It’s been awhile since we ran our Three Questions piece with Austin Belisle, a writer with our friends over at VikingsTerritory.com. I’d like to pretend that I was busy on assignment sitting outside the Favre compound in Hattiesburg after people reported seeing Favre throwing… His phone and crocs in the river. But, the truth is that I’m bad at life and got distracted last week.
But the timing couldn’t be more perfect as it feels like we’ve reached the eye of the storm. Behind us in the insanity of free agency and ahead of us in the draft. I wanted to get Austin’s views on both. So I did.
Here’s what he had to say:
1. Now that Free Agency is mostly in the rear-view, what are your general impressions of the team going into the season? Do you feel like they’re a contender or closer to rebuild-mode?
Given Rick Spielman’s moderate success as general manager of the Vikings, I can’t imagine he’ll ever approach the roster with a rebuild in mind. Despite the disappointment of an 8-8 finish last year, this remains one of the more competitive teams in the NFL, and that’s exactly how Spielman approached free agency last month.
The Vikings understand their glaring weaknesses—offensive line, quarterback depth— ruined what should of been a playoff-bound 2016 season. To patch the holes, Spielman wasted no time at the hardware store, i.e., the free agent market. He signed Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers as instant upgrades at both tackle spots, then snagged Case Keenum as a capable backup behind Sam Bradford.
Add to that his haul of Latavius Murray—an Adrian Peterson upgrade—and Datone Jones, Spielman’s taken strides to make an already-talented roster even better. I still have questions about depth at linebacker and cornerback, but the draft is right around the corner and Spielman’s got the late-round ammo to build a platoon at both positions. So, yes, the Vikings are contenders. Any time you get better in free agency, that’s a positive, and Minnesota’s well on its way to improvement in 2017.
2. Considering the above, what position do you think the Vikings will now go after with the first overall pick (#48)?
Even with my doubts on the defensive side of the ball, I believe Minnesota targets an offensive guard with the 48th-overall pick. Just look at the players they’ve already spoken to, and it’s clear the Vikings are doing their homework on this year’s class of guards.
Pat Elflein, Dan Feeney, and Forrest Lamp have already met with the front office in some capacity, and all are projected to come off the board in the late-first or early-second round. There will be plenty of running backs and cornerbacks available, but Spielman is flush with picks later on, where value can still be had at other positions of need.
3. Who do you want the Vikes to target in the draft, specifically (A player, and why)?
I’ve been on the D’Onta Foreman train for a while, but I’ve really warmed up to the idea of Alvin Kamara in Vikings purple and gold. Seeing as the team lost Cordarrelle Patterson in free agency, there’s a hole to fill at a couple different positions — kick returner and gadget player. Kamara fits the mold and is arguably a better running back than Patterson was ever a wide receiver. The team’s already meet with Kamara, and adding another back to the crop would give the Vikings a stellar trio in the backfield. Plus, Kamara has the ability to return kicks, line up at receiver, and add another dimension to Pat Shurmur’s quick-fire offense.