choices that should be made. And for once, maybe trade up for a new franchise quarterback. For once! And last, totally revamp special teams … this year was terrible. Need a good kicker and punter. If you guys don't shore up this defense, it will miserable to watch.

— John Lutz

Oh boy, a lot to get to here from John. To start, keep in mind the Vikings currently have 10 selections (not including comp picks) in the 2021 NFL Draft.

And if the Vikings swing a blockbuster trade up in the draft, that number of picks goes down, and also likely eliminates the No. 14 overall pick.

I'm not here to argue the Vikings don't need to upgrade their roster in certain spots. In fact, we touched on that in the last Mailbag.

But to think they need four new offensive linemen, plus a handful of linebackers, is a bit much. Keep in mind that players such as Brian O'Neill (a tackle) and Eric Kendricks (a linebacker) are looked at as cornerstones for the team for years to come.

And if Danielle Hunter comes back healthy and in fine form, that helps solve that need for drafting a pair of defensive ends, no?

As for quarterback, the Vikings did trade back into the first round to select Teddy Bridgewater at No. 32 overall in 2014 and were excited about his development before his knee injury toppled dominoes across the NFL. Here was a recap of Kirk Cousins’ third season with Minnesota. While there were moments he'd like to have back, people can allow themselves to credit the way he finished 2020 and believe it bodes well.

I understand the want for roster changes after the Vikings had a disappointing season and missed the playoffs. But it will be important to focus on specific areas to target.

Hi there, thank you for all the good info you've been sharing. My question is a bit of a curveball, but now that Doug Pederson has been let go from the Eagles, would he be a good choice to consider as OC if Gary Kubiak retires? He seems to have a pretty good knack for the offensive scripting and play calling. But we also despise him for whooping our butts in the NFC Championship.

— Jeff in Idaho

Well, the first order of business for the Vikings is to await what decision Gary Kubiak makes. The man has earned some time to sit and reflect on his future.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said two weeks ago that he wants the Vikings offensive scheme to remain the same going forward with an emphasis on the wide zone run scheme and deep play-action passes.

I thought your question was an interesting one, but until Kubiak gives an official word on his future, it doesn't make much sense to speculate on potential candidates on my end.

I'm sure Zimmer has a few names in mind in case Kubiak isn't the OC in 2021. But we'll have to wait and see if Pederson is one of them.