8 Minnesota Vikings Whose Stock Is on the Rise Heading into the OTAs
For the Minnesota Vikings, the 2012 season holds plenty of promise. After finishing at the bottom of the NFC North the past two seasons, there is plenty of excitement surrounding the Vikings' draft picks.
When the Vikings open the season against the Jacksonville Jaguars on September 9th at Mall of America Field, there could be as many as four rookies in the starting lineup.
This could be either a testament that general manager Rick Spielman and the Vikings did a great job drafting talent that can step in right away or an indictment that the talent from last season was terrible.
I suggest it is a little of both.
It was certainly a lack of depth that hurt the Vikings defensive secondary, resulting in giving up more touchdowns passes than any other team in the NFL. The result of a 3-13 record, along with some shrewd dealing by Spielman, yielded two first-round draft picks expected to make an immediate impact.
After that, the Vikings drafted wide receivers Jarius Wright and Greg Childs in the fourth round from Arkansas, and selected Georgia kicker Blair Walsh in the sixth round, prompting the release of Ryan Longwell.
Spielman also addressed the Vikings' needs through free-agent signings. He added cornerbacks Zack Bowman and Chris Carr to the roster that currently has 17 defensive backs. The strategy seems to be to throw as many players into the mix as possible and see who rises to the top.
If it does nothing else, it serves as a wake-up call to those cornerbacks and safeties returning from last season, letting them know that they will have to earn their positions on the roster.
There is sure to be plenty of training-camp battles as the Vikings work to whittle down the roster to 53 players by September.
So far, the assessment of players has been limited to the rookie and free-agent minicamp. Things will start getting really interesting as the Vikings open their OTAs this week.
The Vikings will be looking for the right combination of players to upgrade the offensive line, the receiving corps, the defensive backfield and the special teams.
Here are eight players whose stock right now appears to be sky high.
Cornerback Chris Cook
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Chris Cook, the Vikings' second-round pick in the 2010 draft, has yet to demonstrate the potential we keep hearing about from the Vikings.
Injuries and off-the-field issues have limited him to only six games in each of his first two seasons.
Cook is looking for a new start and is hoping a change to No. 20 on his back will help.
According to a tweet from Tom Pelissero, the Vikings believe Cook deserves another chance.
This could be Cook's last chance as the Vikings look to upgrade the worst position on the field in 2011.
Wide Recevier Jerome Simpson
There is plenty of excitement with the signing of former Bengals wide receiver Jerome Simpson.
Simpson will open the season serving a three-game suspension after being found with six pounds of marijuana in his home in Covington, Kentucky.
The Bengals' third-leading receiver last season, with 50 receptions for 725 yards and four touchdowns, Simpson's numbers were second only to Percy Harvin's for the Vikings.
Harvin led the Vikings with 87 catches for 967 yards and six touchdowns—no other Viking had more than 468 yards receiving.
Signed to a one-year contract, Simpson is out to prove he is worth a long-term deal.
Tight End Kyle Rudolph
Despite the signing of former Seattle tight end John Carlson, Kyle Rudolph should be considered the Vikings' top tight end.
In his rookie season, Rudolph caught 26 passes and three touchdowns in eight starts.
That's as many touchdowns as Visanthe Shiancoe had in 14 starts for the Vikings.
Rudolph is a huge target at 6'6" with the ability to get downfield and make some plays for the Vikings.
The addition of Carlson, who missed all of last season due to a shoulder injury suffered last August, will give the Vikings two very good pass-catching tight ends.
Running Back Adrian Peterson
When Adrian Peterson injured his left knee against the Redskins in Week 16 many people thought he would be out for a good portion of the 2012 season. After all an injury that devastating takes at least a year to rehabilitate.
Peterson has lofty goals—he plans to be ready for the opening of the 2012 season.
I wouldn't doubt this man for one second.
There's a reason why Peterson is considered the best running back in the NFL, and it's because of his work ethic.
Peterson out-sprinted his teammates during workouts at the Vikings' training facility in April, only one month after starting dry-land running to rehabilitate the knee.
While Peterson indicates that he is only 50-50 to open training camp, don't be surprised if he opens the season on the active roster and even carries the ball against the Jaguars.
Defensive End Everson Griffen
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Everson Griffen finished last season fourth on the Vikings with four sacks.
He added a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
He did it backing up one of the Vikings' strengths—defensive end.
The Vikings have been trying to find a position for Griffen that allows them to take advantage of his athleticism and keep him on the field more often.
They experimented with him at linebacker, and there was even some speculation that the Vikings might move to a 3-4 defense to maximize his contribution.
With Jared Allen and Brian Robison entrenched as the starting defensive ends for the Vikings, Griffen will be the main backup.
If he excels in the OTAs and exhibition season, there's always the possibility the Vikings could end up trading him to address other needs or to acquire draft picks for the 2012 draft.
Wide Receiver Greg Childs
Fourth-round draft pick Greg Childs has the potential to be the deep threat the Vikings need on the outside at wide receiver.
At 6'3" and 217 pounds, he has the size the Vikings need in a big-time receiver.
Childs led the Razorbacks in receptions and touchdowns in his sophomore season with Ryan Mallet as his quarterback.
A torn patellar tendon suffered his junior year affected his production his senior season.
In a report from 1500ESPN, he's coming to the OTAs with a chip on his shoulder, ready to prove that the talk of him being a Day 1 draft pick early in his collegiate career was warranted.
Safety Harrison Smith
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The Vikings moved up from their third pick in the second round to the 29th in the first to make sure they had the chance to draft Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith.
Smith has pretty much been penciled in to be a starter when the season opens in September.
According to a report in Rotoworld.com, Smith was the best pure zone free safety in the draft.
The Vikings are extremely high on Smith, having assigned No. 22 to the rookie.
Paul Krause, who played 12 seasons in Minnesota, wore the same number for the Vikings and is the franchise leader with 53 interceptions. He also is the NFL career leader with 81 interceptions over 16 seasons.
Left Tackle Matt Kalil
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Everyone in the world knew going into the 2012 NFL draft that the Vikings were going to select USC left tackle Matt Kalil with the third pick.
Still, that didn't stop the Cleveland Browns from making a trade, swapping the third and fourth picks to ensure they got to draft Alabama running back Trent Richardson.
It cost them their fourth-, fifth- and seventh-round picks in this year's draft.
According to WalterFootball.com, Kalil was not only the top tackle in the draft but was also the top non-quarterback. He immediately moves into the starting offense and is projected to be a cornerstone of the Vikings offensive line for the next 10 years.
Kalil's stock could not be any higher heading into the OTAs. The downside is that it could be too high, making it extremely difficult for him to meet expectations.
Here's hoping he's the next Randall McDaniel.
The Vikings selected McDaniel with their first pick of the 1988 draft. He promptly started at guard for the Vikings, missing only two games over a 14-year career that landed him in the NFL Hall of Fame in 2009.