Give the Minnesota Vikings some credit - they have had a beneficial season -- not a Super Bowl season, not a playoff season, not even a respectable season, but the kind of season that can really help a team.
What have Minnesota fans wanted for 51 years? That's right - a Super Bowl victory. They have tracked it like a Scud missile tracking a jet and they have been close, very close.
Last Saturday's 33-26 victory over Washington broke a six-game losing streak but that is about all it did. When you are angling for a top college draft choice, victories are the last thing you really want. With one week of the regular left to go, the Vikings are 3-12. Only Indianapolis and St. Louis are in better shape for the draft. The worst that the Vikes can do now, unless they insist on beating Chicago, is draft a blue chipper like USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil or LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne with the third pick in the draft.
If St. Louis takes Kalil - and there is a good chance they might - will the Vikings draft Claiborne or will they trade their first pick to someone lower in the draft in order to land a couple of quality players? They could work deals with Washington or Cleveland and still land themselves some excellent players.
One high draft choice in the first round is not going to fix everything that is wrong with the Vikings.
The quickest way to fix the Vikings is to invest in offensive players and it's a good bet that is the way they will go. You can cover a lot of defensive shortcomings by having a high-scoring offense -- just ask the New England Patriots or the New Orleans Saints. What is also important to remember is that the Vikes are designed to win now -- not five years from now.
Most fans knew from Day 1 this year that the Vikings were not going be a great football team in 2011. Some of us thought they could be a .500 club with luck. When the team started the season by taking the second half off in their first three games, it was apparent that an opportunity for real ignominy existed. If a club is not good enough to be a contender what is the point of being a so-so club year after year?
The Vikings have often looked like a kid playing "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" when it comes to the NFL draft. Despite having an offensive line and the defensive secondary are screaming for attention, the Vikes like going after high-profile skilled players in the first round. They could end up with a wide receiver like Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon or even Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.
The Vikings will be shuffling off for good after their New Year's Day finale with Chicago and the high stakes poker game that culminates on April 26 will begin.