Busy offseason could put Vikings over the top

As the NFL draft approaches, "SportsCenter" is putting every NFL team with a first-round pick "On the Clock," and Scouts Inc. will break down each team and look at what questions still need answering.

The Vikings appeared to have turned the corner in the second half of last season, winning six of their last nine games. Although they shot themselves in the foot in losing their last two games versus clubs they could have beaten, the Vikings have reason to feel good about the future. With a top-notch offensive line, '07 rookie of the year Adrian Peterson at running back and several solid additions on both sides of the ball, the Vikings are a team on the rise.

The NFC North is a tight division that is up for grabs. The Bears are only two seasons removed from appearing in the Super Bowl, the Lions clearly have the talent to make a run at the postseason and the Packers lost their Hall of Fame signal-caller. The Vikings have a good chance to win this division with improved play at key positions.

Key Additions

Minnesota's front office and coaching staff have been very active this offseason. Three additions on offense will help an already-potent rushing attack. The Vikings have one of the better running-back tandems in the league with Peterson and Chester Taylor, but the addition of Maurice Hicks solidifies the position. Fullback Thomas Tapeh has an excellent combination of size and athleticism to take over the starting duties. However, the biggest addition offensively is the speedy Bernard Berrian at wide receiver. This acquisition should give the Vikings' QBs a target who can stretch the field and prevent defenses from crowding the line of scrimmage.

Defensively, the most important acquisition is safety Madieu Williams. He is one of the more active safeties in the league and should bolster a weak spot. Plus, the additions of veteran safety Michael Boulware, linebacker Derrick Pope, cornerback Benny Sapp and defensive tackle Ellis Wyms provide valuable depth to a salty unit.

Key Losses

The Vikings lost several players on both sides of the ball, but only one regular starter in safety Dwight Smith. By releasing Smith and gaining Williams, Minnesota upgraded at safety. However, losing DT Spencer Johnson, S Michael Doss, S Tank Williams, DE Darrion Scott and LB Dontarrious Thomas could hurt the special teams and weaken depth.

Offensively, the subtraction of QB Kelly Holcomb (released), RB Mewelde Moore (Steelers) and FB Tony Richardson (Jets) shouldn't hurt.

Remaining Questions

The biggest question for Minnesota is how well third-year QB Tarvaris Jackson will perform in 2008. Who will the Vikings have in the wings to step in and give the offense consistency if Jackson doesn't show progress? Is the virtually untested Brooks Bollinger the quarterback who can step in, or will the Vikings acquire a proven veteran signal-caller through a trade or other means? Will the additions on defense shore up the weak areas and enable the Vikings to be one of the best teams in the league? Minnesota's ground attack is excellent, but can the addition of Berrian get the marginal passing game on track? The Vikings appear to have most of the pieces in place to make a run at a division title, but will their offseason activity pan out?

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.