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How the Vikings Can Use the Draft to Protect Cousins

The Window of Opportunity is Closing and Only the Draft Will Determine Whether it Shuts or Stays that Way

At this point, with the draft just a few weeks away, the Minnesota Vikings and every other team in the NFL should have a pretty good idea of how they want to approach the draft. Are they going to target specific needs? Will they go for the best player available? Will they try to trade up, down, or try to get more picks?

Or will they just stand pat with the picks they have and do whatever they can do?

How they do it is not nearly as important as what they do, and hopefully, they will be focused on one thing: making life easier for Kirk Cousins. You know, the one-time most expensive player in NFL history that they failed to protect last season because cornerback depth is more important than not starting a game with four or five three-and-outs. That’s a snarky and sarcastic way to say that if they expect to have anything to show for it, they better figure out how to help him more.

Yes, he does already have two of the best wide receivers in the game and a pretty good tight end as well as one of the more electrifying (when he’s on the field) young running backs in the game. But what he is missing is time to find those guys– as the “I don’t have ten seconds” GIF that nearly broke Vikings Twitter painfully reminded us last year. As most outside the management of the organization understand, a better offensive line can give him more time which means that they didn’t spend $30 million dollars a season guaranteed to see how good the opposing teams defensive line is at tackling.

To be fair, last year’s line was a middle of the road group, statistically (which some would argue shows the vast gorge between the game itself and the numbers people derive from the game); they were 15th in sacks allowed with 40 and 18th in QB hits allowed with 95. Looking at those numbers in comparison to the league as a whole—they were not terrible. But when you look at the games themselves and just how disruptive the pressure opposing teams put on Cousins, you’ll see what the problem is with the Vikings. That’s not to completely apologize for Cousins, but few quarterbacks outside of Michael Vick in his prime would be able to succeed when they’re pressured on nearly half of their drop backs. But even when you compare the above stats to the teams that made the playoffs last year… they were bad.

So, to become one of those playoff teams soon, you can bet that the Vikes will have to upgrade their offensive line, namely at the guard position. The trick, of course, will be in figuring out when to go after guys. You want to pick up a player you’ll need, but if you can get him in the second round instead of the first, you want to. I know that sounds obvious but when it comes to the Vikings and the line in the draft, it’s clearly not that simple and at this point I don’t want a repeat of last year where they presumably believed that they could pick up one of the four plug and play guards that were available AFTER they drafted corner Mike Hughes (who had to be their best player available, or at least I hope he was). As we saw, though, there was a run on guards after the Hughes pick and before the Vikings second-round pick.

However, few guards are taken in the first round, which very well may mean that the first offensive lineman the Vikes take will come on Day Two, although at this point I would argue that they can’t risk another 2018 (in every sense but specifically in terms of missing out on the top guard on their board).

Among the players they should target are:

• Chris Lindstrom, Boston College

• Erik McCoy, Texas A&M

• Michael Jordan, Ohio State

• Connor McGovern, Penn State

• Michael Deiter, Wisconsin

McCoy, Jordan, and McGovern are all listed as ‘guard/center’ which means they should be versatile enough to play both (something that gives the team more options), and could help the Vikings perhaps move center Pat Elflein to (right or left) guard, a position(s) he excelled at in college before moving to the center spot his senior year. Lindstrom and Deiter were two of the better guards in college football last year making them just as good a selection as the other three—but in round two at the earliest.

None of them are first-round talents according to most analysts and their mock boards out there. But that means the team can address another need in the first round— the defensive front. Sheldon Richardson moved on to the Cleveland Browns leaving a big hole that needs to be filled. Getting Shamar Stephen back will help provide depth, but they could still use someone offensive line coaches will worry about (unless they have tons of faith that they can sign former Gopher Ra’Shede Hageman, who was a huge talent in college but has been out of the league for the past two seasons after he was charged with three misdemeanors including battery/cruelty to children. Yikes).

The following guys could fit the bill:

• Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida State

• Devin Bush, LB, Michigan

• Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson

• Jeffrey Simmons, DL, Mississippi State

•    Jachai Polite, EDGE, Florida

Burns, Bush, and Lawrence are all considered first-round talents and could be available when the Vikings make their first selection with the No. 18 pick. If Simmons and/or Polite are still available when they get another turn in the second, they should seriously consider selecting either one.

With improvements to the offensive line, Kirk Cousins should have a little more time to figure out what to do with the ball during plays. A better pass rush will make life harder on opposing quarterbacks and will get the ball back in Cousins hands quicker. That means he will have more time with the ball which will hopefully translate to more scoring opportunities—and points.

In the later rounds of the draft, to continue with the “make life easier on Kirk Cousins” theme, the Vikings should take a look at possibly adding a new tight end, wide receiver, and/or running back. Kyle Rudolph is in a contract year so it wouldn’t hurt to be ready for his departure and it’d be nice to add some two tight end plays to the repertoire (at least ones that involve passing and not blocking).

As good as Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are, to make the most of them, it wouldn’t hurt to have a better No. 3 receiver that isn’t a gigantic liability (cough Laquon Treadwell). Dalvin Cook has shown flashes, but he hasn’t really proven himself yet (or stayed healthy long enough to do so) and with Latavius Murray leaving the Vikings for that “starting spot” in New Orleans, and Ameer Abdullah notwithstanding, the team definitely needs a reliable and thumping option at the running back spot.

Kirk Cousins is here to stay for at least two more seasons, so the easier life can be for him, the more productive he can be. The more productive Cousins is, the more games the Vikings will win.   The more games the Vikings win, the less time I spend strangling stray cats. It’s a win-win-win for everyone (except the local bird population). It’s not hyperbole to say that this is the most important draft since 2005, when the Vikings had two first-rounders thanks to the Moss/Raiders trade, and I am including the year they had three first round picks. If they nail it, the Vikings can be a Super Bowl contender, if they blow it (again), Zimmer and perhaps Spielman will be looking for a new job. Let’s hope it’s the former.

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Joe Johnson

Joe Johnson started purplePTSD.com back in May of 2015 and has talked Vikings online since the advent of the internet, namely on Reddit's /r/MinnesotaVikings section under the username p_U_c_K. He purchased VikingsTerritory.com before the 2017-18 season, used to write for VikingsJournal.com and is the host of the purpleJOURNAL Podcast, as well.

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12 Comments

  1. the bottom line is if the Vikings pass a top graded O L at 18 to pick another Defensive player,Viking fans will see a repeat of last year and if that happens Zimmer needs to go

  2. Beebe is a 3rd wr option plus the draft has plenty to cucompete, need a better te than Rudolph has been average his whole career and needed to upgrade for some time now, no need to waiste a pick on a rb being they are a dime a dozen as you can see throughout the league not to mention with roc Thomas and mike boone we should be great there. Like the guards you listed and can get those in second round, so like always good teams draft best available never draft for need that’s the quickest way to be the lions, but with reacher Rick you truly never know because of how many whiffs and terrible drafts we have had to go through with him he should have been gone years ago but that’s another discussion completely because there are way more misses than makes with him in charge of drafting, just pick starting impact players like winning teams do, ie saints, bears,pats every year they draft players that start and make huge impacts that is how the bears went from worst to first by the last few drafts, not to mention with reacher Rick killin this team for now and the future with keeping old over the hill players on massive contracts and waisting big money bringing back heartless no effort Barr which you cannot teach and paying him like he is something special he is completely overrated and overpaid and should have been an afterthought and happily let him walk,and losing overpaid Sheldon who has the same problem as Barr with no heart or effort and completely disappeared during back half of the season was the best for this team along with letting Barr walk would have bettered this team but at least Sheldon is gone, couldn’t stop the run and just got blew up way to much, needs in draft being oline,te,lb,dline,wr,db in no order but we need to have one good draft in Ricks tenure even though we need him to go we don’t need zimmer to go and I’m afraid they both will get punished if Rick has another terrible draft and this team does nothing as far as improving which would fall completely on reaching Ricks lap and his fault because he is in charge of player personnel but everyone blames zimmer for bringing players back and the draft selection which is not hs job title.

  3. I totally agree with everything you stated and couldn’t have said it better. I will be totally pissed off we we dont get a left tackle..not a right tackle because O’Neill has done a good job and then a defensive tackle in the middle who can stop the run. Then come back and pick up a guard in the 3rd round. I would also like to see a kicker in the 7th round like the kid out of Oklahoma. Rounds 4-6 pick for other needs like safety and line backer and see if you can find a diamond in the rough but pick someone with good work ethic and heart not talent that dont work hard.

  4. I don’t typically respond to comments but felt like I had to respond to this.

    Now, I wouldn’t ever, also, argue about a joke as not every joke is funny to every person. That’s how comedy works and I understand that, so I’m not trying to sit here and say “How dare you not find my joke funny!”.

    However, I presume that you are offended by the joke, or that you think that I crossed some invisible line. That’s why I’m responding.

    Do you think that I’m advocating for animal abuse? I mean, you call it a joke so you have to understand on some level it wasn’t meant as anything but that. So, I am a bit flabbergasted that you’re offended about that. I’d ask in what way but I really don’t think you understand that by calling it a joke you understand it wasn’t meant as whatever you’re “offended” about.

    Had you used quotation marks, like I just did, you could have implied that it wasn’t a joke but rather me letting slip that I’ve put my life on hold for the past five years to follow my dream of slowly convincing the subconscious of everyday Americans that cat murder is amazeballs (and that stray cats don’t deserve the same respect as regular cats. “Regular”? See? Did it again. There is no regular cat, after all!).

    Only an angry, unbalanced and terrible person would strangle stray cats. That’s sort of the point. Also, as I was typing “… an angry, unbalanced and terrible person would strange stray cats” I realized that I’m wasting my time and that this is the MOST internet-y thing I’ve ever been a part of! Wow.

    Seriously man I really appreciate the support and as the owner of this site, it’s sister site (purplePTSD.com) and our online radio station, purpleTERRITORYradio.com, I would never do anything to hurt the brand of what we’ve built as a team. Ever. I used to get a decent amount of flak from people about the PTSD thing, too. I’m someone who was diagnosed with PTSD about a year before I launched that site and I always feel like, as someone who clearly is sensitive (hence the PTSD, for me, not everyone w/ PTSD is overly sensitive or anything, quite the contrary, but in my case it’s part of the equation) that we all need to lighten up a bit…

    That doesn’t mean, however, that NOTHING is offensive, or too much. The question is how we determine an objective standard to a subjective art form like comedy (I do want to say that I’m not a comedian, and that I’m not trying to be or trying to imply that I am but considering the conflict that is arising between comedy and political correctness or social justice movements, it’s an important topic.

    I really believe that you have to look at the intent of the person making the joke as well as the joke.

    Or maybe just lighten up? It must be exhausting to be offended all the time. I’m not some super right wing person, either. But I don’t anyone benefits from the policing of humor. ANYONE. In this case, I’ve spent five minutes responding to you, you seriously can’t be a happy person if you’re offended by something like that (as you must be offended/angry/sad all the time) and the content suffers, the writers suffer, the other readers suffer.

    I am being respectful and attempting to show you that I put thought into what I do and I don’t believe in personal attacks online or anything near that (unless I’m responding in kind).

    That all having been said, why is that offensive to you?

  5. Gary! Thank you SO MUCH for telling people what is funny!

    Try this next time: “I didn’t find that joke funny”. AND you can follow up with a reason behind feeling that way, such as “because I’m a stuffy little snob who feels like he can determine what other people can and cannot say ON THEIR OWN PLATFORM”. You know, something like that.

    Get off the internet man. Seriously. The world doesn’t need more of you.

    I find your PC over sensitivity to be offensive. It doesn’t matter if you understand it, or if it makes sense. Because I’m offended; you must cease.

    Right? RIGHT?

    The one critical thing I have to say about the article are there are, in my uneducated opinion, too many run-on sentences. Besides that, I have nothing to say but thank you for the content.

  6. I agree if Zimmer passes on an O-Lineman in round one he needs to go. The Vikings need to spend at least 2 of their first 3 picks on offensive line. It is a GLARING weakness! With a above average improvement on the O-line the defense will be on the field less, and will play better, longer. Cousins will have a vastly improved running attack and be able to pick and choose his opportunities to throw the ball. I love Zimmer and Spielman ,but if they pull another bonehead move like in last years draft, the window will shut and another long season awaits us.

  7. I personally see no need to draft ANY defensive player except a safety to replace Sendejo (we only have three that I know of: Smith, Harris and Kearse) and a corner to replace Sherels as the CB6. I don’t see the team as ready to give up on J. Johnson, Holmes, Odenigbo or Bower on the DL, let alone Weatherly, and we have Aruna and Mata’afa coming back from injured reserve. A 1-tech nose tackle might be a nice Day 3 pick-up, although he’ll likely end up a practice squad candidate.

    Unless Spielman makes acquires a starting offensive lineman in free agency or via a trade, we will be drafting O line on either Day 1 or 2 of the draft, probably with two of our first three picks. My guess is IF we draft OL on Day 1, it will be either a RT or a LT, but not a guard. If we don’t draft OL on Day 1, I think we’ll target a LG on Day 2. Day 3 will be for a G/C if we drafted OT on day 1, or a swing OT if we went G on Day 2. I think a TE2, a complementary piece, not a replacement for Rudy, is our most likely non-OL Day 1 or 2 pick, although judging from the prospect visits so far, a Day 3 TE seems just as or more likely.

  8. The only way I see them taking a DL and I do mean the only way is if they are worried about Griffen’s health and plan to try and trade him to a west cost team for what ever they can get so he can be closer to his family and their support or release him to free up cap space~Doesn’t matter if I like it or not~Best I can do is move on once the pick is made and not roll around screaming like some wounded duck because it will not change a dang thing~

    That being said I look for the top of this draft to be offensive players seeing how most of the Real FA Money was used on the defensive players~

    Only time will tell~

  9. I thought the headline said: How the Vikings can use the draft to REPLACE Cousins. Just wishful thinking, I guess.

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