Part of my job in the post-season wrapup phase is to dig through all of the stat sheets and try to decipher some explanations for a 3-13 Vikings season. It’s kind of like trying to piece together a crime scene after a nuclear fallout – lots of missing pieces, lots of incomplete information, and lots of reasons for all of the chaos. The good news is that unlike a nuclear fallout, football fans and teams will be fine, because there’s always next season to fall back on.
Speaking of next season, since that’s the thing we have to look forward to, I dug through all of those 2011 stats and found an interesting little gem that affects 2012 a great deal. I wanted to confirm on paper what I was seeing with my eyes – namely, that the Vikings have VERY few playmaking options on offense. Sure enough, I found that after you account for WR/RB Percy Harvin’s 1,300 total yards from scrimmage, you have ZERO Viking receivers with 40 catches, 500 yards, or 4 TDs. Not zero wideouts that met ALL of those thresholds, but zero wideouts who met ANY of them.
The case is compelling, when you look at the numbers, that chief among all of the Vikings’ myriad needs is the need for a strong offensive playmaker. This need is even further magnified by Adrian Peterson’s injury concerns and the lengthy rehab he has ahead of him. Even if Peterson returns at full health (which is by no means a guarantee), QB Christian Ponder needs more weapons, and he needs them quickly. I know, I know – the popular argument is that you build teams from the inside out, and that skill position players aren’t always worth the premium draft picks because they can flame out so easily. To that point, I would suggest that almost every team on the rise in the NFL has premium pick (1st/2nd Round) players at the skill positions. Bengals? AJ Green & Andy Dalton. Texans? Andre Johnson. 49ers? Alex Smith, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis. We could go on and on, but the reality is that the Minnesota Vikings need to get their man this year, and that man should be Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon.
We’ll detail a plan for acquiring Blackmon in later articles, but for now, let me impress this little statline on you: 122 catches, 1522 yards, and 18 scores. All of that in 13 games. What’s more, you can’t coach size, and at 6-1 215 lbs. Blackmon has good if not elite size. He is used to catching the ball constantly, and he really has been able to succeed for huge numbers with multiple QBs at the helm. He’s what the Vikings need for 2012 and beyond – a bonafide receiving threat that can open up the offense, take the pressure off of Harvin and Peterson, and find the endzone a few times for a change.
Here’s to hoping that Minnesota management sees it the same way.
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