Sunday Coin Toss: Top Draft Need

Apparently everyone here at Vikings Territory loves it when Adam and I disagree on something. Our post a week ago where we went back and forth about whether or not the Vikings should trade down in the draft started quite the discussion between readers. Luckily for you all, Adam and I have different opinions quite frequently. And as such, we’ve decided to make this a recurring column where we duke it out over various topics.

As most of you probably know, Adam and I have been participating in a series of online, community mock drafts where groups of people act as the war room for NFL teams. Obviously, we’ve represented our beloved Vikings. Throughout the process, Adam and I have differed over the primary need of this franchise. A week ago, Adam ranked the Vikings needs from most desperate to not an issue. According to him, the position of safety is the #1 need of this team. In my opinion, left tackle is our most pressing demand, which is at #3 on Adam’s list. With the most important Vikings draft in recent memory literally right around the corner, what ever will Vikings management do if Adam and I can not agree on what should be the team’s priority?! Luckily for the franchise, I am blessed with the ability to persuade and argue. So, getting Adam to see the light should take no time at all.

Continue reading to see this epic battle go down.

Brett says: Alright, it’s really quite simple: 2012 is all about Christian Ponder. This team has invested a lot in the development of our first-round pick quarterback. His success is crucial to the progression of this franchise. While there were moments of brilliance from Ponder last year that suggested he could be an elite quarterback in the NFL, there were also moments that left you unsure. Unfortunately (or fortunately for Ponder), a lot of his struggles can be attributed to deficiencies elsewhere on the team. One of those shortcomings is obviously our lack of a real threat at the wide receiver position. The other, and more significant, defect is lack of protection for Ponder. Specifically from the left side.

It’s not hard to understand. Without protection, even if there were was a deep threat for Ponder to go to, if Ponder doesn’t have the time to set up and get the ball downfield, he will not succeed. And if Ponder doesn’t succeed, this team doesn’t succeed and heads straight back to square one.

I’ll take it a step further: I know our secondary sucks. I know that our “safety situation” is an absolute nightmare. (I’m giving you good stuff here, Adam. Jot this down.) But we could have the best safeties in the entire league. Safeties so great, the defense only spends 20% of the time on the field due to interceptions in the secondary. Even then, without substantial protection, Ponder will not be able to do anything on offense the other 80% of the time the offense has the ball.

Again, this season is about determining if Ponder can be the quarterback of the future. If he’s not, it’s back to square one trying to find a franchise quarterback. The only way we’ll be able to tell though is if he has the protection and the weapons to succeed. Safety needs to be addressed, but it is not nearly as crucial this year than left tackle.

Adam Says: First, let me say that safety is the easiest position to upgrade. Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond are currently penciled in as the starters which should scare the purple pants off of just about anybody. Finding upgrades to this position has to be the top priority, especially with the passing attacks we currently face within our division.

Now I am not going to say left tackle is not a position of need or importance. It absolutely is. Plus, it is a position that should be addressed far earlier in this Draft than safety.

However, we only need one left tackle, and it can be argued that we should be seeking two or three upgrades at safety. So I beat you from a quantity standpoint. Ha!

Getting safety help will help Ponder’s development, too. The Vikings can’t afford to have him throwing 50 passes a game because they are constantly playing from behind. They need a defense capable of keeping them in games, so that the offense can run a playbook that includes more than just bombs. The defense is just as responsible for protecting Ponder as any left tackle, just not in such a direct way.

Lastly, the safeties will be able to contribute on special teams, where we have struggled in the recent past.

Brett Says: Look, it’s not their fault that offensive tackles are underutilized on special teams. Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt would be beasts running down the field at opposing players on kickoffs!

This isn’t a debate about what position will be addressed first in the draft. Of course, it is 99% likely that the Vikings will draft Matt Kalil come April 26th. And I will agree that afterwards, the Vikings should probably think about addressing our dire safety situation. What we are discussing though is the team’s needs ranked by order of importance. And I don’t know about you, but I think the protection of our [hopefully] future franchise quarterback should be the priority of this team. I think we can both agree that quarterback is the single, most important position on the field. Yes? One single slip up by the left tackle could result in Ponder lying in ruins on the turf! (You didn’t think I was going to bust out scare tactics to win the favor of our readers in this debate, did you?) But seriously, the left tackle is in charge of making sure the guy we’ve invested a lot of time in (Ponder) stays upright.

How about we take a different route and take a little peek into the average salaries of players by position across the NFL? I think it’s pretty safe to say that how important a particular player is to a team determines how much he earns. Obviously, quarterbacks are at the top of list earning significantly more than other positions. Next though, are defensive ends and offensive tackles – the people in the trenches on the ends. Makes sense that the second highest paid positions are the people in charge of either protecting or hurting the highest paid position, don’t you think?

Adam Says: Yes, and quarterbacks get paid more than soldiers and firefighters… doesn’t mean they are more valuable.

I’m not going to argue that left tackle isn’t a more important position than safety. The fact of the matter, however, is that the Vikings have not taken a step backwards at that position this offseason. All of the same candidates for the job still remain on the roster and, at the very least, the talent at the position has not regressed.

As much as we dogged on the safety play last season, the truth is that they have actually gotten worse (and lost depth) this offseason by not retaining Tyrell Johnson and (possibly) Husain Abdullah. Think about that for a second, we have taken a step backwards from where we were a year ago at the position. The upside to that, however, is that we now have a great opportunity to majorly upgrade the position via the 2012 NFL Draft by replacing them with one, two, or maybe even three young talents. Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford simply will not cut it against our divisional competition, no doubt about it. Now, imagine that one of them gets hurt… who is going to step in? Frampton?

Uh oh.

The Vikings must upgrade both of their starting spots in this Draft as well as their depth. No position on this roster is in such dire need of a face lift as safety.