The NFL Draft is less than three weeks away. That’s 20 days for Rick Spielman to figure out how he’s going to use leftover free agents and unproven rookies to fix the many holes remaining on the Minnesota Vikings roster. And not to add any pressure, but his head coach’s job is probably on the line.
It’s no secret. Zimmer is coaching for his job this season and Rick Spielman could be tied to that same employment plan. The Vikings have to make the playoffs or 2022 employment isn’t guaranteed for any players/coaches at TCO Performance Center.
On paper, last year’s terrible defense looks a hell of a lot better entering 2021. Michael Pierce and Dalvin Tomlinson should improve a run defense that allowed the 6th most rush yards to opposing offenses last season. In the secondary, Patrick Peterson and Xavier Woods add desperately needed veteran help. That’s without touching on the return of Danielle Hunter and Anthony Barr, who round out what should be a legitimate NFL defense again.
Then, there’s the offensive line…
But while the defense received plenty of TLC from Rick and Rob this offseason, the offensive line has been the red-headed step child that’s locked in their basement just hoping for enough food and water to survive.
— Purple FTW! Podcast (@PurpleForTheWin) April 8, 2021
The Vikings attempting to assemble a competent offensive line pic.twitter.com/aoUphi9VHH— Forester93, GUARDian of Ga’Hoole (@Forester932) April 8, 2021
The Vikings offensive line has been bad for a decade. Sometimes it receives a lot of attention, like back when Spielman signed both Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers in the same offseason. Other times, like this year, it gets completely ignored. No matter what, however, it’s a problem.
In 2021, the Vikings cut arguably their best lineman in Riley Reiff, who has since signed elsewhere. That transformed one gaping hole on an already sub-par OL, into two holes on a desperately insufficient OL..
Spielman then traded a 6th round pick for (OG) Mason Cole and re-signed Dakota Dozier (gross). If either of those guys are starting in week 1, the Minnesota Vikings are better off opting out of the season. If Rick and Rob execute a perfect draft, the Vikings will exit with two starting-caliber offensive linemen. That’s not an easy task, especially with just two picks in the first three rounds.
Drafting “Best Player Available” isn’t an option
And that’s why Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer have pigeon-holed themselves into drafting offensive linemen early and often later this month.
Spielman and Zimmer have pigeon holed themselves into fixing the #Vikings OL, which would currently be BY FAR the worst in the league, through the draft.— Minnesota Sports Fan (@realmnsportsfan) April 9, 2021
I like “best player available” too but that’s not an option for a GM and HC whose jobs are tied to winning in 2021. pic.twitter.com/pQVKVTql94
Not having a 2nd round pick is going to make this process even more difficult. If we go back to our perfect world again, Rick Spielman finds a way to trade down in the 1st round, pick up the 2nd rounder he doesn’t currently have, and still lands the type of offensive line talent that he desires with that first pick. In that situation, he can still hope for another starting-caliber offensive lineman in the 2nd or 3rd rounds. Then, we hope Spielman can land a playmaker for somewhere else on the field too (DE, WR, S, CB, etc).
But if you don’t fix the offensive line and Kirk Cousins doesn’t have time to throw the football and use Dalvin Cook in play action, then these defensive improvements won’t matter, Kirk Cousins will continue to look like a very average, but overpaid quarterback and the Minnesota Vikings will miss the playoffs AGAIN.
Luckily for Rick, there seem to be a lot of offensive linemen that experts like as NFL starters throughout the first three rounds of this draft. It’s Rick’s job to make sure he lands at least two of them, while still addressing other needs.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan