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Do you believe that with Mike Zimmer at head coach the Vikings could have a top 10 defense next season or even the one after? -- Ezequiel
It would be a reasonable goal for Zimmer and the Vikings defense to expect a top 10 ranking as soon as next season. I understand that is an ambitious goal and statement given the Vikings ranked 32nd in points allowed and 31st in yards allowed last year, but Zimmer has an impressive track record leading defenses and he guided a significant improvement in Cincinnati during his first year on the job there. The Bengals ranked 24th in point allowed and 27th in yards allowed the year prior to Zimmer's arrival there (2007) and then in 2008 they finished the season ranked 12th and 19th, respectively. While not top 10 rankings, those numbers do represent significant improvement, and I believe he will have the same kind of impact on the Vikings in his first year here.
I was wondering what the "price" is of our first-round pick. What would Rick Spielman ask for? Say a team in the high-teens or low 20s wanted to trade up. What would we need to make that worth it? Are there any examples in recent years? -- Tyler L.
The value of the eighth overall pick is high, and the compensation required to move up to that spot from the high-teens or low 20s is significant. Last year, the St. Louis Rams moved up to No. 8 from No. 16 in a trade with the Buffalo Bills (the Rams also received a third-round pick in the deal). To move up those eight spots to where the Vikings are scheduled to pick this year cost the Rams their first-round pick (No. 16), a second-round pick (No. 46), a third-round pick (No. 78) and a seventh-round pick (No. 222). In 2012, the Dallas Cowboys acquired the sixth overall pick from the St. Louis Rams in exchange for the 14th overall pick and a second-round pick (No. 45).
Only time will tell if a team will come knocking on the Vikings door in the hopes of striking a deal and moving up into the top 10. A couple teams to keep an eye on may be the St. Louis Rams, who have extra draft ammunition due to previous year's trades, and the Cleveland Browns, who have an extra first-round pick this year due to the Trent Richardson trade with the Indianapolis Colts last season.
What are your opinions on Audie Cole? Do you think he could be our middle linebacker for the future? Personally, I think he's talented and should remain the starter at middle linebacker, seeing as he proved himself late in the season. Independence, IA
I think Audie is a smart and instinctive player who did a great job stepping into the lineup last season. I anticipate he'll compete for the starting middle linebacker this offseason and training camp and I think it'd be great if he won the job. If he doesn't win the job, the Vikings know he is a quality backup to have on the roster because of how he played at the end of last season and because he is a quality special teams player, as well. Cole is an example of a great late-round find by Spielman and his staff. To get a backup middle linebacker (and a potential starter) who is a core special teams player out of a seventh-round pick is a win.
What are your thoughts on the team keeping Christian Ponder and letting him compete with any new quarterback they might acquire? I think there is a chance he might really improve with the new offensive coordinator. He is still young and I think he still deserves a chance. -- David W. Erie, PA
It would make a lot of sense for the Vikings to keep Ponder. He's under contract, he's still in the early stages of his career/development and, as David mentioned, he has a new opportunity to improve and flourish because the Vikings will have a new offensive system in place this season. Even if Ponder doesn't flourish and fulfill the expectations associated with first-round quarterbacks, he has already demonstrated a level of play requisite of a backup who can come into a game and run the offense and even start a string of games while the starter heals from injury.
If the Vikings sign a veteran in free agency and use a draft pick on a quarterback this offseason, Ponder still has a place on the roster and could compete for a spot on the depth chart. His performance has been uneven as a starter for the Vikings, but his performance, particularly in 2012 when he helped the Vikings win 10 games and reach the playoffs, has also warranted him a place on a NFL roster.