Bears Writer Trashes Vikings Draft

Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; A Minnesota Vikings fans looks on before a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The NFL and its divisions are built on rivalries. Only wins of the own team bring more joy to a fan than losses of a rival. Some teams have more to cheer for than others. In the NFC North, only the Green Bay Packers managed to win a Super Bowl in the lifetime of the oldest Vikings player, Andrew DePaola, the long snapper.

He was six years old when the Detroit Lions last won a division title and four years old when they last won a playoff game. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the NFC Central, the predecessor of the NFC North, more recently than the Lions, and they have been playing in the NFC South for two decades. Since Harrison Smith and Kirk Cousins entered the league in 2012, the Bears managed to win the NFC North once. Despite the success in their division, Green Bay can’t get back to the big game despite employing future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers for all those years.

Bears Writer Trashes Vikings Draft

Of course, the Vikings also have some things to make fun of. They haven’t won an NFC Championship game since 1976 and lost all four Super Bowls. The kicking game has been a disaster, and when the last season with a couple of postseason victories happened in January 1988, DePaola hadn’t celebrated his first birthday yet.

Bears Writer Trashes Vikings Draft
General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah in August of 2022 at Minnesota Vikings headquarters in Eagan, Minnesota.

Enough talk about the past. The Vikes are the most recent NFC North champions, winning the division for the first time since 2017. The record in the division was 4-2. Two of those wins came against the Chicago Bears, who received the first overall pick with their 3-14 record. Yet, they are apparently able to take some shots at the Vikings.

In an article published on Sunday on Windy City Gridiron, one of the writers bashed the Vikings draft. The theme was to name the biggest loser of the draft, and for some reason, Jeff Berckes felt the need to name the Vikings.

They were non-factors in this draft. Rumors swirled that Dalvin Cook and Za’Darius Smith were on the trade block, but no takers for Minnesota to add draft capital. They may end up just cutting those players as their overall talent level shrinks around an aging Kirk Cousins. Their inflated W/L record from 2022 is a powerful deodorant to their fanbase on what’s in store for this team going into 2023, and I for one, can’t wait.

To call a team a non-factor in a draft is bold. The Vikings didn’t have a huge draft class and entered the event without a second-round selection because that was traded to Detroit as part of the T.J. Hockenson deal. However, the purple team made six selections, including one in the first round. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah doesn’t seem to value draft picks as much as Rick Spielman, but he didn’t use the Rams’ approach either. He didn’t trade away every draft pick in the first few rounds.

Jordan Addison Has
Apr 27, 2023; Kansas City, MO, USA; USC wide receiver Jordan Addison on stage after being selected by the Minnesota Vikings twenty-third overall in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft at Union Station. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

With that 23rd overall pick, Adofo-Mensah added a dynamic receiver. Jordan Addison, out of USC, won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s best wideout in 2021, and his college production was outstanding. He will be a huge part of the Vikings’ future as the top wideout behind Justin Jefferson. Addison was a fantastic pick, short-term and long-term, and shouldn’t be disregarded.

The two veterans, Dalvin Cook and Za’Darius Smith, were indeed involved in some draft trade rumors, but those trades were never going to happen. They have huge cap hits, and trading them is a long process and can’t be quickly done on draft day. In addition, they would’ve netted day three picks, nothing that would’ve fundamentally changed the draft.

Kirk Cousins might be aging, but he is still the best quarterback in the division. He has the track record of four Pro Bowls. He also threw for 4,000 yards in seven seasons. No Bears QB has ever done that. The veteran won the last four games against the non-competitive Bears.

The overall talent around Cousins is supposed to be shrinking, a strange claim. Minnesota released two longtime Vikings, Adam Thielen and Eric Kendricks. While both are legends of the organization, they are aging and struggled in 2022. Thielen couldn’t get open, Kendricks lacked the speed to be as effective as usual in coverage, and the run defense was even worse than in the past. It has never been a strength of his.

Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) looks on before the game against the Indianapolis Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Cook is far less efficient than he was in the past, and he turns 28, a magical number for running backs. The decline is inevitable. Marcus Davenport has already replaced Smith in free agency. His departure might hurt the team, but it wouldn’t be devastating. None of those players leaving, or potentially leaving, is a big blow to the Vikings’ chances of being good in 2023.

The other departures were mainly cornerbacks, a disastrous group, and defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson. Regardless, the team upgraded the defensive coordinator and added some fresh legs on defense, and the offense will experience total continuity. Besides the Thielen-Addison swap, nothing changed. Unlike last year when the whole team learned a new playbook and new schemes, they can focus on execution this year.

Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell at U.S. Bank Stadium after Minnesota lost to the New York Giants in the Wildcard Round of the postseason, 31-24.

The inflated record in 2022 led to an incredibly fun season. Just a reminder, the team won 13 of 17 games, including all 11 one-score games. That won’t be sustainable, but the head coach Kevin O’Connell preached the words situational masters since the start of his tenure last year, and that focus helped the team come through in those clutch moments. The comeback wins against a stacked Bills team and the historical record-shattering comeback against the Colts will be discussed for a while.

A decline is not just possible. It is likely, especially in the win column. It’s not easy to win 13 games in the NFL. Nobody knows that better than the three-win Bears. However, the team will not suddenly collapse after addressing the terrible defense and having continuity on a top-10 offensive unit. The Vikings scored the 7th-most point in 2022 despite the first season with a new scheme.

Aaron Rodgers left the division. The Packers are a mystery. They still have a good run game and a talented defense, but how far Jordan Love can take the team in his first season as the starter is in question. The Lions spent a lot of cap space on their struggling defense but made some strange draft decisions, and a gambling scandal doesn’t help them either.

Dec 18, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) looks to pass in the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports.

Chicago spent draft capital and cap space to surround Justin Fields with more talent. He still has to prove that he is a capable NFL passer, not just a running back lined up under center. Fields certainly has the potential to do that. Regardless, the team won ten fewer games than the Vikings and must prove first that they are a serious threat to the Vikings.

The NFC North is wide-open, and the betting markets like the Lions, a team annually hyped before the season begins. For the first time in five years, the Vikings aren’t the hunters. They are the hunted. Only time will tell if Berckes is right about the supposedly bad upcoming Vikings season.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt