- Ben Goessling, ESPN Staff Writer
Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.
So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.
There is little question who the Vikings’ MVP is: It’s Adrian Peterson, who won league MVP honors last year and who has been the focal point of the team’s offense since he was drafted in 2007. Peterson is a dominant running back on a team that hasn’t been able to give defenses much else to think about, and he’s managed to be the best in the league anyway.
Lately, however, the idea of the Vikings losing Peterson has been more than a nebulous concept. The running back had surgery for the third consecutive offseason this week, and will be 29 in March. He’s wondered aloud on several occasions about the possibility of playing for another team if the Vikings can’t compete for a championship, and he said after the team hired Mike Zimmer that he’s watching the Vikings’ other moves closely.
Toby Gerhart has proven himself to be a reliable backup for Peterson, but he too could be gone soon; Gerhart will hit free agency in March, so the Vikings might need to draft a young running back who can spell Peterson from time to time.
A better strategy -- and probably a more important one -- is getting the Vikings’ passing game to a point where they’re not relying solely on Peterson. The running back himself has said that needs to happen, and the Vikings helped by signing Greg Jennings and drafting Cordarrelle Patterson before last season. They’ll likely add a young quarterback to their roster this spring, either through the draft or a trade. They could also bring Matt Cassel back, but the Vikings need long-term stability, not a short-term fix, if they’re going to get their offense to a point where it’s not tethered to Peterson.
Having the No. 8 pick in the draft could give the Vikings a chance to address their quarterback problem and try to reduce their reliance on Peterson that way.