‘Superfreak’ and Vikings

The Randy Moss era in Min-nesota is complete; time for the reign of Napoleon to start.

Randy Moss is packing his bags, 90 career touchdowns and 9,000-plus receiving yards for a future in sunny Oakland, Calif. Although Moss takes the skills that earned him the nickname “Superfreak” with him, there is no reason to panic. In fact, there is reason for Vikings fans everywhere to get excited for the 2005-06 NFL season.

A trade reported Wednesday sent Moss to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for the seventh overall pick in the April draft, along with linebacker Napoleon Harris and an additional late-round pick. Fox Sports broadcaster Joe Buck and other Moss critics can say all they want about Randy’s antics on and off the field. Moss is a supercharged offensive weapon in an elite class of active NFL wide receivers such as Terrell Owens and Marvin Harrison. A 7-year veteran, Moss is nearing the 10,000-yard mark for career receiving yards, averaging well over 1,000 yards per season.

If you think the Vikings were robbed in the trade, you might have reason to believe so, as Harris only had 60 tackles as a Raider last season. But if Harris wore purple and gold last season, he would have ranked second among Vikings linebackers, which is a hard-to-swallow upgrade for a shipwrecked Vikings defense. Also Harris showcased his potential in 2003, totaling 109 tackles and forcing three fumbles as only a second-year player. Harris will join E.J. Henderson and Chris Claiborne to form a slightly above average linebacker package. Dontarrious Thomas showed promise last season as a rookie and should be a contributor in 2005 as well.

Vikings fans might find it hard to believe, but the remainder of the receiving corps is strong enough for Daunte Culpepper and company to blow up the scoreboard week after week. Nate Burleson broke out in 2004 with 1006 yards, and Minnesota running backs chipped in 105 catches for 1072 yards.

Minnesota could use the pick acquired from Oakland to bring in another talented receiver such as Mike Williams, or could continue to build a defense behind the talented young line anchored by Kevin Williams and Kenechi Udeze. The latter is the wiser move, as the Vikings have a greater need to upgrade their defense, and plenty of good receivers will be available in late rounds. Remember, Burleson was a third-round pick and Marcus Robinson was a fourth-round pick in 1997 for the Chicago Bears.

The secondary is where the Vikings defense has their issue. The Viking’s top cornerback Antoine Winfield missed three games last year and wasn’t 100 percent healthy in some of the games he did play. Winfield and at 5 feet 9 inches and 180 pounds, he lacks the size and strength to match up with many of the top receivers around the league. At 6 feet 1 inch and 202 pounds, Antrel Rolle of Miami is a logical pick for the Vikings. A bigger, stronger corner, Rolle can match up better with taller receivers and step up to defend the run. If Rolle has any downside, it is his tendency to overpursue and give up big plays.

The Vikings have a number of options to consider this off-season and have the potential to return this fall with a new and improved defense. There will be pressure on the front office to draft or sign playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, but the focus must remain on defense. So embrace Harris with open arms and open minds, and maintain a positive outlook on the upcoming season, because another Napoleon once said, “He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat.”

Mike Durkin welcomes comments at [email protected]