Free agency, the combine and the owners meetings are in the rear-view mirror and the draft is just a few days away. But it’s time to get back to football on the field. Here’s a quick look at the Minnesota Vikings as they open their offseason workout program Monday:
Biggest challenge facing head coach Mike Zimmer: Improving a porous offensive line was Zimmer's top priority this offseason, and the Vikings figure to spend much of the spring trying to figure out how they can better protect quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. New offensive line coach Tony Sparano should bring some much-needed fire to a group that Zimmer said didn't have enough toughness last year, and the Vikings have enough players in contract years that motivation shouldn't be hard to come by.
Player on the rise: Running back Jerick McKinnon looked like he was ready to become a multi-faceted weapon in the Vikings' offense at the end of last season, and as he heads into his third season it stands to reason the Vikings will try to carve out an even bigger role for him in their offense. McKinnon averaged 8.55 yards per touch in the final three weeks of the regular season, getting the ball on handoffs, jet sweeps and passes as a slot receiver.
Player who has the most to prove: There are a few candidates for this title, but wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson might top the list. Patterson said in February that he had been working with a route-running coach, as he seeks to be more than a kickoff returner in his fourth season, and admitted that if he doesn't establish himself as a receiver this year, it might not happen for him in Minnesota. The Vikings will have to make a decision on Patterson's fifth-year option in early May.
Surprise player to watch: If John Sullivan isn't ready to return from two back surgeries in time for a full workload in organized team activities, the Vikings could get a longer look at third-year center Zac Kerin, who has improved in two years on the practice squad. While Joe Berger is also back in 2016, the Vikings might need to think about their future in the middle of the offensive line. While evaluating offensive linemen is tough before the pads go on in training camp, spring could be a good time for the Vikings to give Kerin a little more work.
Position that should be addressed in draft: Wide receiver has been the popular pick for the Vikings, and there's little question the team could use a big target that Bridgewater can trust. That player wouldn't have to come with the 23rd overall pick -- though the Vikings have spent time scouting both Laquon Treadwell and Josh Doctson -- but a receiver with some size should come at some point in the first two days of the draft.