Need much more out of the lackluster 2016 rookies who showed little to no promise
The Minnesota Vikings went into the 2017 NFL Draft with front office jobs on the line. If 2016 happens again, there will be plenty of heads on the chopping block. Name the Vikings most impactful rookie in last season’s class…you literally can’t. Laquon Treadwell, for whatever reason, couldn’t get on the field and when he did, he appeared to be a shell of his college self. Mackensie Alexander never earned Zimmer’s trust to play important snaps. He looked overmatched as well. Alexander couldn’t mentally put it together. Willie Beavers was stashed on the practice squad in 2016 and was recently part of the cut to 53 players last weekend, missing the team for 2017.
Jayron Kearse is massive for a safety, but lacks the range to cover the middle and outsides. Kentrell Bothers? Meh. The list goes on and on. Shockingly, UTSA’s David Morgan has looked the most competent from this group. His rugged blocking intangibles transferred over nicely as he took advantage of TE2 snaps. Almost forgot! Moritz Boehringer was as raw as they come and got nowhere near a 53-man roster spot, in 2017. Rick Spielman will have a hard time justifying that questionable decision.
A much needed step in the right direction
Fast forward to the 2017 draft class. I see shades of brilliance and longevity with this group. Minnesota missed out on their first-round selection after trading it for QB Sam Bradford (good decision) last September. All is good though; somehow Dalvin Cook fell to the second round and Spielman jumped on the chance to get him, trading up 7 spots in the 2nd round. Letting AP walk was one of the smartest decisions this current regime has done. It takes balls to cut ties with a legend like Peterson. Yes, AP made the decision a lot easier on the Vikings brass, when he demanded a silly amount of money for an aging, limited running back. I applaud their decision to move on and usher in the next wave of talent.
I don’t feel like Cook has Adrian’s legacy to live up to. He’s a completely different back that compliments both Bradford and Teddy’s skill-sets. In other words, he can be effective out of the shotgun. Cook will also have newly acquired veteran Latavius Murray to lighten the backfield workload this fall. Dalvin really has no holes in his game. He’s a threat to catch the ball unlike anything the Vikings had last year. He’s not afraid to lay the wood on pick-up blocks in play action, and standard QB protection. His vision and speed will offer a welcomed change of pace to Murray’s pounding style. I believe Dalvin Cook is a safe bet to stick and develop as the next Vikings star RB.
Third-round selection, Pat Elflein, was probably my favorite pick overall. It’s well documented that the Vikings have repeatedly swung and missed in terms of putting together a competitive o-line. Their failure to draft talent there has forced them to overpay average, to below average, linemen in the free agent market. That’s not sustainable in today’s NFL. The trend ends with Pat Elflein. He’s a smart, physical interior lineman who recently was named starting center. I have a good feeling about this pick. He’ll be around awhile and hopefully contribute at a high level from day 1.
Minnesota had two fourth-round picks and it appears they nailed both. First off, Iowa’s very own Jaleel Johnson starred in all four preseason games. He’s the kind of athlete you don’t usually see last until the forth round. Johnson’s closing speed really surprises me. His quickness and gap penetration should put incumbent starter Tom Johnson on notice. His counterpart Jaleel is taking that job awfully soon. He put a lot of Twitter peeps on notice too.
— Vikings FA (@VikingsFA_) August 17, 2017
— charles mcdonald (@FourVerts) August 22, 2017
Jaleel Johnson, o futuro da nossa defesa !!! pic.twitter.com/akuSZdKPV8
— Skol Vikings Brasil (@Vikings_Brazil) August 28, 2017
Please start Jaleel Johnson. pic.twitter.com/S044THN0eW
— J.R. (@JReidDraftScout) September 1, 2017
— Footballzone (@UReady4Football) September 1, 2017
The second forth-round pick I initially didn’t care for. I associated Ben Gedeon as one of those linebackers who can’t play third downs or cover routes, particularly from the slot like Eric Kendricks can do so efficiently. Like Jaleel Johnson, Gedeon had a big preseason. He looked like he belonged. It looks like I may have been wrong about his foot speed too. He looks to have a lot of range and sharp instincts, which are rare for rookies. Ben was recently named starting outside linebacker next to Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr.
Late Round Gems?
The next four names are extremely important for this reason in particular: successful teams hit on late round picks and undrafted guys all the time. Shit, half of the Seahawks roster is undrafted. The Patriots pull random guys out of their magical hat every week, that make an impact. Good teams have deep rosters with plenty of quality players, on affordable contracts. Rodney Adams, Danny Isidora, Stacey Coley, and undrafted stud Tashaun Bower all fit the mold as impactful late round/undrafted guys who could stick around awhile.
I’m less confident about Adams as I am with Coley, but both shined individually throughout the preseason. Adams is primarily a return specialist. Coley has a lot of Stefon Diggs-like qualities to him. I think he has the greatest chance, as a receiver, to make an impact right away. This receiving corps appears to be above average at best again. Isadora is a project at this point, but I do expect him to push Berger a little bit in year one. That would certainly be ideal.
I came away most impressed with Tashaun Bower. I had no idea who he was and just by looking at him, nothing physically stood out. Maybe it was the fact that he wore #64 and had long, baggy sleeves. I don’t know. His burst on the outside is remarkable. Bower forced plenty of holding penalties and lived in the opponent’s backfield. Again, thank you LSU for giving us another under-the-radar defensive end, who’s just now learning how to play the position, like Danielle Hunter once did two years ago.
Not all these guys will be stars. That’s not the point of the draft. The goal is to fill out the roster with guys who will compete and stick around. This 2017 class is very reminiscent to that outstanding 2015 class that got the Vikes back into the playoff picture. I feel strongly about this specific group, to push veterans and maybe even take jobs. Let’s all hope what we see is what we’ll get from these impressive rookies.
Dane Mosher @DaneMosher7
Minnesota Sports Fan @RealMNSportsFan