Depending on the outcome of tonight's game at Lambeau Field, the Minnesota Vikings could find themselves caught betwixt and between--betwixt and between good teams and bad, rather than merely drifting aimlessly among the bad. For, with a victory over the Packers tonight, the Vikings would move from 14th place in the NFC to 10th place in the Conference. Though the leap would still leave the Vikings three games out of a playoff spot, that the teams ahead of the Vikings that will be competing for a playoff spot play many games against each other would at least keep hope alive in the Great White North.
Even should the Vikings fall to Green Bay tonight--the oddsmakers and Packer fans have set the odds at Packers -13--and should the Vikings subsequently fail to make the playoffs, the weakness inherent in the NFC for several years now gives the Vikings reason to believe that stabilization of the quarterback position and the addition of a few players could turn the team's fortunes.
Chief among the Vikings' weaknesses, in addition to offensive line, safety, and cornerback, is wide receiver. The Vikings' current leader in receptions is Percy Harvin, with thirty-one receptions. That's good for sixty-fifth in the NFL. The League leader, Wes Welker, has seventy-two receptions.
More glaring are the Vikings' deficiencies in receiving yards. The Vikings' leading receiver in yards gained is Michael Jenkins with 362 yards. That's good for seventy-first in the NFL. The League leader, Wes Welker, has 1006 receiving yards. That represents a gap of approximately seven outstanding receiving games between the Vikings' best receiver and the League's best.
As soft as the NFC and the NFL have been this year, two or three more victories and the Vikings could be drafting near the twentieth pick in the draft--only slightly ahead of the playoff teams. That means banking on next year's draft to fortify the team's weak spots might be more of a gamble than it seemed when the Vikings were rolling out Donovan McNabb to take a knee in the endzone.
All of which means that the Vikings ought at least to be investigating what their options are with respect to next year's draft. And now might be a good time to begin prospecting.
If the Vikings fall outside the top five in the draft, they might miss out on two of the draft's best receivers--Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State and Robert Woods of USC. That's not necessarily a bad thing, given that, were the Vikings in position to draft Blackmon or Woods and were the team to select either receiver, the team would be using yet another high draft pick on a wide-receiver. Failure would be unacceptable both to the fan base and team ownership.
A more certain route, though one that could cost the Vikings a high draft pick in next year's draft, would be to trade for a proven receiver. As it happens, there is a receiver currently in the NFL who fits the Vikings' needs. Better yet, that receiver plays for a team that the Vikings already know to be willing to part with premium talent for market to below market price.
The team is Kansas City. The player is Dwayne Bowe.
Bowe, in his fifth season out of LSU, has 41 receptions this season for 667 yards and four touchdowns. That, despite playing with a quarterback that appears competent to bench-worthy in most of his starts and without a legitimate running back on the roster. When paired last season with premium running back Jamaal Charles, out this year with an injury, Bowe hauled in 72 passes for 1172 yards and fifteen touchdowns. The Vikings' receivers combined this season likely will not touch those numbers. Imagine, however, what Bowe would do in a system employing a quarterback at least as competent as Matt Cassel, with a running back such as Adrian Peterson and a slot receiver such as Percy Harvin.
The Vikings almost certainly could have Bowe for a first-round pick in next year's draft. But there is reason to believe that they could obtain Bowe for far less, right now, and on terms most favorable to Minnesota. That's because Bowe becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and the receiver has already intimated that he is not interested in returning to a Kansas City team that Bowe believes failed to deal with him in good faith.
That could mean that the Vikings could swing a deal for Bowe for as little as a third-round pick and, perhaps, some cash. That would appease Kansas City's always frugal front office and net the team some return on a player that the team is unlikely to resign should he reach free agency. For a third-round pick in the middle of the draft board, that's not a bad move for Minnesota--presuming the Vikings can negotiate a pre-trade contract extension for Bowe.
Up Next: Addressing the Offensive Line.