With the Adrian Peterson saga hanging over the organization, it’s almost been difficult to really focus on the Minnesota Vikings for the past year or so.

But looking back, a 7-9 season in 2014 in the absence of a Pro Bowl running back and with an offense built largely on young players was actually kind of promising.

The Vikings are still a mediocre team playing in a pretty tough division. But even if the next couple of years are unlikely to include much in the way of postseason success, there’s a lot for Minnesota fans to be excited about regarding the future. And this past offseason only made that clearer.

Here’s a look at how the Vikings are already improving on their young core.

Big Names Highlighted the Offseason

The biggest thing that happened in Minnesota this offseason — in fact, possibly the biggest thing that happened anywhere in the NFL — is that Adrian Peterson has been brought back into the Vikings fold.

Just about everyone thought at one point or another last season that Peterson would have to be let go in the midst of turmoil following the infamous incident in which the star running back wound up in trouble for beating his son.

And yet, he wasn’t released, and no trade was made. The Vikings are almost certainly heading into the 2015 season armed once more with the most talented running back in football.

That’s a big deal for the ground game, but also for developing quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who showed a great deal of promise toward the end of his rookie campaign.

The ability to develop a steady running attack, as opposed to relying on spot starters Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon (both of whom will still support Peterson) should help to loosen Bridgewater up. But that’s not the only help the young quarterback got this offseason.

The Vikings also roped in wide receiver Mike Wallace, who should instantly be the team’s biggest downfield threat. Wallace, along with youngsters Charles Johnson and Cordarrelle Patterson and tight end Kyle Rudolph, gives Minnesota a significantly improved receiving corps.

Beyond these two acquisitions, the bulk of the free agency period consisted of re-signing a few regular players and bringing in some supporting bodies. But the Vikings also picked up some very interesting names in the draft.

The Vikings showed a lot of faith in their offense when the NFL Draft rolled around, and why wouldn’t they? With Peterson back in the fold, the receiving corps boosted, the O-line solid, and Bridgewater looking like a long-term starter, this team should be able to move the ball and put up points.

With real improvement on defense, they might just threaten for a playoff berth, even with the Packers and Lions both likely boasting contending rosters.

Here are some of the big name defensive rookies the Vikings picked up in the draft.

Trae Waynes (CB – Michigan State) – Waynes is a speedy corner who should grow into Minnesota’s man coverage schemes. He’s not viewed as a sure thing, but he’s capable of grabbing a starting job, and when he learns to move a bit more strategically he could become a very effective CB.

Eric Kendricks (ILB – UCLA) – Seen by most analysts as possibly the best ILB in the 2015 draft, Kendricks is going to start sooner rather than later, and should help to improve the Vikings’ weak rush defense.

Danielle Hunter (DE – LSU) – Hunter is unlikely to produce the instant impact of Waynes or Kendricks, but could wind up on the line at some point in 2015. He plays hard, and at 6’5’’ and just over 250 lbs, he’s got an NFL-ready body.

Additional draft picks were mostly used for depth at various positions, but these are the names that are most likely to factor in this coming season.

If Cordarrelle Patterson’s development continues to stall out as it did in 2014, we could see late fifth-round pick Stefon Diggs out of Maryland get some looks in the passing game, but he’ll probably need a little more time.

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As stated previously, expecting too much of this Vikings team would be a mistake. Particularly on offense, they’re still a very young unit. But they’re building a terrific foundation in Minnesota, and this offseason was further evidence of it.

By Joe Messineo


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