The Minnesota Vikings finished 2021 with an 8-9 record, missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season. The day after the team’s final game of the year, both head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman. To replace them, the team tapped Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to be the new general manager and Kevin O’Connell to be the new head coach. This Minnesota Vikings team needs a talent infusion to make it back to the playoffs in 2022.
Offense Looked Good in Minnesota
Despite finishing with a losing record and missing the playoffs, Minnesota sported one of the better offensive units in the league. The Vikings ranked 10th in both total yards (362.8) and passing yards (249.3). Minnesota ranked 12th in scoring (25.0 points per game) and 17th in rushing (113.5 yards per game). They finished 2021 with a minus-1 point differential and five of the team’s nine losses last season came by four points or fewer.
Kirk Cousins seemed to earn his contract extension by throwing for over 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns for the season year in a row. Dalvin Cook finished fifth in the NFL in rushing yards (1,159), his third-straight over 1,100 yards, despite missing four games. And Justin Jefferson emerged as a top-5 receiver in the league. Jefferson caught 108 passes (4th-most), totaling 1,616 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, both ranking top-six in the NFL.
Although Minnesota surrendered the fifth-fewest sacks last season (30), the Vikings offensive line ranked just 25th in pass block win rate (54 percent) and surrendered the fifth-highest pressure percentage (26.6). The Vikings offense was 19th in third-down conversion rate (36.4 percent), but ninth in red-zone percentage (62.3 percent).
Vikings’ Downfall Was Defense
The real problem in Minnesota remained the defense. Those failings ultimately cost Zimmer, a defensive-minded coach, his gig. The Vikings surrendered the ninth-most points last season (426) and ranked 26th in scoring defense (25.0 points per game). Minnesota allowed at least 27 points in 10 games, and they finished with a 3-7 record in those contests.
Minnesota’s defense ranked 30th in total yards allowed (383.6), 28th in passing yards allowed (252.9) and 26th in rushing yards allowed (130.7). Although they finished with the second-most sacks (51), the Vikings ranked 29th in pass rush win rate (34 percent). They were even worst against the run, ranking 31st in run stop win rate (27 percent). Minnesota allowed the fourth-highest rushing yards per attempt (4.7) last season.
The Vikings allowed the fifth-most passing yards total (4,300) and ninth-most passing touchdowns (29). Minnesota’s secondary ranked 25th in yards per attempt (7.5).
Vikings Draft Capital and Cap Space
The Vikings entered the 2022 offseason with a dire salary cap situation. Prior to the start of the new league year, Minnesota was a projected $15.5 million over the salary cap, which necessitated roster moves, including the extension for Cousins. While OverTheCap.com lists Minnesota with just over $2 million in space, it notes the team remains in the red in effective cap space.
Minnesota lost key free agents this week, as safety Xavier Woods signed with the Panthers and tight end Tyler Conklin went to New York. Linebacker Anthony Barr and cornerback Patrick Peterson are also free agents, as is defensive end Everson Griffen. The Vikings did add defensive tacker Harrison Phillips and linebacker Jordan Hicks in free agency.
For the 2022 NFL Draft, this Minnesota Vikings team needs to upgrade at every level of the defense. The Vikings currently hold eight selections and stand with the 11th-best draft value. Minnesota owns the No. 12 overall selection, as well as pick No. 46 in the second round and pick No. 77 in the third. On Day 3, the Vikings have pick 156 in the fifth round, picks 184, 191, and 192 in the sixth, and pick 250 in the seventh.
Minnesota Vikings Team Needs
This Minnesota Vikings team needs an infusion of talent, especially on the offensive side of the football. New GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah would be well served to address those needs early with this Vikings draft, especially since their offense remains an excellent unit.
Minnesota needs to completely revamp its secondary. And after years of selecting cornerbacks early in the draft, this Vikings draft could stand for another bite at that apple here. Minnesota’s defense surrendered the third-most yards on the outside (1,802). They finished in the bottom five in total yards and passing yards.
It’s unlikely that this draft’s top corner, LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr., remains on the board by the time the Vikings draft in the first round, but they should have a shot at some of the other top boundary corners like Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. and Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardner.
2. Edge Rusher
Even though Minnesota finished with the second-most sacks last season, the Vikings still need another consistent pass rush threat, especially if they part with Danielle Hunter. D.J. Wonnum registered eight sacks last year but has been far from impressive in his first two years. Minnesota had the third-worst pass rush win rate (34 percent).
The last time Minnesota used a first-round pick on a defensive end was 2005 with the selection of Erasmus James. The 2022 Big Board features three edge rushers in the Top-10 and seven in the Top-50. Michigan’s David Ojabo could be an intriguing option.
3. Interior Offensive Line
Although Minnesota has a solid guard in Ezra Cleveland, and there’s hope for Wyatt Davis, this Vikings draft could provide the team with an upgrade at center. Since Minnesota made him a first-round pick in 2019, Garrett Bradbury’s been a disappointment, particularly in pass protection.
Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum stands out as the top interior lineman in the 2022 NFL Draft. He’s an athletic and relentless interior blocker who would immediately upgrade the Vikings’ interior offensive line. Should Minnesota wait until Day 2 to address this need, Boston College’s Zion Johnson would be a potential option.
Other Minnesota Vikings team needs for 2022 include tight end, safety, and linebacker.