In 2014, Mike Zimmer took over as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. He inherited a team full of promising-but-undeveloped youth, in a tough division. A rookie quarterback was ready to shine, alongside a troubled runninback, underperformin receivers, an overpaid tight end, and a patchwork offensive line. A defense that had once been so dominant with stars known round the nation would have to rely on unknown and inexperienced youngsters.
2014 was not a good year for the Vikings. They started off with three losses, before finally defeating a team (their then-undefeated rival, the Green Bay Packers). The rest of the season was plagued with injury. Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater finished with 15 starts, going 5-10, passing for 2649 yards, 15TD, and 12INT. All-Pro back Adrian Peterson missed the first month of the season with injury, and sat out a few more weeks, finishing with 170 carries for 922 yards (5.4 avg), and only 4 TDs, the first time in his career that he failed to reach 10 or more touchdowns. WR Wes Welker, an off-season pick-up, finished with 73 grabs for 800 yards and 5 scores. Tight end Kyle Rudolph finished with 50 grabs for 379 yards and 4TDs. Mike Wallace added 65 for 837 and 3TDs, Cordarrelle Patterson 18-119-1, Charles Johnson 66-592-2, and Stefon Diggs 1-11-0. The line struggled. Matt Kalil allowed 13 sacks, playing in 14 games. His reserve, TJ Clemmings, a rookie, allowed 4 sacks in 4 games. Rookie guards La'El Collins and David Yankey duked it out for the left guard spot; Yankey allowed 6 sacks in 16 games, while Yankey managed just 5 total downs. Center John Sullivan allowed just one sack, as did right guard Brandon Fusco. Right Tackle Phil Loadholt allowed 9 sacks. Defensively, acquired end Vinny Curry had 10 sacks. The rest of the defense missed too much time for any notable stats.
The 2015 off-season brought change to the Vikings. They hammered free agency, grabbing 1st year running backs David Cobb (Titans) and Zach Zenner (Lions), retrieved fullback Jerome Felton from the Bills, and made a splash at receiver, signing Larry Fitzgerald and Vincent Jackson as starters. Two tight ends from free agency made the final roster, Jermaine Gresham and Virgil Green. Chris Myers was brought in to replace Joe Berger. At defensive end, Ryan Davis, who made 10 sacks in 2014, was signed, as was 1st year lineman Leonard Williams. The Vikings made a 1-year "wishful" offer to free agent defensive tackle Nick Fairley, and Fairley surprisingly accepted it. Free safeties Charles Woodson and Gerod Holliman were brought in as depth for All-Pro Harrison Smith, who enterred the last year of his rookie deal. Antrel Rolle was signed as insurace at strong safety, and punter Jon Ryan was brought in to replace Jeff Locke.
The draft was also exciting. Adrian Peterson, troubled and wanting out, was traded in a risky move to the Indianapolis Colts for WR Philip Dorsett and a 4th round pick. TE Kyle Rudolph was dumped to the Falcons for picks. Everson Griffen was sent away for picks, as was Lance Briggs. Then, with 9 possible draft selections, the Vikings traded down from the 8th overall selection into 2016's draft.
Round Pick Pos Name College
2 25 (57) G Chad Fields Wisconsin
3 8 (72) OT Lary Guy Memphis
4 8 (104) RB Mike France Wisconsin
7 8 (200) FB Corey Redmon Wisconsin
7 32 (224) FS Marquiste Chapman Delaware
The Vikings turned their 9 selections into 5 slections, including Mr. Irrelevant (pick acquired from the Packers along with a 2016 7th for a 2015 5th) Marquiste Chapman, a project safety out of Delaware. Chad Fields, a 1st-team All-Big Ten player as a junior, was a 1st-round talent to the Vikings, and they couldn't believe it when he fell to them at 57. 15 picks later, they grabbed Lary Guy, a huge right tackle out of Memphis. Guy, a 20 year old redshirt sophomore who entered college a year early, was a 2nd-team AAC selection in '14. The Vikings plan on developing him to either take over for Loadholt at tackle, or kick inside to guard if Fields doesn't work out. Mike France is an athletic runner, with a running style very similar to Ahman Green. France put up big numbers behind Field and the rest of the Wisconsin line, but only received Honorable Mention Big Ten honors during his redshirt senior year. Completing the trifecta of Wisconsin selections was Corey Redmon, a big, receiving fullback. Redmon had to split time with a run-blocking specialist, Kasey Lucas (who spent time in Vikings camp as an undrafted free agent), at Wisconsin, so it was a schock to many that he was even drafted. The Vikings said that Redmon offered great skills as a potential developmental #2 tight end, and converted him to the position, though he's slightly undersized.