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We had a killer defense last year and are returning pretty much intact. At the same time, the last six quarters they played weren't good. Were they just flukes or should we be worried that teams have figured out Zim's defensive schemes? -- Patrick Griswold
You should not be worried about the Vikings defensive scheme. It was six uncharacteristic quarters in a season that consists of 72 quarters. The other 66 quarters were outstanding, so I don't think we should overreact and overcorrect based on 8% of the season. Also keep in mind, the Vikings threw a pick-six and had other turnovers as well as a blocked punt in that six-quarter span, so it's not like the defense was alone in not executing properly. Yes, there are errors that occurred in that stretch that need to be corrected, but no we don't have a systemic problem with the defense.
I've heard that Will Hernandez is not a good fit for the Vikings blocking scheme. If true, can he adapt or can the scheme be adapted to make him a viable pick for the team? I've also seen several so called experts state he would be a good pick for the Vikings. Who is right, who is wrong? Or is the truth somewhere in the middle? -- Mike Giegling
Head coach Mike Zimmer or one of the offensive assistants are the authority on whether a certain player fits well within the scheme, so I can't answer that question. What I can say, though, is typically players coming out of college are still impressionable and under-developed enough that they aren't pigeon-holed into one type of scheme or concept. A player such as Hernandez or most other offensive linemen likely to be drafted have the talent and are coachable enough to be molded into different schemes/techniques. At the same time, Mike brings up a good point because teams are wise to be picky about what players they bring in to avoid trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, so to speak.
Do you think it is a realistic possibility that the Vikings could trade out of the 1st round? If so, what team would go after our 30th pick and what could we get for it? -- Austin Gapinski Foley, MN
It's certainly a possibility. If there isn't a player the Vikings value enough to pick at No. 30 or if there are several players the Vikings covet at that spot, it may be prudent to move back and accumulate extra draft capital rather than select a player. Teams with a pick early in the 2nd round are good candidates to jump back into the late part of the 1st round. It's not as big of a jump when you come from early in the 2nd round, therefore it doesn't require as much compensation to make the move. Three teams that jump out to me for this type of scenario are the Browns, Colts and Broncos. The Browns have three picks in the 2nd round and seven choices total in rounds 2-6. The Colts have three picks in the 2nd round and eight choices total in rounds 2-7. The Broncos have two picks in the 3rd and 4th rounds and seven picks total in rounds 2-5. Those three teams are all in the top eight of the second round and they all have the surplus of picks necessary to jump back into the 1st round.
I love the additions of Kirk Cousins and Sheldon Richardson, but I have concerns with the rotation on the defensive line with the losses of Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen. I know you mentioned guys like Tashawn Bower, Jaleel Johnson and Stephen Weatherly in last week's Mailbag and I know you have a better knowledge of these guys than us armchair QBs. Do you have any concerns here? -- Kevin Sterling, IL
No, I have excitement for those guys. I know it's difficult to see proven contributors such as Tom Johnson and Stephen leave, but it came while we had tremendous gains in Cousins and Richardson. And it also opens up opportunities for young players who've been training for this. Someone took a chance on Tom Johnson and we gave Stephen, a seventh-rounder, a crack at playing. Look what they did with those opportunities. I am excited to see Bower, Jaleel Johnson and Weatherly handle the same type of opportunity during this year's offseason program.
Do you believe if two players are graded out almost equally in this 2018 draft class, that the university they attended could sway Rick Spielman's decision? -- Chris Kulak Fowler, CA
To the extent level of competition factors in, yes I do think the school they attended is considered. But I don't think Spielman and his staff have "pet schools" they favor. The medical evaluation, dominant traits, off-field integrity, competitive character and analytics are more likely to be deciding factors in a tie.
Do you care where the team opens the season? I hope it's on the road in New England or in Philadelphia. It would be great to start the season by pounding one of them in front of their fans. -- Bill Dunn
Both of those road games would be tough ways to open up the season, but there are no easy games in this League and we have to go to those buildings at some point, so getting it out of the way early may not be a bad way to go. I like having as many home games as possible later in the season, so opening up on the road may be an acceptable price to pay to have a back-loaded home schedule.