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Bleacher Report – Vikings

5 pre-draft goals for the Minnesota Vikings

By Matthew Coller

The Minnesota Vikings have (mostly) accomplished their biggest offseason goal of making big improvements to the offensive line. But there are still a few gaps that need to be filled and decisions to be made before the Vikings make a selection with the 48th overall pick.

Sign a wide receiver

Signing Adam Thielen to a contract extension means that the Vikings are in great shape with their top two receivers, Thielen and Stefon Diggs. But the rest of the receiving corps is highly questionable. Laquon Treadwell, Minnesota’s 2016 first-round pick, caught just one pass last season. Despite Mike Zimmer’s insistence that Treadwell has the ability to become a good player, the Vikings cannot go forward on the assumption that he will turn things around after a disastrous Year 1. Both Norv Turner and Pat Shurmur effectively eliminated Jarius Wright from the rotation and Cordarrelle Patterson and Charles Johnson left in free agency. It seems pretty likely the Vikings could draft a receiver, but that still leaves them with an opening. There are only a few proven options left in free agency like Steve Johnson and Rod Streater, so the Vikings will have to sign one player before the draft to make sure they add a competent receiver to the mix.

Find competition for nickel corner

Zimmer indicated that 2016 second-round pick Mackensie Alexander will get every opportunity to win the nickel cornerback opening left by Captain Munnerlyn’s exit. That shouldn’t mean giving Alexander clear path to becoming the starter. Corner is one of the only positions left with decent unsigned talent, with experienced players Leon Hall, Jerraud Powers and Nickell Robey-Coleman still on the market. Another proven player in the secondary would provide insurance in case Alexander isn’t ready to start or Terence Newman’s game slips at age 39 or there are any significant injuries. If the Vikings don’t sign another veteran, they should draft one corner to add competition to the mix.

Exercise fifth-year options on Anthony Barr, Teddy Bridgewater

The Vikings aren’t in a great spot with either Barr or Bridgewater as it pertains to their fifth-year options. Barr’s play dropped off significantly in 2016 from a fantastic 2015 season, which leaves the Vikings with questions about whether he is a franchise linebacker or if they should move on the way the New England Patriots did from Jamie Collins. The Vikings picked up Matt Kalil’s fifth-year option last year despite concerns about his game and they should do the same with Barr. Despite a high cap hit for 2018, the option would buy time for the Vikings to decide whether he can return to playing like a franchise cornerstone or not.

With Bridgewater, ESPN’s Ben Goessling reported that the Vikings are likely to pick up his fifth-year option. Bridgewater’s injury puts the Vikings on rocky ground with their quarterback position. If Bridgewater can’t return in 2018, his fifth-year option money (and cap hit) would be guaranteed. That could mean spending more cap space at the quarterback position than any other team if Sam Bradford is signed to a contract extension. Still, Bridgewater needs to be retained because there’s a chance he could bounce back and re-take his position as starter in 2018 if Sam Bradford doesn’t have an exceptional 2017 season. The Vikings could also trade Bridgewater if they decide on Bradford as their long-term QB.

Find a backup quarterback

As veteran backups like Josh McCown and Mark Sanchez find jobs, the Vikings will have to decide whether they want to bring in an experienced backup QB or fill the spot in the draft. Players like Ryan Fitzpatrick and Case Keenum are still free agents and are unlikely to land any starting offers. Neither could be relied upon over a full season, but they could play a handful of games and keep their team afloat. With Bridgewater very unlikely to be ready to play by the start of the year, the Vikings will need at least one more QB unless they believe Taylor Heinicke, an undrafted free agent signed last year, is ready to play if called upon.

Improve depth at linebacker

The Vikings weren’t often without Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr last season, but when they were out with injuries, there was a huge drop-off in linebacker play. With both Audie Cole (free agency) and Chad Greenway (retired) gone, there is an opportunity to improve depth at the position. It is possible that Kentrell Brothers could step up into a bigger role after he performed well on special teams and Zimmer mentioned still having hope for Edmond Robinson, but neither has proven they can step into a role if needed. Free agent linebackers like Perry Riley or Sio Moore could step into Greenway’s base role and/or fill in if Kendricks or Barr gets hurt.

The post 5 pre-draft goals for the Minnesota Vikings appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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