As some of you who have followed the site may know, we’ve been working on implementing new software for the past week or so. While the site looks a ton more professional and has a ton more features (including our own, internal Message Board!), it’s definitely been very trying on both me, our writers and our readers. So, I wanted to thank everyone for sticking by us as the changes rolled out and can say now with pretty decent confidence that the site is now up to stay!
Another thing long-time readers may have noticed is that our site, purplePTSD.com is working pretty closely with another, much larger site, in VikingsTerritory.com. While I did cut my teeth as a writer for VikingsJournal.com over the course of last season, meeting two of purplePTSD.com’s new, full-time writers in Joe Oberle and A.J. Mansour, unfortunately VikingsJournal.com will cease to exist after Sunday’s game. So, while 2017 clearly is looking to be quite the exciting year for all things purplePTSD.com, the question is, can the same be said about the team?
If you’ve listened to our Podcast with any regularity (Christ, this is quite the plug-heavy “article”), you’ll know that both I and Senior purplePTSD.com writer Luke Braun have identified this off-season as perhaps the most pivotal the Vikings have had in years. The idea is that come five or so years from now, regardless of where the Vikings are as a team/organization, they will be able to point back at this off-season as the time where the window of opportunity was either yanked even further open or slammed shut. A lot of that has to do with the amount of contracts that will be coming up in the next few seasons, which will most likely decimate the young core that this Vikings team has, especially on defense. So, when the fellas at VikingsTerritory.com reached out with the following as the question of the week, especially with the Super Bowl coming up, I couldn’t help but be reminded of how pivotal this off-season is for this organization.
The question is, essentially, what change I would like to see the Vikings make next season. It could be a personnel or coaching change, a scheme change, management change even a uniform change. This question is incredibly open ended and thus right up my alley, as it is the off-season and as I said, I’ve been spending a lot more time reading about IT stuff than Vikings stuff these past two weeks. So, it’d be easy for me to simply say that I’d like to see them change both the team’s personal Super Bowl record as well as the NFL’s record (Of never having a home town team appear/win the Super Bowl), that is relatively forced at this point bordering on Science Fiction. The key to the question, too, isn’t so much about what I’d like them to accomplish, but rather what I’d like them to change. That is a lot harder to answer, really, as it has to be a replacement of something else or a “Change”. Especially for a team that seemingly has almost every part in place needed to make a deep run into the playoffs, there really isn’t a ton of stuff that I’d want to change or that I could change without also considering time travel or magic, so I thought that perhaps it was time that the Vikings started looking at the organization from the ground-up. So, I do believe that I’m going to have to focus on the acquisition of new players and finally giving into something that my Dad brings up in nearly every conversation that we do have about the Vikings, and football in general.
That is, where the Vikings have been looking for their draft talent. Now-former Vikings wide receiver coach George Stewart was fired recently and we discussed this on the purpleJOURNAL Podcast this morning. The consensus was that, sure, the Vikings have had a lot of bust’s at the wide receiver position in the decade plus that Stewart helmed the position, but that those busts were more of the fault of Vikings general manager Rick Spielman (Depending on how much say Stewart did have on who the Vikings drafted) than of Stewart and/or in my estimation the school’s where those players honed their craft. I wrote an article awhile back pointing out the essential failures that the Vikings ended up drafting since trading Randy Moss in 2005 and one things that stood out to me was the sheer amount of receivers that the Vikings drafted from the SEC and how terribly the record had been regarding whether or not those players ended up not back at the same school two or three years later, coaching. IIRC (and I can’t check because I lost about 50% of my site’s former pieces when I did change over to new software, take that, Bankruptcy court!) the most successful receiver of the 10+ that the Vikings had drafted out of the SEC was Jarius Wright. Now, that was written before the 2016 season so you could include Cordarrelle Patterson, too, or maybe even Sidney Rice, solely for his 2009. But, really, that’s not great company either way you slice it, especially considering that Wright barely played this season despite just entering his “Prime”. Bust after bust ended up coming out of the SEC just at that one position, with really the only two receivers worth their salt being Percy Harvin (Sure, an SEC player who is debatable and thus not included above (For mental and physical reasons))) and Stefon Diggs (of the Big Ten) (Excluding Adam Thielen, who wasn’t drafted) in that time. So, what do wide receivers have to do with the Vikings 2017 needs, you ask? Well, I do believe that a lot of the reasons that the vast majority of those players did flame out are related across any/all positions and also because I do believe that the Vikings are going to be dipping their toes in the water that is another skill position on offense.
When you look at the needs that this Vikings do have, especially on offense, it really just boils down to the offensive line and running back position(s). If nothing else (Perhaps outside of linebackers. Sorry Penn State), The Big Ten produces offensive lineman that somehow look like 45 year old lumberjacks at the age of 17. Schools like Wisconsin (and increasingly the Minnesota Golden Gophers (Or, I guess, Increasingly, until recently?)), Ohio State and Michigan are known for their gigantic, plodding offensive lines and considering the need that the Vikings do have pretty much across the board (Outside of their one for sure player for 2017, Alex Boone, who not-ironically went to Ohio State) on the line and the increasing scarcity of NFL quality/level offensive lineman coming out of the Spread Offense crazy NCAA and it’s not hard to see why this move would make a lot of sense.
Outside of that, the Vikings will eventually need to replace Adrian Peterson. While I do believe that they will and should keep him for at least one more season (At a drastically reduced salary, of course), the time has come for the team to look at a plan post-AD. When you look at a team like the Atlanta Falcons, who have a balanced offense thanks, more than partially to the double-headed rush attack that they have in DeVonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman (of Indiana) it’s not hard to see that the Vikings need to go after a Big Ten runner to run and catch next to Jerick McKinnon. While I do still believe that McKinnon can be a good change of pace back, most fans aren’t as high on him as they were a couple years ago. Regardless, it’s clear that McKinnon (and Asiata) isn’t the answer (At least not solely), and with the reduced emphasis that the league has had on running backs and the depth that appears to be coming out of college this year and I do believe that the Vikings can snag a borderline great ‘back out of the Big Ten this year in the third, fourth or even fifth round(s).
A name that really sticks out to me is Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel. While he is actually not the best example of the size that you can typically rely on getting out of the conference, his speed and play-making ability may make him one of the very few players in this year’s draft that can actually come close to replacing vintage AD’s uncanny knack for finding the end-zone from anywhere on the field. If we need more of a down-hill/”Asiata” type player we could look at De’Veon Smith of Michigan, who is built to pick up short yardage and could be the Thunder to McKinnon’s lightening. There’s also my sleeper pick, Wisconsin’s Corey Clement, who many people thought could be a Heisman Trophy candidate in 2016. However, his season started poorly thanks to an injury he apparently never shook, so he could end up falling to the Vikings in the fifth round or so.
That’s the thing with all three of the running back’s, though. They’re ranked (At least according to WalterFootball.com) as the eighth, 12th and 16th best at their position for the upcoming draft, meaning that the Vikings wouldn’t have use any high picks to get them. While there are no guarantees when it comes to the draft, either, I do believe that the Big Ten has more successful players because the Big Ten has more restrictive academic standards. Meaning that, especially as time has gone by, the conference actually makes their players work while they’re in school and that shows an additional layer of both motivation and intelligence that clearly can pay dividends on the playing field. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has said on multiple occasions that he prefers intelligent players, as they have more than just one tool in their arsenal. So, after over a decade of drafting those one-trick ponies at our skilled positions, and players from school’s that were founded when someone slipped on a rock as our in-the-trenches guys, I think it’s time that the Vikings began to look close to home when looking for a new approach to building their offensive line and if things go right, their first Super Bowl championship roster.
As I said above, this off-season is extremely important, perhaps the most important they’ve had in a long time. So, it’s about time that they do start to give more credit to the type of college teams that play a similar style of football that they at least aspire to (Physical defenses, Power running attack) play, it really seems like a no-brainer.