Entering the 2007 NFL draft, the Minnesota Vikings had the makings of a team poised to challenge for last place in the four-team NFC North. Having lost its defensive coordinator of last year, without a bona fide starting quarterback, and absent any talent at wide-receiver, the Vikings appeared destined for a repeat of their miserable 2006 season, or worse.
Then came the draft. Most draft experts thought they knew at least two things about this year's draft. One was that every team in the NFC North would at least keep pace with the Vikings on draft day. The other was that the Vikings would wait until round two to address their offensive needs. They were wrong on both accounts.
That Minnesota selected Adrian Peterson with the number seven pick in the draft was as much a function of which players were selected before Peterson as it was a function of the Vikings' infatuation with the Oklahoma back. By most accounts, the Vikings had Peterson ranked third or fourth overall in the draft, with Calvin Johnson, LaRon Landry, and, possibly, Gaines Adams, ranked higher on the team's big board. When Peterson fell to seven, the Vikings followed through with their pledge to take the player that they most highly ranked.
The selection of Peterson, if healthy, improves the Vikings' offense in a manner that adding a player like Brady Quinn probably could not have done in the short term. While Quinn would have taken time to grow into his role, if ever that happened, Peterson should be counted on to contribute immediately and significantly.
With Peterson in the backfield, teams will be less prone to blitzing which should mean fewer defenders in the box and less pressure on the weak right side of the offensive line. And that should, more often, give the Vikings time to find the receiver, albeit one yard shy of the sticks.
The Vikings likely will continue to struggle in key areas this season, but having a player the caliber of Adrian Peterson touching the ball 25-30 times a game should greatly reduce the pressure up front. And in two-point ball games, the type of which the Vikings are likely to endure against all but the top teams in the league in 2007, that could make the difference between a Childress-like season of 2006 and a Tice-like season of 2005.
Up Next: Who Failed to Keep Pace in the NFC North. Plus, some reasonably objective views of the Vikings' draft.