The Vikings had ups and downs during the 2019 season and ultimately will look to build off the positives as they turn the page in 2020.
Part of that process involves taking a close look at this year's class of draft prospects, which teams are doing this week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
Also at the combine are experts and analysts from around the league. Former Vikings linebacker Ben Leber caught up with some of them and got their thoughts on Minnesota's 2019 campaign and current state of the team.
NFL Network and FOX analyst Charles Davis called the 2019 Vikings "good in so many ways" but added that it was disappointing to see a tough loss to San Francisco in the Divisional round.
"I think if you walked away from the playoff game, you're starting to wonder if that window is closing a little bit for the Vikings. I don't know that that's necessarily true, but when you end [in that fashion], it makes it feel that way," Davis told Leber. "But then there's a lot of optimism that goes along with it, too. You get some guys back healthy. You add through the draft, maybe pick up a couple key free agents.
"The foundation's there; the leadership's there with [Head Coach] Mike Zimmer," Davis continued.
He highlighted the performances of quarterback Kirk Cousins and running back Dalvin Cook, and he also mentioned the contributions of Alexander Mattison, who made an impact as a rookie last season when Cook dealt with injuries.
NFL Network's Steve Wyche also brought up Cook's late-season injuries that sidelined him for two-plus games.
Wyche – who grew up a Vikings fan – opined that the loss of Cook, albeit short-lived, "took the wind out of their sails" down the stretch.
"You saw … when he came back, how different of a team they were. So, health [was a factor]," Wyche said. "We saw [in New Orleans] how they can be a physical football team, but can they stay in the mindset to do that week to week? You saw the next week they came out, and they just couldn't do it.
"I think this is a good football team that's still right there," Wyche added. "They've gotta find that element that can give them that consistency of week-to-week toughness. Because overall, the talent is there. I think to me, it's just more of a mindset and a mental thing with them."
While Wyche emphasized mentality for Minnesota, NBC NFL analyst Chris Simms argued that the Vikings should diversify their offense.
Minnesota was much more balanced offensively between the run and the pass in 2019, but Simms believes the Vikings should have more of a counterattack for teams that stop what they do best.
"Listen, I love the run game; I love the boots and the play-action. I think it's just that you're going to play some defenses that are good at defending that," Simms explained. "As we saw [during this past season], when that didn't work, what else was there to go on? I think they need something more there to give them a schematic advantage."
MMQB's Albert Breer also reminded that the Vikings will need to focus on the salary cap and how that pertains to tough roster decisions.
"We've known this is coming. I mean, this is something that's been coming down the pike for a while," Breer said. "Last year for the Vikings, it was about fixing the offensive line. I think this year is sort of about cleaning up their financials a little bit.
"They've had this group of players – guys like [Xavier] Rhodes and [Kyle] Rudolph and Harrison Smith and Eric Kendricks, Danielle Hunter – all these guys who are either entering their prime, in their prime, at the back end of their prime, and it just sort of underscores the fact that maybe that window's starting to close a little bit.
"You came somewhat close last year, and there should be urgency now to try and get it right while you can," Breer added.
As the Vikings move through the combine, free agency and the NFL Draft, they will be working to build on the positives mentioned by Davis, Wyche and Breer and move forward with a new season.
"I think there's a lot to like about this team," Davis said. "They'll continue to fortify both sides of the line, offense and defense – I think that's going to be big for them. Try to develop maybe somebody else out on the perimeter, take some pressure off. But all in all, the opportunity's still there with this team."