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What do the Vikings need the most in 2013?

By Brian Hansel

Rick Spielman and Leslie Frazier have been busy clearing the decks this week as they sail toward the 2013 season and beyond with their Minnesota Vikings.

Buoyed by the success of their 2012 season, the Vikings are positioning themselves for another trip to the playoffs by casting off starters like Percy Harvin and Antoine Winfield, signing Phil Loadholt and adding draft choices and salary cap money.

What would you be after if you were running the show? I would be looking at a couple of receivers right away. They needed one when Harvin was on the roster, so why not grab two?

Mixing some experience with youth seems like a good way to go. Once upon a time, the Vikes put veteran wideout Cris Carter and rookie Randy Moss on the same field, and they did exactly what this Minnesota team has to do: they scored a lot of points.

California’s Keenan Allen should be a no-brainer for the Vikes in the first round, if he is still available when the 23rd pick is made. Allen is the West Coast offense type the Vikes would like to give Christian Ponder as a target.

Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson and West Virginia’s Tavon Austin also projected as first rounders. The Vikings can skip Patterson, unless they trade up, because he will be off the board. Austin is a jitterbug with 4.3 speed, and he would be an exciting addition as a return man.

Three of the top receiver picks are expected to be USC’s Robert Woods, Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins and Louisiana Tech’s Quinton Patton. All three are similar in build to Allen. Woods looks like a great pick, if he is healthy. He caught 112 passes for the Trojans last season. All Hopkins did last year was catch 18 touchdown passes. Patton played for the nation’s most explosive offense, and is reputed to be a sort of contortionist with good hands.

No matter what route the Vikings go in beefing up their receiving corps, they have to find guys who Ponder can mesh with in game situations. Ponder can be horribly inaccurate with his passes.

While adding some top-flight receiver is definitely a must, the Vikings also need to address both sides of the line.

Defensive tackle Kevin Williams was an Oklahoma State star when the Vikings tabbed him with their No. 1 pick in 2003. Williams will be 33 when the 2013 regular season begins. His best years with the Vikes came when he was paired with massive Pat Williams. Running on the Vikes was not a good option for any team during those times. Williams is a six-time Pro Bowler and a five-time all pro selection, and he is not done playing football. But having a younger player ready to step in would be smart. It looks like defensive tackle is one area where the 2013 setup has some talent. There are four draft prospects projected as first rounders, and two more who may go first round.

The Vikings fielded an offensive line, which helped Adrian Peterson challenge Eric Dickerson for the NFL single-season rushing record last year. Sounds like they are set there, but drafting an offensive guard would not hurt. Charlie Johnson and Brandon Fusco were Minnesota’s starters at the guard spots last year, and keeping your offensive line together is smart, but so is grooming a talented backup.

I have wanted to see the Vikings go after another linebacker in the draft for a couple of years. They have a good one in former No. 1 pick Chad Greenway, but they cannot match a lot of NFL teams in this department. Green Bay has been making the playoffs consistently with two No. 1 picks, A.J. Hawk and Clay Matthews. With Seattle’s 25th pick in the first round, the Vikings can go hunting big game in the draft, and middle linebacker Arthur Brown of Kansas State is regarded as a top prospect.

Nailing down the right people in the draft paid off for the Vikings last year. They can help themselves even more with a smart draft in April. Frazier and his team obviously want to return to the playoffs, but if they hope to go deeper they have to have the talent.