Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Vikings 2015 draft - a quick synopsis

It's been several hours since the Vikings concluded their 2015 draft, and as other outlets will be busy grading Minnesota's selections, I figured I post a little something to wrap things up as well.

We know there were several areas where the Vikings needed to get better heading into the draft, did they address most of those needs with the 10 players they selected?

Overall, I'd say they addressed the following needs to my satisfaction in varying degrees:

Linebacker: The Vikes needed a middle linebacker and getting Eric Kendricks should solve that problem. I don't know many Vikings fans or draft analysts who didn't love this pick (I certainly did), especially where they got him in the draft. As for Edmond Robinson, I have no idea what will become, but he can run and the Vikings value that skill in their linebackers.

Offensive line: T.J. Clemmings is the key here. He could be your starting left guard in 2015 with an opportunity to be the starting left tackle in 2016 if Matt Kalil sucks hard again. Getting him in the 4th round - no matter how he turns out - was a great move. As for the selections of Tyrus Thompson and Austin Shephard, they provide competition along the O-line if nothing else.

Cornerback: I've already written about what Trae Waynes could mean to this team's pass defense, so no need to rehash that here.

Wide receiver: I would have preferred the Vikings addressed this need earlier than they did, but I like what I've heard about Stefon Diggs. He sounds like he could be kind of a Randall Cobb kind of player, and to get this kind of talent of the 5th round is nice work by general manager Rick Spielman. 

Running back: But, but ... the Vikings didn't draft a running back! True, but they also didn't trade Adrian Peterson. Even at 30, Peterson can do things few other running backs can do. Keeping him around means the running back position is in good shape for 2015. Having Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata as the backups behind Peterson works for me, and the Vikes can cross the running back bridge in the 2016 draft.

As for needs the Vikings didn't address to my satisfaction, defensive end comes to mind. They selected one guy (Danielle Hunter) pretty high who is an athletic freak but didn't have very impressive sack numbers in college, and another guy (B.J. Dubose), who as far as I can tell should consider himself thankful he got drafted at all. The Vikings must love how Scott Crichton is developing this offseason. I would have liked the Vikes to have selected a development QB in the late rounds, but that wasn't a huge priority in my mind. I also didn't care that Spielman didn't select a strong safety to push Robert Blanton, Andrew Sendejo and Antone Exum.

I'm also a fan of Spielman's practice of accumulating multiple picks at the back end of the draft. We know these selections are long shots, but the odds of hitting on a Shamar Stephen are better if you have two or three picks in the 6th or 7th rounds than if you only have one.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Trae Waynes pick caps a boring first day of NFL draft for Vikings

Rick Spielman has spoiled us.

With all his wheeling and dealing and collecting multiple first round picks since the 2012 draft, Viking fans have come to expect a certain level of excitement during the first day of the draft.

So, for Spielman to just pick one guy - cornerback Trae Waynes, on Thursday night, well ... (proceeds to yawn.)

As I wrote in this "Get To Know 'Em" post on Waynes on April Fool's Day, the Michigan State cornerback is not without his charms. But he also has this Baylor game on his 2014 resume where Baylor went out of its way to attack him, and it worked. If Waynes had trouble with Baylor's receivers, how is he going to handle covering guys like Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson and Alshon Jeffrey in the NFL? (The answer is he probably won't be covering those guys. That will be Xavier Rhodes' job.)

The general reaction I saw on social media last night from draft experts and Vikings rubes was that Spielman could have done better at the #11 draft slot than selecting Waynes. But remember how many times you yelled at the TV during the past two decades as opposing QBs completed passes at will against the Vikings secondary and receivers looked like they were being covered by air? Those days appear to be a thing of the past. The Vikings are building a deep and talented cornerback group to win the NFL's arms race.

Rhodes has the look of a perennial All-Pro. Josh Robinson isn't a superstar, but he played pretty well in 2014 and has lots of talent. Captain Munnerlyn didn't have a good year last season, but he's played well in the past in Carolina. Terence Newman is ancient by NFL standards, but head coach Mike Zimmer still thinks he has game, and I'll defer to Zimmer's judgment on this matter. Even Jabari Price showed some promise as a rookie last season. And don't forget Marcus Sherels can do more than return punts if pressed into cornerback duty. Adding Waynes to the mix arms the Vikings with all kinds of cornerback options in a pass-happy league. That's seven guys that don't immediately bring back memories of Asher Allen, Wasswa Serwanga and Chris Cook. I can't say I disagree with the logic of the Waynes pick. We'll find out in a year or two if the Vikings would have been better served selecting Marcus Peters or Kevin Johnson instead.
The flip side to Spielman not making any trades last night is you will have to pay attention to day two of the NFL draft for the first time since 2011. That was the last time the Vikes had a second round pick Spielman didn't trade away. There are still some very good players available (the Vikings currently have the 45th pick, which means they pick 13th overall in the second round) that would fill a few roster needs for the Vikings - pass rusher/pothead Randy Gregory,  WRs Jaelen Strong and Dorial Green-Beckham, linebacker Eric Kendricks and strong safety Landon Collins - to name just a few. And maybe Spielman will give you your trading fix in round two by making a deal by trading up or down or whatever.

And lookit - this guy is still around!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

National Draft League

Immediately after the draft, I will study up on all the Vikings' new players, as well as all the prospects I'll need to know about for my dynasty league fantasy draft (I am completely out of my element trying to draft rookies for a dynasty draft: Billy Beane's shit doesn't work in the playoffs, and my fantasy shit doesn't work with rookies). Right now, it's a little more fun to go into the draft knowing next to nothing. But here are my hopes for what the Vikings come out of the draft with.

The 11th best player available in the draft (or better, assuming some teams picking before the Vikes screw up).
Just draft the best player available. Talent will find its way to the field and to production, and it never works out to reach on a guy because you really need the position. You'd rather have an 80 DE even if you already have two starting DEs than a 65 CB because you're desperate.

An improved offensive line.
It doesn't matter if the Vikings have improved their offensive line by the end of the first round. But they should end the draft with more possible starters--present or future--at the offensive line.

An improved secondary.
You can never have too many good defensive backs on an NFL team. Let's say that again.You can never have too many good defensive backs on an NFL team. You will need them. Every single one.

Some sort of asset acquired via trade for Adrian Peterson.
It's not going to happen; I just think it should. Speaking of Peterson, almost every time Rick Spielman speaks he comes off as either an idiot (not preferable in a GM!) or a liar (just fine in a GM!). Most recently, he said

"We believe in Adrian Peterson but also know that we're a pretty good football team with Adrian Peterson in our backfield as well."

Can we stop with the romanticism of the Peterson era? He is an all-time great running back, but the Vikings have not been especially good with Peterson. They've made the playoffs in 3 out of 7 of his seasons, and their overall record (regular season and playoffs) from '07-'13 was 55-60. Maybe Spielman's feeling is that the Teddy Bridgewater/Mike Zimmer Vikes were 6-7 without Peterson and by his logic the Teddy Bridgewater/Mike Zimmer/Adrian Peterson Vikes would be "a pretty good football team." But the last time Peterson was there for most of a season the Vikes were 5-10-1.

A lot of ridiculous things happening, opportunities to comment on the fashion choices of draftee's significant others, and general fun and laughter associated with watching a drawn-out event.
Watching the draft with friends is fun, because it is hanging out with friends while the draft is on. Otherwise you could just as well look at the draft board after the fact, or, who am I kidding, follow until you know it's time for the Vikings to pick and see that pick as it happens, then learn more about that guy, then move on, but who am I kidding you have to be ready for the Vikes to trade back into the first round because if you're not ready for that you'll miss a pick, and just enjoy the draft everyone.

Holy Crap
Did you realize it? I just did. For the first time in recent memory, Viking fans are NOT going into the draft dreaming about what potential QB they could draft, and when. I just saw Brett Hundley's  name and thought, "Oh yeah, that guy," then "He's in the draft this year?" then "I wonder if the Vikes can get him in a later rou....wait, no I don't." Teddy Bridgewater means not giving the Todd Hundleys of the world much particular thought. Of course the Bill Walsh "draft a QB every year" theory is a good one: you never know and young potential QBs are useful assets one way or another. But it's not the stuff of dreams right now.

Why Minnesota is a great place for sports.
(dismayed at the suckitude of so many of our pro teams, I will run a regular feature in which I tell you why Minnesota is a good place for sports)

Why Minnesota is a great place for sports: you can play outdoors.
Minnesota is a wonderful place for outdoor activities, summer or winter. The state and local commitment to parks and trails means there is plenty of space for biking, hiking, running, walking, or whatever. We've got great organizations like Endurance United and The Loppet Foundation organizing races of various kinds. There are lakes and meadows and rivers and golf courses and anything else. The Timberwolves may always be a poop stain of a team, but you can go outside and play your own games.

Why Minnesota is a great place for sports: hockey
I've rarely paid any attention to hockey, but seeing the Wild fans living it up during the playoffs has been a revelation. Seeing honest-to-god Minnesota sports fans roaming the streets wearing their jerseys and gear with smiles and happiness is a reminder of what we can have here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Get To Know 'Em: A.J. Cann and Tre' Jackson

Back in March of 2012 when this blog was born, Thomas Ryan - who used to run The Ragnarok site - wrote here for a time. One of the segments he came up with was the "Get To Know 'Em" series, where he looked at potential Vikings draft targets and provided analysis on these players. Thomas doesn't write for us anymore. But I think the concept he developed was a fun read and pretty useful (2 of the players he wrote about - Harrison Smith and Josh Robinson - were selected by the Vikes in the 2012 draft).

Last year I did a number of these posts (here's one on Teddy Bridgewater), and I'm doing it again this spring. And like Thomas, I'm relying on my own instincts and various mock drafts to select players to preview. I'm going to focus on players who could be targets for the Vikings in the 1st and 2nd rounds of the draft. And after profiling wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, and DeVante Parker, let's turn our attention in the last post of this series to the offensive guard position and prospects A.J. Cann and Tre' Jackson.

I admit it. I really have no idea on what to look for when it comes to deciding if an interior offensive lineman is good at what he does or not. But even I could tell Charlie Johnson wasn't cutting it as a starting left guard the past three seasons. The Vikings thought so as well, which is why they cut him this offseason.

So here we are. It's almost May and the Vikes are looking at a situation where they either a) start long-time backup Joe Berger at left guard in 2015 or b) plug in second-year guy David Yankey - who only suited up for one game last season. This does not seem ideal. And because the Vikings didn't address the guard position during free agency, this week's draft would seem to be the club's last chance to upgrade the position.

One possible avenue to do this is the Vikes select a top-rated college tackle like Brandon Scherff, La'el Collins or T.J. Clemmings and move them inside to play left guard - just like Dallas did with Zack Martin last year.

The other option is select a prospect who already played guard in college and would be available a little later in the draft (let's say in the mid-second or third round range) than the guys I mentioned above. This is where South Carolina's Cann and Florida State's Jackson come in.

The scouting reports on both guys are pretty similar. (Here is one on Cann. Here is one on Jackson.)  They both were long-time starters for their teams. They are both thick guys, especially below the waste. They are both adept at playing in tight spaces. They both can get to the second level better than you'd think. They are both players who will not pancake the guys they are blocking but are able to stay with them and stay in front of them with little fanfare.

Due to time constraints I was only able to watch one video each of Cann and Jackson.  The game I watched of Cann was against Missouri.

This wasn't a spectacular performance by Cann, but he was effective. What I noticed most about this game was his pass protection. Cann was very good at handling stunts and handing off the guy he initially was blocking on pass plays to another blocker and picking up the secondary guy. After watching Johnson and Matt Kalil struggle with communication on picking up stunts and blitzes, and giving up a lot of pressure in 2014 as a result, Cann's ability to do handle this stuff could be enticing for the Vikings.

On running plays, Cann didn't wow me with power. He didn't push defenders back on blocks like I expected to see. He gets in the way and is hard to move around because of his size, but he didn't overwhelm guys with power. Is that going to be a problem for him at the NFL level? I don't know, but it's something to keep in mind.

The game I watched of Jackson was against Oklahoma State. Just like Cann's game against Missouri, this was a workmanlike performance by Jackson. Florida State didn't hesitate pulling Jackson and he can get out there in space. However, like the game I watched of Cann, Jackson's run blocking doesn't feature a whole lot of pancakes and mauling of defenders. Jackson's got the quickness to get to the second level and with his size he's hard to slip by and avoid in tight spaces, but he didn't manhandle guys like you'd expect for a guy who weighs 330 pounds. He can also get beat by speed inside and get caught off balance, allowing his defender to penetrate the line of scrimmage on running plays.

As a pass defender, Jackson was solid in this game. Maybe not quite as smooth as Cann was in the Missouri game, but he gave up one only pressure that I remember against Oklahoma State. I did see instances where he gets rocked back on his heels by a pass rusher, but it didn't lead to him getting beat and giving up a sack or a pressure. NFL defensive lineman will take advantage of that in the pros I suspect if Jackson doesn't clean this up.

The Vikings under general manager Rick Spielman haven't invested a lot of high draft choices in the offensive line - basically Kalil in 2012 and Phil Loadholt in 2009. Other than that, the Vikes have drafted their O-lineman in the fourth round or later. The way Dallas has successfully built its offensive line by using first round picks to stock it could lead to some copycatting from other teams over the next couple of years. And that's why it's possible Spielman drafts a lineman in the first round on Thursday.

But the other option would be to pick a guy like Cann or Jackson in the second or third round and focus on some other roster hole in the first round. These guys don't project to be superstars with a lot of unrealized potential. They appear to be players with a high floor, rather than a high ceiling, who a team could plug in to start pretty quickly and get solid play from them for eight-to-10 years.

For a Vikings team that struggled along the offensive line in 2014 and has unanswered questions at left guard in 2015, Cann or Jackson might be worth selecting.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Get To Know 'Em: Devante Parker

Back in March of 2012 when this blog was born, Thomas Ryan - who used to run The Ragnarok site - wrote here for a time. One of the segments he came up with was the "Get To Know 'Em" series, where he looked at potential Vikings draft targets and provided analysis on these players. Thomas doesn't write for us anymore. But I think the concept he developed was a fun read and pretty useful (2 of the players he wrote about - Harrison Smith and Josh Robinson - were selected by the Vikes in the 2012 draft).

Last year I did a number of these posts (here's one on Teddy Bridgewater), and I'll be doing it again this spring as the NFL draft gets closer. I will be writing as many of these posts as I can leading up to the draft. And like Thomas, I'm relying on my own instincts and various mock drafts to select players to preview. I'm going to focus on players who could be targets for the Vikings in the 1st and 2nd rounds of the draft. And after profiling wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, I'm returning to the receiver position to focus on another big-play wideout - Louisville's Devante Parker.

If you haven't seen a mock draft that has the Vikings selecting Devante Parker at the #11 spot, you  clearly haven't been paying attention. The speculation makes sense. He's tall (6'3), was extremely productive in college and plays a position where the Vikings need help.

However, I also suspect the speculation is partly, maybe largely, fueled by the fact Parker was Teddy Bridgewater's teammate and favourite target at Louisville. Surely the two could work their magic at the NFL level if given the chance? I mean, it worked out great in college, right?

Well, maybe. But general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer can't afford to draft guys just because they were teammates of prominent Minnesota Vikings. They have to have the talent to warrant being drafted - especially this high. Does Parker have that talent?

Here is one scouting report on Parker. Now let's look at one of the games from his abbreviated 2014 season.

That game will be the one against Florida State, which was the best team Parker and Louisville faced all season and one where Parker was covered by two guys who will also be playing on Sunday's - corners P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby.

(Link to Florida State video.)

Parker caught eight passes in this game for an impressive 214 yards, but could have had more if his quarterback had thrown some balls better or made better decisions. Still, there are a few things that stand out from this game. One is that this was not a contest where Parker faced inferior players who will not play beyond college. Darby and Williams will both be drafted - possibly as early as round two. And Williams is the kind of physical corner Parker will have to deal with regularly, and beat, in the NFL.

On this day, Parker was able to do this repeatedly.

Some takeaways from Parker's performance against the Seminoles:

One thing that really impressed me about Parker is his get off at the line of scrimmage. Watch every play - especially when he's facing press coverage (the plays at the 2-minute and 4-minute mark are good examples.) Parker is quick and smooth at the snap. Corners can't get their hands on him, which allows Parker to get into his routes unmolested and with immediate separation. I'm no football expert, but that seems like a pretty strong skill for a receiver to have. Parker's got it in spades.

The Louisville product also tracks passes well and positions himself well. At the 3-minute mark of the FSU video, Parker hauls in a fade pass along the right sideline with Williams on his hip. Parker uses his left arm deftly to keep Williams at bay. And he maintains concentration and makes a catch in tight coverage look easy. This ability to track the ball and use his hands to fend off defenders will serve him well in the NFL.

At the 4:20 mark of the video, Parker victimizes Darby instead of Williams this time. In this case, Parker uses a push off to get separation. It should be a penalty, but Parker doesn't make it obvious and so he gets away with it. It's the kind of move many big-time college wide receivers don't need because they get open so easily. But in today's NFL this is a tool WRs use all the time to make catches. It's good to see Parker can do this subtly without getting flagged.

One other thing that's noticeable in this game, and other games from 2014 of Parker that I watched, is that he has no fear going over the middle to catch passes. This is on display at the 5:30 mark of the video. It can get pretty congested in the middle area of the field during an NFL game with linebackers and safeties ready to knock pass catcher silly. Some WRs don't have the stomach for this work. Parker isn't one of them.

One of the main criticisms I've heard about Parker's game is that his route running isn't as sharp as it could be and he's a poor blocker. I'm not enough of a football mind to say whether his route running was an issue in the videos I watched - there was nothing obvious I could pick out. As for the latter criticism - who cares? Parker will be paid to snatch passes out of the air and score touchdowns. As a blocker on runs and screens, I agree he's not much - he gets in the way but that's the extent of it. But he more than makes up for it in the things he does well. Randy Moss wasn't much of a blocker, either (and no, I'm not comparing Parker to Moss in any other areas.)

Parker's height, arm length (33 1/4 inches), hand size ( 9 1/4 inches) and vertical leap (36 1/2 inches) make him a large target for a QB to throw to. He ran a 4.45 40 time at the NFL combine and consistently got open in college on short routes, intermediate routes and deep routes. I think he'll be a good pro, but I wonder if he'll be a great pro.  

Wide receiver is certainly a position of need, but is it the biggest need on the team? Ideally, I'd prefer the Vikes select a guy like Parker later in the first round than the #11 spot Minnesota currently holds.

On April 30th, we'll find out if the Vikings agree or disagree with me.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

National Friday League: how the Vikings have overrated Adrian Peterson's importance

Sport is one of the most human things we do
Jerry Saltz, "The Most Powerful Artwork I Have Ever Seen, at New York

Sometimes I think to myself, "sports are really pointless and silly. I should focus on more important things." Maybe that's because of one bad middle school teacher I had (and maybe none of you ever get this nagging feeling). Maybe that's because a museum feels like a more culturally enriching experience than a football stadium.

But this is a thought I must absolutely purge myself of. Sports should be loved without shame and with total joy.

I wonder which happened first: that one of our prehistoric ancestors said to another, "Hey, look at this picture of an antelope I scratched in the mud by the river," or that one of our prehistoric ancestors said, "I'll race you to that river." I wonder which happened first: that somebody said "Hey, look at these pretty rocks I tied into my hair," or that somebody said "Do you think I can hit that tree with this rock?" Did somebody say "Look at this design I carved on my pounding tool" before or after somebody said "You use your pounding tool and I'll use my pounding tool and we'll see who pounds the most." I don't know, and neither do you. But I suspect that to any extent art is what has made us human, so too has athletic activity that we engage in--or watch--for fun is also what has made us human.

Humans have been active for a long time (we may have been born to run), and one of the ways humans have been active for a very long time did not always have to do with the matter of catching food or evading predators. People have been physically competing, whether in formally constructed competitions or in informal fun gatherings, for centuries. For milennia.

So play games. And watch games. There are other things to do too. But playing and watching games is as important as anything else--it's part of what makes us who we are.

How the Vikings have overrated Adrian Peterson's importance
The Long-Term Problem: the Vikes have done a monumentally awful job at staffing the quarterback position.
We don't have to catalog how poorly the Vikings' acquired quarterbacks have played since 2006. You were there: you remember. They've had numerous veteran and young starters, and they've regularly been near the bottom of the league in passing success. This wretched job at filling the position did, in fact, make Adrian Peterson a crucial player for the Vikings from 2007-2013. The team couldn't pass worth a satyr's scratchy ass, and so to win games they relied on their all-time great running back. The fact that it usually didn't work doesn't seem to have fazed the team. They have not really been good during that time. They only made the playoffs in three of those seven seasons (and that only when the defense was playing competently), and they only won one playoff time during that time (and that when they got elite quarterback play for one season).

The Vikings' attempt to build their offensive success around Peterson has been a failure: three winning seasons out of seven is not good. But because they've been so bad at quarterback for so long, it made what Peterson could do seem crucially important for the team: indeed, the two years he won the rushing title you could argue he dragged the team to the playoffs. But there's nothing the team did from 2007-2013 that should make the team think they must have Peterson on the roster.

The Short-Term Problem: the Vikes were unprepared for playing without Peterson in 2014, and thus didn't play well.
The Vikings went into 2014 planning to play Norvball and build the entire offense around Peterson's skills. This was a fairly sensible plan, as they were a team in transition: a new coach, a Stadium Regent until King Xanadu comes of age in two years, and a burgeoning transition to a rookie quarterback.

And so when the team was put in a position to play the season without Peterson, they didn't have much behind him at running back: calling Matt Asiata "replacement level" is probably an undeserved compliment to the plodder, and Jerick McKinnon showed flashes of potential and talent, but he was not a conventional running back and probably isn't suited to simply take Adrian Peterson's place in Norvball (an offense designed to utilize McKinnon's skills will look different than an offense designed to utilize Peterson's skills). Furthermore the offensive line sucked, and a rookie quarterback was forced to earn his laurels playing in this mess. By Poseidon's trident, it was a mess.

But that does not mean that a Minnesota Viking team going into a season knowing Peterson isn't on the team, and going into a season preparing to move the ball in ways that don't include Peterson, must by its nature be a mess. It wasn't simply that the Vikes struggled without Peterson: it was that the Vikings intended to do everything around Peterson, and struggled when they were quickly, unexpectedly forced away from that plan.

If Peterson were immediately removed from the roster, the Vikings would presumably have time to a) acquire an additional running back or running backs suitable to perform well, and b) build an offensive strategy around the players they have on the roster instead.

And of course, the Adrian Peterson the team remembers will not be that Adrian Peterson forever.
Peterson is 30 years old, with over 2,000 regular season carries. It's not clear to me what a team with a 22 year old quarterback, whose best defensive players are (in order of age) 27, 26, 24, and 23, that doesn't even move into its own stadium until 2016, is going to get from Peterson. It's not clear what they think they'll get from Peterson. And it's not clear why they think the contract they have with him is conducive to building a winning team.

Every time I see a rumor that there's a team interested in trading for Peterson, I perk up a bit. I think it's probably in the best interest of the team to move on from Peterson, and would allow fans a more uncomplicated rooting experience in 2015.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Why you must focus on the Vikings 2015 roster, not its 2015 schedule

The Vikings 2015 regular season schedule was released tonight (Tuesday, April 21st), and, well, it looks pretty tough.

Kick off the season against the 49ers on the road. Then face the Lions and Chargers at home before playing Peyton Manning and the Broncos on the road. And then three of the last five games are against Seattle, Arizona (road game) and Green Bay (road game).

Still optimistic the Vikings will be a playoff contender in 2015?

I am. That's because while this schedule looks difficult, and we knew it would be because we knew what teams the Vikings were going to play for months now, the NFL season is full of surprises. Teams that look like difficult outs in late April can morph into paper tigers come October and November.

Injuries. Coaching blunders. Rookies that don't pan out. Unexpected players that do. It all impacts how well a team performs on the field. Sometimes a football season doesn't turn out like we expect it to. Remember last year when you figured the Falcons game at TCF Bank Stadium was a sure loss but the Vikes would beat the Lions at home like they've always done for two decades now?

That didn't go according to plan.

And really, the Vikings roster has been so weak since 2009 that almost every game has been considered a tough game for Minnesota no matter whom the club played.

Which is why all a fan really needs to worry about is how well the Vikings are constructing the roster.  Real good teams don't worry about "tough" schedules because they know they've got the talent to beat anybody.

Are the Vikings a really good team? They weren't in 2014 under Mike Zimmer, but the building blocks are there - Everson Griffen, Teddy Bridgewater, Xavier Rhodes, Anthony Barr, Harrison Smith, Sharrif Floyd. And we haven't even talked about the four 1st round draft picks the Vikings are going to have in this year's draft after they trade away Adrian Peterson for a king's ransom (I kid. I'm a kidder.)

So yeah, the Vikings schedule looks tough now. But maybe by December it's the Seahawks and the Cardinals who are saying, 'Man, we've got the Vikings this week. That's a tough game.'