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They’re ushering in a new era of Minnesota Vikings football in 2014, as Leslie Frazier has been replaced with former Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. Now running the offense is Norv Tunner and in charge of the defense is George Edwards.
The team is bound to undergo a total overhaul. It seems doubtful the team’s future quarterback is on the roster, and while a stalwart on defense, pass rusher Jared Allen is set to hit free agency and probably will leave Minnesota. In addition, the rest of the defensive line — which in the past has been a strong point for the Vikings — needs to get younger.
Neither Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman, or Matt Cassel is a franchise quarterback, two of whom are first-round busts. Cassel may be brought back as a veteran backup or a holding piece until whichever rookie the team drafts is ready to start. The question is whether the team nabs that future starter with the No. 8 overall pick.
Zimmer was a part of the Bengals regime when they waited to draft Andy Dalton in the second round, so perhaps he’ll follow that mold. Should the team go after quarterback in the first, the decision will likely be between Blake Bortles and Derek Carr. Bortles led Central Florida to a Tostitos Fiesta Bowl victory upset over Baylor this past season and touts all the physical tools and size to an NFL quarterback. Carr, the younger brother of former No. 1 overall pick David Carr, led the FBS for 5,082 yards and 50 touchdowns in 2013.
Of course, there’s a chance Carr could slip into the second round when then it makes perfect sense for the Vikings to jump on him. But should they elect to wait, players like A.J. McCarron and Zach Mettenberger will be around come Round 3.
With Allen, Fred Evans, and Kevin Williams all heading toward free agency, the Vikings need to stock up on defensive linemen. Shariff Floyd is waiting in the wings to succeed Williams, but that leaves big voids at tackle and end. Since Zimmer has previously run a 4-3 with the Dallas Cowboys and a 3-4 in Cincy, it remains to be seen what type of linemen he’ll be drafting. But it does open the door for more versatile prospects.
Stephon Tuitt could be the perfect fit for Minnesota. Playing through injury last season, he led Notre Dame in sacks and tackles for loss, and has the ability to be a 3-4 end or a 3- or 5-technique. Or if Zimmer wants to add a standup outside rusher, perhaps Khalil Mack is the guy. The Jack Lambert Award winner rewrote the FBS record books with 75 tackles for loss and 16 forced fumbles in addition to 10.5 sacks, three picks and 100 tackles.
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