For as much as we in the fantasy football generation focus on the glitzy positions, football still comes down to blocking and tackling. Lose in the trenches, and you'll lose your season.
The Minnesota Vikings re-learned that lesson in 2016.
- Silver: Raiders leave The Town (again)
- Landing spots for Darrelle Revis
- Scout's Notebook: Cam must evolve as QB
- Free Agency's biggest unanswered storylines
- Harrison: All-Under-25 Team
- Brandt: Best second-round picks since '12
- MJD: Ranking the '17 RB prospects
- Schein: Each division's favorite, top contender
- Scouting Report/team fits: Malik Hooker
On paper, Mike Zimmer's team looked poised to contend for an NFC championship, which was reason trading a first-round pick for Sam Bradford made some sense in September.
Then games started. A porous offensive line sprung more leaks with injuries piling up. Soon, Bradford was drowned by pass rushers from every angle. Unable to run block or pass protect, the Vikings offense turned into a maddening display of short dump offs.
"Well, I think obviously, we have to address the offensive line," Spielman said. "But I think we have a lot of young pieces in place. We built a very strong nucleus and they are all right now at the prime of their career, we just have to address some of the needs, like every other team does."
"We had planned going into the season with Matt Kalil, Alex Boone, Joe Berger at center, and Mike Harris -- who didn't play for us (this year due to injury) -- at right guard and Andre Smith," he said. "We thought we were going to have a pretty good offensive line. No excuses but we lost a lot of those guys and we lost them very early in the season. So, it's difficult to plug offensive linemen in, especially when you are getting down into your third and fourth offensive linemen. But we have to do a better job making sure that we have the quality depth not only at that position but every position."
None of the five offensive linemen Spielman mentioned above played 16 games in 2016. Harris went on NFI in July and did not play a down. Kalil went on IR with a hip injury after Week 2. Andre Smith appeared in four games. Berger and Boone each missed two games at points throughout the season.
With a cap situation in the bottom 20 percent in the NFL, fixing the offensive line through free agency would be tricky. The lack of a first-round pick exacerbates the predicament.
Minnesota's money problems are why despite Spielman again insisting he wants Adrian Peterson to remain a Viking, it won't be for $18 million, if at all. Kalil is set to be a free agent, and after several terrible, injury-riddled seasons both sides might be ready for the former first-round pick to move on.
It's clear the offensive line will be Spielman's priority in the coming months. Stating the obvious and fixing the problem are two very different tasks.