The next phase of roster building will take place in just roughly a week at the 2017 NFL Draft when teams will select the best young talents that the college ranks have to offer. The Minnesota Vikings hope to utilize their eight selections to not only put them back in the playoffs, but to get back to where they left off in 2015: pushing for a Super Bowl berth.
With the Vikings’ running game struggling last season the team was forced to throw much more often, perhaps hastening its transition to more of a pass-first offense conformed to today’s NFL standards. Despite having three receivers go over 800 yards, the Vikings passing game still lacked consistent production at times, particularly in the red zone.
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Wide Receiver Roster:
Stefon Diggs*, Adam Thielen*, Jarius Wright, Laquon Treadwell, Moritz Bohringer, Isaac Fruechte, Cayleb Jones, Mitch Mathews, Terrell Sinkfield, Nick Truesdale
(*) – projected or incumbent starter
Tight End Roster:
Kyle Rudolph*, David Morgan II, Kyle Carter
(*) – projected or incumbent starter
Going into 2016, the only sure things in the Vikings passing game were Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph. The other starting wide receiver position was still up for grabs, with Charles Johnson getting the first crack at it for the second straight year. By mid-season however, it was Adam Thielen, beating out former first-rounders Cordarrelle Patterson (Raiders) and Treadwell, who would lock down the spot and hold onto it for the rest of the year. He and Diggs both surpassed 900 yards, the most by two Vikings receivers since 2009. Rudolph set a career high in yards with 840. Outside of those three, the rest of the current group were non-factors in 2016.
Adam Thielen’s 2016 stat line: 69 receptions, 967 yards, 5 touchdowns, 14.1 average
Stefon Diggs’ 2016 stat line: 83 receptions, 903 yards, 3 touchdowns, 10.8 average
Kyle Rudolph’s 2016 stat line: 83 receptions, 840 yards, 7 touchdowns, 10.1 average
The Vikings had their best year throwing the ball since 2010, but still struggled to consistently stretch opposing defenses, though that may have been more of an inability to wait on long pass plays to develop as their offensive line struggled mightily to hold any kind of blocks. Even if fixed, the Vikings may still find themselves with limited options in the passing game with the departure of Patterson. This team will be expecting 2016 first-round pick Laquon Treadwell to make huge strides in 2017 to help this unit continue to improve.
Need (none; 1 — desperate; 10): 5 to 6
Chances Vikings draft a wide receiver or tight end: Medium to High
The Vikings have begun the transition to becoming a more modern NFL offense, more dependent on throwing the ball and using the run to keep defenses honest and off balance. The Vikings may finally have their key pass catchers in place in Rudolph, Diggs, and Theilen, but need another player to step up. After the departures of Patterson and Charles Johnson, the Vikings are in need of replenishment at the position as they only have four receivers remaining from last season’s team. The Vikings may also be looking to add a tight end after allowing Rhett Ellison to sign with the New York Giants. At this stage, the Vikings have some building blocks in place at these positions. Both positions are likely to be addressed in this draft, though they’re more likely to occur on the final day of the draft based on the other roster needs.