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View the 2014 Minnesota Vikings schedule in picture form.
I am really bothered by no Monday Night Football presence this year. Plain and simple. Are you bummed, too? -- Al L. @gdeli77
Yes, I was disappointed to see no Monday Night Football games on the Vikings schedule, particularly because I believe the Vikings have exciting players worth showcasing and also because I believe the Vikings will make an impressive turnaround in 2014. But not being scheduled to play on Monday Night Football and in other prime time slots is a product of finishing with a 5-10-1 record the year prior. The NFL and the networks do their best to give fans attractive matchups in prime time.
Starting the season with games against the Patriots, Saints and Packers within the first five weeks is a brutal start. Why does it seem the Vikings always get a hard schedule? -- Jason F. Iowa City, IA
The 2014 season will be my 10th with the Vikings, and I have yet to see an "easy" schedule, so I'm pretty certain one doesn't exist. The NFL has such great parity that there are no easy opponents and, thus, there are no easy games or easy schedules. I understand Jason's point – playing Brady, Brees and Rodgers in a span of four games is a tall task, but the NFL is littered with great quarterbacks and stingy defenses, so no matter who the opponents are in a given span, it's going to be a challenging stretch.
With that being said, the Vikings did catch a break later in the season because four of the final six games are at home, which includes three straight at one point and a Week 17 season finale at home, as well. It's also nice that the Vikings will enjoy their bye week before heading to Chicago and then hosting Green Bay in consecutive weeks.
Let's say we are sitting there at No. 8 and at least one of the top three quarterbacks is there. The Vikings decide not to take a quarterback there and instead go in one of two different directions – select a defensive player or trade down. In your opinion, who might be the most willing, quarterback-hungry trade partner at that spot? I'm thinking maybe the Arizona Cardinals. -- Dave P. The Texas Viking
If we're going to limit the search to quarterback-needy teams, I see the most willing to move up being the St. Louis Rams at No. 13. In terms of willingness, they get the edge over Arizona because of how far the Cardinals would have to jump – from No. 20 to No. 8. A wild card team in this discussion could be the Tennessee Titans, who do have Jake Locker but who also have new leadership in the front office and a new coaching staff since Locker was drafted back in 2011.
Provided we select one of the draft's top five quarterbacks, who is most likely to be the Vikings starting quarterback at the start of the season – a rookie or Matt Cassel? -- Alex W. Australia
Christian Ponder is a consideration in that scenario, as well. Cassel, Ponder and any prospect(s) the Vikings select(s) in the draft will be on the roster, and if you're on the roster you have a chance to start. If Vikings GM Rick Spielman or Head Coach Mike Zimmer didn't think a player was good enough to be a starter under any circumstance, then I don't think that player would be on the roster. I'm not trying to sidestep the question, but it's only fair to point out that every quarterback – and player at any other position – on the roster has the opportunity to win a starting job.
With that being said, my sense is Cassel is the Vikings most likely starter at this point. But that can change, of course, based on the results of the draft and of the subsequent position battle that unfolds during the offseason program and training camp. If one of the top five quarterbacks in this class is taken by the Vikings, there will be a lot of pressure on that individual to win the job and there will be some pressure on the Vikings to quickly develop that player into the starting quarterback. The bottom line is the best players will play.
What are your thoughts on Sharrif Floyd's potential for the 2014 season? We all saw him as a steal in last year's draft, however he reminded relatively quiet last season behind long-time starter Kevin Williams. Could this next season be a breakout role for Floyd? -- Gabe Cedar Rapids, IA
Yes, this could be a breakout season for Floyd. He plays in the trenches and he was an underclassman in last year's draft, so another year of physical maturity will go a long way for him. A few recent first-round defensive tackles have followed this same early-season path – in their first-to-second seasons, Detroit's Nick Fairley went from 1.0 sacks to 5.5, San Diego's Corey Liuget went from 1.0 to 7.0 sacks and Kansas City's Dontari Poe went from zero sacks to 4.5. Another year of maturity along with increased snaps and great mentorship under new head coach Mike Zimmer may have Floyd poised for a bigger role and more production in 2014.
What are the chances that linebacker Khalil Mack falls to us? If he did but we also liked a quarterback at No. 8, which one do you think we would take? Also, do you think we would trade up for Mack? -- David L.
Mack being available to the Vikings at No. 8 is unlikely, but not impossible. In looking at the eight mock drafts posted on NFL.com, Mack's average draft position is 5.25. I will say, though, that two of those mock drafts have the Vikings taking him at No. 8 and another has Mack falling past the Vikings to the Buffalo Bills at No. 9. A trade up for Mack seems unlikely for the Vikings because of the depth of this draft, and if presented with the dilemma of their favorite quarterback and Mack I think the Vikings would be in a can't-lose spot. On one hand, you have a sure-fired defensive playmaker who can step into a vacant starting spot. On the other hand, you have the preferred option at the most important position in all of sports – quarterback. Which direction they would go is something we won't know unless they are in that spot 10 days from now.
Do you think the Vikings would draft safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or linebacker CJ Mosley at No. 8? Some people might call it a reach at No. 8, but I do not think it matters if you fill a big need, the team likes the player, they have good character, and they have ability. -- Nicholas C.
I wouldn't rule either player out for the Vikings. GM Rick Spielman adheres to the "best player available" philosophy and both of those players had great careers at a well-respected college football program (Alabama). You can make the case that each of them is the best player at his respective position, so going eighth overall may not be a reach for either player.
I know we have one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game on our side. But do you see the Vikings drafting a running back in the late rounds not so much to complement Adrian Peterson but to take a few carries in order to make sure the MVP is fresh down the stretch? I know we have Matt Asiata, but is there someone who could potentially be a better option? -- Derrick B. Willmar, MN
As with the previous question, I wouldn't rule this out as a possibility during this year's draft. Yes, Asiata is on the roster and will compete for that role, as will both Joe Banyard and Bradley Randle, but something tells me Coach Zimmer isn't afraid to make several players compete for one role and let the best player win that competition.