The Vikings dethroned the Packers to take over the NFC North title in 2015, and NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal said the division has a very different feel for 2016. As part of his "Roster Reset" series, Rosenthal examined the Vikings status leading up to the draft. He wrote:
The Green Bay Packers aren't defending NFC North champions for the first time in five seasons. While any team led by Aaron Rodgers won't be anyone's underdog, the division changed significantly over the last few years. The Vikings enjoy a young quarterback and a young defense that should grow up together. Unlike the [2010 Bears team] that last challenged the Packers throne, this Vikings team is built to last.
Rosenthal praised the Vikings offseason moves, saying he's seen a "no-nonsense, disciplined approach" to roster building with General Manager Rick Spielman and Head Coach Mike Zimmer working together since 2014.
Zimmer didn't think his team was tough enough up front on offense, so the team added mauler guard Alex Boone and Andre Smith as free agent targets. Smith could play tackle or guard, adding depth and flexibility to a tackle position that was a big problem last year. The Vikings wanted a competent safety to free up Harrison Smith and added former Titans safety Michael Griffin. Emmanuel Lamur is a former Bengals linebacker who could be a nice role player addition. They addressed their biggest needs before the draft.
According to Rosenthal, Minnesota's next three priorities should be drafting a wide receiver that will mesh will quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, hashing out the starting offensive linemen and working on a new deal for safety Harrison Smith, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract.
Frank Cooney Dubs Josh Doctson 'Best Fit' for Vikings at No. 23
Mock drafts have been flowing for a while now. With the NFL Draft only two weeks away, Frank Cooney of NFLDraftScout.com is writing a series that covers each team before the draft. On Tuesday, Cooney zeroed in on the Vikings needs and potential draft night targets.
Identifying Minnesota's needs, Cooney listed wide receiver as the most pressing. Cooney wrote:
The biggest hole the Vikings couldn't fill in free agency was receiver. For years they've lacked a prototypical No. 1 receiver that has the size, length and speed to present mismatches down the field. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's primary weakness among many strengths is hitting the deep ball consistently.
Cooney also said the Vikings should look to draft a strong safety, bolster cornerback depth and potentially add a center.
Center is a question mark. John Sullivan missed all of last season because of two back surgeries. His backup, Joe Berger, played very well, but he's also going to be 34 this season. The team also traded for Nick Easton, but he was an extremely raw rookie from Harvard.
In Cooney's mock draft, he predicted the Vikings to select TCU receiver Josh Doctson with the 23rd pick.
The Vikings won't reach for a specific position, but their primary need and their position in the lower half of the first round strongly suggests they will select a receiver. By most accounts, Doctson has the size (6-foot-2, 202 pounds), athleticism (40-inch vertical) and ball skills to help the Vikings develop the deep passing game they so desperately need in the twilight of running back Adrian Peterson's career.