The Vikings went from 3-13 to 10-6 in one year. So will the 2013 edition be closer to 2011, or to 2012? To be more like the latter — and to become the kind of consistent contender they’ve been in past decades — the Vikings need to address certain specific needs in the draft.
Linebacker: The Vikings need a middle linebacker. They know they need a middle linebacker. The question is whether they’ll use one of their two first-round draft picks or a selection in some other round to address the glaring weakness in the second line of their defense. Given the affinity the team has shown in recent years for Notre Dame players, Manti Te’o becomes an intriguing option at No. 23 or No. 25.
Wide receiver: There’s a gap between Percy Harvin and Greg Jennings, both in age and ability. Even if Harvin hadn’t been traded, the Vikings would still need to upgrade the position, in an effort to upgrade the passing game generally.
Quarterback: Of course, the problem with the passing game could be the guy throwing the passes. While Christian Ponder has had only two years to figure out the NFL game, the quick emergence of others taken lower in 2011 — and of those picked in 2012 — makes Ponder’s performance disappointing, especially when he has the benefit of one of the best running backs in NFL history. While it would be a mistake to use a first- or second-round pick on a quarterback unless the Vikings have “no intent” to trade or cut Ponder, they should be looking for the next third-rounder who becomes Russell Wilson. Then again, who isn’t?
Guard: The tackles and the center are more than capable in Minnesota, more than capable enough to make the absence of high-end guards less conspicuous. Still, the Vikings would benefit from an upgrade over Charlie Johnson or Brandon Fusco.
Defensive tackle: With Kevin Williams cutting his pay and having his remaining contract in turn cut to one year, the Vikings need to start thinking about finding the next dominant inside force in a line of interior linemen that traces to John Randle, Keith Millard, and Alan Page.
Cornerback: With Antoine Winfield gone, the Vikings once again need help at the position. Otherwise, they’ll potentially get torched in the pass-happy NFC North.