1. Besides their hole at QB, what positions should the Vikes look to improve in the draft and free agency?
Nate Leer: O line, PLEASE! The player I love is G Will Hernandez but he may not even make it to the Vikes in the 1st round, much less in round 2 where Hernandez was projected before dominating the COmbine and Senior Bowl week. Getting an interior O lineman and edge rusher in the first 2 rounds would be key. After that they need to add upside D players, maybe a WR or TE and a RB late. In free agency, I would love to see them make a push for T Cameron Fleming from the Patriots. That likely in not possible if they dump a bunch of money on the QB position, namely Kirk Cousins. I would rather see this team add 2 good OL players including one in free agency and look for value among the available QBs than overpay a guy and not address the OL. If the Vikes can add a good veteran OT they can move RT Mike Remmers permanently to LG. Add another young G/C and a unit that became an issue again late last year would become a strength. Great O line depth seemed to work for Philly!
Kras: As Nate Leer, points out there is always a need at OL. Even when you think you have enough O lineman, it won’t hurt to add 1 or 2 more. I personally would like to see them add some additional depth at LB or DB. The last 6 quarters of football the Vikes played exposed both of these areas. They really struggled against the run/pass option of the Eagles. An upgrade over S Andrew Sendejo would help. The Vikes also could use some help at LB. Depending how the draft plays out, they could look at Vander Esch, or Darius Leonard in round 2 or 3. If they choose to add through free agency, I think they should pursue LB Tahir Whitehead to help shore up the LB core. Whitehead has arguably been the Lions best LB over the past 2 seasons but with a new coaching staff in town there are no guarantees they bring him back. Whitehead would add nice depth as well as bring knowledge of the division with him.
2. Which Twins player(s) need to have a big year for this team to get back to or beyond where they did that last season?
Nate Leer: It is likely that several players need to have big years including 3B Miguel Sano, closer Fernando Rodney and CF Byron Buxton. However, the most important player, given how this team is constructed, is SP Jose Berrios. If he can emerge as something close to a true #1, this team will have a shot at competing with Cleveland for the division crown. Last year Ervin Santana pitched like an ace early in the year and it allowed the other SPs to slot in behind him. I think that Santana, while still very good, is unlikely to repeat that type of sensational performance especially since he will be getting a late start due to injury. Berrios taking another big step forward would make the Twins into a contender this year and into the foreseeable future.
Kras: I would agree with Nate Leer that SP Jose Berrios emerging this season would be huge for this team. We can’t count on Santana being as good as he was at the beginning of last season. It would be great if he was but that’s not what the bulk of his career has shown us. Another player that I feel needs to have a big season is CF Byron Buxton. I would like to see him get his swing figured out before July. That would go a long way toward this team winning games in April, May, and June. It would also help greatly if new SP acquisition Jake Odorizzi can come in and find some success. The Twins will have the best starting rotation that they have had in years and with that they should be able to remain a .500 or better team.
3. Have the Wild done enough lately to get you to believe they have a chance to make a Cup run?
Kras: The Wild have been a sneaky productive team since the turn of the calendar to 2018. They haven’t been great in any one area but they have done enough from a team perspective to get points and win games. Despite the lack of production from some of the high dollar players, they are getting great value from Jason Zucker and Eric Staal who have carried the O the past few weeks. The problem there is they are the only line that has been productive as of late. Having only 1 line that is scoring is not going to cut it in the postseason. That and the marginal goalie play have me believing that the Wild are not going to be long for playoffs. They may make it past the first round but I don’t see it going much further than that.
1. After his performance at the NFL Combine, should RB Saquon Barkley be the #1 pick?
Nate Leer: Barkley blew up the combine by running a 4.41 40 yard dash, doing 29 reps on bench press and posting a 41” vertical. At 6’ 233 lbs. with all the skills, Barkley is as good of a RB prospect as we have seen at least since Adrian Peterson. All that said, I don’t think the Browns should take him#1. If I was Browns management, I would take fellow Combine stud DE Bradley Chubb #1, the best QB available #4 and a RB with one of their early 2nd round picks. Cleveland has 6 picks in the first 65 overall so the only way they can mess this up is to reach for need. Any team would be lucky to have Barkley but there will be very good RBs available later in the draft as well. Cleveland should fill the tougher positions early, like QB and edge rusher.
Kras: I definitely think he could be considered worthy of the #1 overall pick but I don’t know if that’s what the Browns need. Assuming the Browns don’t take Barkley with the #1 pick, he might not be there when they pick again at #4 overall. Barkley would be a good fit in the Indianapolis backfield if the Browns don’t want him. Barkley is a fantastic looking prospect and his combine numbers confirmed what we all thought, he’s legit. At 233 lbs. he will be able to run through defenders and his 4.41 speed will help him run away from others. He should be a fun player to watch and will be a great addition to which ever backfield he ends up in.
2. Which MLB team could best exploit the unprecedented slow free agent market this spring?
Kras: To me the teams that should best be able to benefit are the teams that were wild card type teams or teams that just missed out. With all the talent still available on the market, I think those teams will have the best chance to make something happen. Being this far along into spring training, guys that aren’t signed yet will likely not be ready for the season openers. If they can’t be of service for the entire year that, to me, only brings their value down. If free agent players start to get the itch to be in the field, they will start to look at less money. Fringe teams like the Twins, Brewers, and Cardinals should be trying to make the most of this market. I would doubt if we see something like this again. I also would like to acknowledge the fact that there is a highly touted 2019 class of free agent talent that some teams are surely trying to save money for. It has turned into a very unique situation.
Nate Leer: Kras makes an excellent argument for those teams that were close or just in the playoffs last year. If the Twins or Brewers were able to add SP Jake Arrieta without breaking the bank, they certainly would vault into the top 5 or so teams in their respective league. I think though that a team like the Phillies and/or the Orioles could swoop in and get 1 or even 2 impact players. Neither of those teams are expected to compete but they are from medium size markets. If either is willing to ante up in the short term, they could grab a couple SPs without committing lots of money too far into the future. Put Arrieta and SP Lance Lynn on either of those teams and they could be right back in contention.
3. Are the Seattle Seahawks doing the right thing by breaking up the Legion of Doom?
Kras: I think this is the right move by the Seahawk. The Legion of Boom was good in their prime but we are a couple years past that at this point. DL Michael Bennett is 32 years old and a 9 year NFL vet who still puts up okay numbers last season but finished tied for 25th in sacks at 8.5. Not an overwhelming number when you look at all the DEs that finished ahead of him. CB Richard Sherman is coming up on 30 years old and that would scare me a bit if I were the Seahawks. Sherman has never been blazing fast so if he loses a step it could get ugly quick. There are concerns about S Kam Chancellor and his neck injury and how or if he will rebound from that. I think it is a tough decision for management to move star players but I also believe it is the right decision. Holding on to aging stars that won’t live up to their contracts only hurts the long term outlook of the team. Good for them to start the rebuild after a couple mediocre years.
Nate Leer: I pretty much agree with Kras. The Patriots have been the model franchise in the NFL and they go by the credo that it is better to get rid of a guy one year to early than one year too late. Sherman definitely appears to be done and Bennett may be as well. They also got rid of a of CB Jeremy Lane and other vets including FS Earl Thomas, DE CLiff Avril and TE Jimmy Graham are rumored to be on the way out. None of these players are difference makers at this point in their careers and recouping a few picks while repurposing money for extensions and signings makes sense. We will see if the Seahawks can build another championship contender while paying QB Russell Wilson or if they will languish in mediocrity like many other teams with high priced QBs.