Super Bowl weekend is now in the rear view mirror, meaning the 2019 NFL season has officially come to an end. The Kansas City Chiefs took home a years worth of bragging rights, showing just how valuable it is to strike gold at the quarterback position in the draft.
In hopes of reaching the Super Bowl next season, the Vikings have a lot of moving pieces that could make or break the 2020 season. The coaching decisions have been made, with Gary Kubiak taking over the offensive coordinator position and Adam Zimmer and Andre Patterson splitting defensive coordinator duties.
Now that the Vikings have come to terms with their new coaches, it’s time for them to start preparing for the offseason. Within the next three months, the NFL Combine, free agency and the NFL Draft will all take place. Looking ahead to 2020, the Vikings find themselves with multiple areas that need improvement.
Here is the beginning of a two-part piece that covers the different aspects of the Vikings needs this offseason.
2020 defensive positions of need:
A normally strong aspect of a Mike Zimmer led defense, the defensive line took a step backwards in 2019. Yes, Danielle Hunter had another great season of rushing the passer, but getting after the quarterback was not always the problem for this team.
In multiple games, the interior of the Vikings defensive line struggled. Towards the end of the season in particular, this unit struggled to get any sort of push. The Monday night game in Seattle, the Sunday night game against Green Bay and the Divisional Round game against San Francisco were all prime examples of getting dominated in the trenches.
Linval Joseph isn’t getting any younger at 31 and Shamar Stephen has regressed since his first time in Minnesota. Everson Griffen is 32 and has the opportunity to explore free agency this offseason. Being able to spruce up this position in the draft should be a necessity for the Vikings.
An interesting player already on the Vikings roster is breakout defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo. On pass rushing downs, Odenigbo would bump down to the interior of the defensive line and rush from the inside. He totaled seven sacks in 2019, playing far less than Griffen and Hunter. If the Vikings were able to get Odenigbo to put on some weight before the 2020 season begins, he might be able to play a more significant role on the interior of the Vikings line. But if Griffen signs elsewhere, he will need to step up in his usual defensive end role.
In Todd McShay’s mock draft 2.0, he has the Vikings selecting Ross Blacklock out of TCU. Blacklock would be somewhat of a risk, due to his injury concerns. However, he piled together a solid 2019 season, finishing with 40 tackles, nine tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
Where a guy like Blacklock would be riskier, Javon Kinlaw would be a slam dunk if he somehow dropped to the Vikings at 25. If that were the case, it should be a no brainer to invest in the interior of their defensive line.
Being able to pair a young guy on the inside of Hunter would be a blessing for this defense. The Vikings were able to dominate inside of the trenches in their playoff win against the Saints, so imagine what it would be like adding another solid defensive tackle that can stop the run and get after the passer.
The cornerback position was one of major concerns in 2019, and that isn’t going to get any easier with free agency approaching. Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander are both set to hit free agency, and Xavier Rhodes could end up being a cap casualty. The Vikings have some young talent at the position in Mike Hughes, Holton Hill and Kris Boyd, but they haven’t done a lot to prove themselves yet.
The safety position was arguably the best unit for the Vikings in 2019, but both Anthony Harris and Jayron Kearse are set to be free agents as well. Harris should be near the top of the team's priorities this offseason, coming off of a season that had him ranked as the number one PFF safety.
Locking up Harris would be huge for the Vikings, and it would allow them to focus some of their draft capital at the cornerback position.
A name that makes a lot of sense is former Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs. Not only is he the brother of Stefon Diggs, but he would instantly make the secondary better. Diggs started out at Alabama playing both sides of the ball, so his athletic and big body frame would be a perfect fit for Zimmer.
Taking a cornerback in the first or second round might make some frustrated, but there is too much uncertainty at the position heading into 2020. Bringing in a younger corner like Diggs to compete with his brother every day would be beneficial to both sides of the ball.
The top cornerback in the draft class is Jeffery Okudah out of Ohio State, but he is likely going to be a top ten pick. After Okudah, it is a bit more uncertain which corner will hear his name called on day one.
Kristian Fulton out of LSU, C.J. Henderson out of Florida and Jeff Gladney out of TCU are just a few names to watch in this position group. Everyone knows that Zimmer loves his cornerbacks, so if one with a lot of talent falls it won’t be a surprise to hear the Vikings select one with their 25th pick.
Throughout the 2019 season, the Vikings seemed to either get beaten in the run game or the pass game, but never both in one game. Whether that was in part to Zimmer attempting to take away the opposing team’s strong suit, or the opposing team just taking advantage of what they saw as a weakness, both the defensive line and the secondary need to be addressed in the early rounds of the draft.
There are a couple positions that will need to be addressed on the defensive side of the ball. Whether that be in free agency or through the draft, the defense will have to make some adjustments if they want to get back to one of the league’s best.
Come back tomorrow to figure out what positions the Vikings will need to address on the offensive side of the ball to take the leap forward in 2020.