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Monday Morning Mailbag: Peterson's Impact

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Is an elite receiver really what we need? Everyone keeps talking about drafting a receiver in the first round, but I think the guys we have are plenty serviceable. They performed well considering there was no real run threat. If Adrian returns wouldn't that take a lot of pressure off of the receivers and potentially boost their numbers? -- Niko Fortin

Even with Peterson back in the fold, I wouldn't turn down the chance to add an elite receiver. But in today's salary cap era, teams are usually limited in terms of how many elite-level players they can collect. There's no question that having an explosive running game, which the Vikings would presumably have with Peterson back, will alleviate a lot of pressure from other parts of the offense. Essentially, having Peterson back makes wide receiver less of a "need" position this offseason. With that being said, I'm never against adding a talented player to the roster and I am a proponent of drafting for talent, not for need. I would not pass on a receiver graded higher than a player at another position who was graded lower just because that other position was a more significant need than receiver.

Do you think that Harrison Smith will come back next season with an even bigger chip on his shoulder now that he STILL didn't make the Pro Bowl even after both Seattle safeties were headed to the Super Bowl? Why do you think he's still not being recognized as one of the best safeties in the League? -- Michael Nikolai Apple Valley, MN

Smith is the kind of player who doesn't take plays off and who doesn't miss an opportunity to get better, so I wouldn't say a Pro Bowl snub will increase the chip on his shoulder or be a significant motivating factor, just as I feel he won't work less to improve once he does make a Pro Bowl. His drive is to be the best player he can be and to help his team win a Super Bowl, not to make Pro Bowls and earn postseason accolades. I don't know why Smith hasn't garnered the respect he deserves, but the only way to change that is to keep playing at a high level with consistency. I don't see him doing anything other than that.

How hard is it to get around the offensive line to get a tackle or a sack? -- Andrew B.

It's extremely difficult, and in fact I would submit that sacking the quarterback is one of the most difficult feats to accomplish in sports. That may sound preposterous at first blush, but when you really break it down it makes sense. Let's use Vikings DE Everson Griffen as a case study. According to my unofficial count, Griffen participated in 993 defensive snaps this past season. In those snaps, he accumulated 12.0 sacks and 9.0 tackles for loss for a total of 21 plays made behind the line of scrimmage. As a percentage, Griffen got past his blocker and made a sack or tackle behind the line of scrimmage on .023% of his snaps. And he was our best defensive lineman this season. Let's look at Texans DE JJ Watt in another case study. Watt, by most accounts the NFL's best defensive lineman, participated in 1,069 defensive snaps in 2014 and finished the season with 29.5 plays made behind the line of scrimmage (all unofficial numbers). That comes out to roughly the same percentage –.028% – of plays made behind the line of scrimmage for the season.

Keep in mind, Griffen and Watt were among the best players at their positions this season. Those already-low percentages are significantly lower when you throw in the hundreds of other linemen who played this season but weren't nearly as productive. How hard is it to get around the offensive line for a sack or a tackle? You can argue it's the most difficult individual accomplishment in all of sports.

Many of the players are expected to have a "strong offseason" to get to the next level of performance. What exactly makes up a strong offseason and how is it done for most players? Does this mean that many of them will be at Winter Park working one on one with coaches and other players? Or, does it mean working independently with other professional consultants? Either way, how do you measure whether the player had a strong offseason before OTAs begin? -- Bob Holan Jacksonville, FL

The ideal scenario for a player as he comes back to the team's facility to participate in the offseason program is for him to be healthy and to be ready to hit the ground running. Hopefully that player has done a good job of working out independently while being away from the team and hopefully that player has spent some time reviewing schematic concepts and principles. Another important part of the offseason, though, is to get away from football and refresh a bit. I believe all of that is important to having a good offseason, and then once the offseason program begins I believe it's important for players to put their attention and focus toward improving as individuals and continuing to assimilate into the defensive, offensive and/or special teams phases.

Do you think the Vikings could or would draft TE Maxx Williams to set up more of a two tight end offense with Kyle Rudolph? -- Michael C.

The Vikings have the personnel right now to run multiple tight end sets, but that doesn't preclude the team from being interested in other tight ends in free agency or the draft. Williams will be a popular name among many Vikings fans this pre-draft season because he played at the University of Minnesota, but at this point it's far too early to guess if the Vikings have any interest in Williams or any specific prospect.

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