I decided to take a look at our division rivals and take a guess as to whether they either gained or lost ground to us in the off season. I will start off with the Viqueens since they are the farve-o-rites to win the division again. Lets star out with their team needs going into the draft.
Major Needs: CB, LB, DT
Round 2, Pick 2 (34) (From Lions), Chris Cook, CB, 6'2", 212, Virginia, NFL.com Grade 7.5
NFL.com Pick Analysis: The Vikings address their cornerback situation with the addition of Chris Cook. In adding the rangy cover man, the Vikings have a young player to plug in if Cedric Griffin is unable to start at corner come Week 1. Given Cook's size, athleticism and length, he should excel in the Vikings' two-deep scheme.
Round 2, Pick 19 (51) (From Texans), Toby Gerhart, RB, 6'0", 231, Stanford, NFL.com Grade 7.5
NFL.com Pick Analysis: The Vikings add a bruising running back with the selection of Toby Gerhart. Although Adrian Peterson remains the workhorse, Gerhart has the versatile skill set to contribute as a rotational player in the backfield. With his toughness and all-around skills, Gerhart is an ideal fit.
Round 4, Pick 2 (100) (From Lions), Everson Griffen, DE, 6'3", 273, Southern Cal, NFL.com Grade 8.0
NFL.com Pick Analysis: The Vikings get a top-25 talent in the fourth round with the addition of Everson Griffen. The energetic pass rusher has excellent initial quickness, and his ability to pressure the pocket will undoubtedly earn him minutes in a deep Vikings' rotation. This is an excellent value pick for the team, regardless of his off-field issues.
Round 5, Pick 30 (161), Chris Degeare, OT, 6'4", 325, Wake Forest, NFL.com Grade 2.0
Smurfy Pick Analysis: This guy will come in to play guard for the Vikings and hopefully keep #4 upright. His big and athletic and will probably move back to LT some years down the road.
Round 5, Pick 36 (167) (Compensatory selection), Nathan Triplett, LB, 6'3", 250, Minnesota, NFL.com Grade 3.0
NFL.com Pick Analysis: Vikings MLB E.J. Henderson has suffered season-ending injuries in each of the past two seasons, and while his replacement in 2009, Jasper Brinkley, played well, Minnesota adds depth to the position by nabbing local Gophers star Nathan Triplett. Triplett is a stout run defender with great energy, but lacks elite athleticism.
Round 6, Pick 30 (199), Joe Webb, WR, 6'3", 223, UAB, NFL.com Grade 2.0
NFL.com Pick Analysis: Webb has incredible athleticism, and will likely move from quarterback to receiver in the pos. He put up sensational numbers at Alabama-Birmingham, and fits well into the Vikings' west coast system. It may take him a while to learn the receiver position, but he has the physical ability to eventually make an impact.
Round 7, Pick 7 (214) (From Browns through Lions), Mickey Shuler, TE, 6'4", 251, Penn State, NFL.com Grade 2.2
NFL.com Pick Analysis: Penn State just had its second tight end of the day drafted when Mickey Shuler went to the Vikings. For you older fans, you probably remember his dad, Mickey Shuler Sr., who played in the NFL for a number of years. Shuler is a decent blocker, with good size for the position.
Round 7, Pick 30 (237), Ryan D'Imperio, LB, 6'2", 230, Rutgers
NFL.com Pick Analysis: D'Imperio is a special teams demon, who can help the Vikings right away in the kicking game. He has exceptional speed for a linebacker, and will likely function as a backup inside linebacker with Minnesota.
Smurfy addition: This guy played fullback in high school and they are going to transition him back to that while he plays special teams.
Summary: The CB need was certainly addressed with Lito Sheppard and Chris Cook. While the LB position looks to merely get a bandage with Nathan Triplett who will be much stouter against the run but could be exposed in the passing game. No DT was taken to groom under Pat Williams but you really cannot mark that as a negative unless Williams retires or gets injured. Chester Taylor was more than replaced by the addition of Toby Gerhart the Vikings add a new dimension to their short yardage and goal line run game, a dimension that does not fumble. The loss of Artis Hicks was addressed adequately with the addition of Chris Degeare who has the athleticism to go back to left tackle some day however will likely struggle early in his career. Everson Griffen was an absolute steal and could make the outside rush horrific for opposing lines to face by rotating in with Allen and Edwards. Joe Webb will likely take a year or two in development to pan out but could add a whole new dimension to the Vikings offense with him and Harvin on the field together. Think about a passing version of what the wildcat does for running backs that can throw, except for wide receivers that can throw. Expect weird things to happen in the offense in the future. Ryan D'Imperio can be more of an impact than people think as a big hitter on special teams and a thumper of a fullback.
How this all translates to an on the field match up is hard to tell right now. On paper you can say that the Viqueens look like they have upgraded their secondary slightly, offensive line in the long term (short term downgrade), power running game, and pass rush. Even if Favre does retire, which he will not, this team looks only to be stronger to me this year than they were last year after the draft. We lost both games to the Viqueens last season, Sep. 20th MIN 27 @ DET 13 and Nov. 15th DET 10 @ MIN 27. That was a margin of -14 and -17. Do I think we have upgraded more than the Viqueens have yes I do, do I think we can win against the Viqueens yes I do. Especially if Favre or Peterson is injured or has a decline in play. Beyond the pass rush the Viqueen defense is not very scary. And the big play ability of Favre and Peterson is what makes their offense a machine. If we can get pressure on Favre though, and hit him, he will throw picks and though I give the Viqueens an upgrade on the offensive line over the long haul the rookie should be able to be exploited this year. Ironically Everson Griffen will make more of an impact this year along with Toby Gerhart than Chris Cook will in my book. There are too many intangibles to say really how the games could go but I will say that I expect us to win our home game against the Viqueens this year. The road game early in the season is going to be a coin toss that comes down to what team is better prepared. who wants it more, and who makes less mistakes. These games will be amazing where one missed assignment, one bad play can be a huge momentum swing. Of course injuries will play major havoc on any scenario too.
Lets take a look component by component so you all can digest this:
QB = Viqueens, RB = Viqueens, FB = Even, WR = Even, TE = Lions, O-Line = Even, Viqueens +1
D-Line = Even, LB = Even, CB = Even, S = Lions, Lions +1
K = Lions, KR = Even, Lions +1