Minnesota Vikings: How Every Rookie Will Fare in Training Camp
The Vikings had a very solid draft which, while perhaps lacking a true "home run" hit, addressed multiple needs, and by all accounts, Rick Spielman and his staff acquitted themselves well in his first draft since being promoted to general manager.
Of course, it will be years before we get a true sense of whether it really was a good or bad draft, but there are many rookies who could have an impact as soon as training camp.
So on that note, the following is a discussion of how all 10 drafted Vikings rookies will do in a few weeks when camps kick off.
Matt Kalil, LT
The Vikings could have gone any number of ways with their first pick, ultimately trading back one spot with the Cleveland Browns and still nabbing their guy—former USC offensive lineman Matt Kalil.
I have every faith that Kalil will have a good camp—and they didn't draft him to hang out at guard in 2012. A big, athletic player who can get to the second level (a necessity with Adrian Peterson behind him), Kalil was a big factor in Matt Barkley's protection at USC, and the Vikings hope he will do the same for Christian Ponder.
While he may have a few rough patches, it won't take long for him to get up to speed, and while Charlie Johnson wasn't a fantastic left tackle, he did well enough so having him next to Kalil at left guard will help out.
Expect a solid season for Kalil, even with a few road bumps. He won't be a Pro Bowler off the bat, but he'll be off to a fine start.
Harrison Smith, S
We won't spend yet another column debating the merits of moving back into the first round, as, until we see a few years from the young man, it's really irrelevant.
What's relevant? Well, how quickly Smith can adjust to the speed and size of the NFL receivers he will face. Smith is a very good zone safety who can hit and makes plays.
Camp should be interesting for him, as he is facing a mixed bag of receivers. While Percy Harvin (assuming he does show to camp) is a fantastic talent, Jerome Simpson is unproven with just one good year, Michael Jenkins is underwhelming and Greg Childs and Jarius Wright are fellow rookies.
We may not get a real chance to determining how good Smith is until he faces NFL talent in the preseason, and even then, it's tough to judge.
I expect Smith to do well and be an immediate upgrade to the position. He might get a bit too much hype out of camp since he's not facing elite talent there, but overall, he should live up to most expectations.
Josh Robinson, CB
Robinson is a player who will be a starter in the NFL—it just may take a season or two.
While he excels in zone coverage, he can struggle in man, though he has the speed to keep up with most receivers. It's going to take a while to smooth the rough edges on Robinson, but again, he has the talent.
While the Vikings do play man coverage, they don't rely on it, favoring a loser man coverage when they do use it and an overall Cover-2 scheme.
That's not to say they don't care if Robinson can play man—they'll need him to. It's just not as high on their list as other things might be.
Robinson will have a fair camp, but won't see as much time as the veterans, and until he can improve both his man coverage skills and his run support ability, he will rotate in and out his first season.
Jarius Wright, WR
Wright is a very talented receiver who excels in the slot—the problem is, he is behind one of the best slot receivers in the game, Percy Harvin.
Yes, Harvin lined up outside a lot more last year because they had nobody else, but he's far more effective in the slot.
With Jerome Simpson in town and Greg Childs a promising rookie, Harvin may move back to the slot where he had some good production with a higher yards per catch.
He did more with less to nearly the same result.
Back to Wright, the problem then becomes what you do with a rookie who fills a role which you already have filled?
Well, Wright has the chance to fill in if Harvin's migraine issues resurface or on plays where Harvin is moved outside (especially the first two games when Simpson is out). However. I see a lot of downtime for the former Arkansas player, at least until the team can either figure a way to move his role or Harvin's.
Rhett Ellison FB/TE/HB
Ellison is a hybrid type of player, listed at some sites as a tight end and some as a fullback—the truth is, he will play both at times. However, he may carve out a larger role in camp depending on two things.
First, how Jerome Felton's arrest awhile back plays out. Not that Felton would get cut over that—that's unlikely. No, he will probably be in the roster, but it does open the door for Ellison to get on the field more.
Meanwhile we don't know what to really expect from John Carlson anymore, though Kyle Rudolph has shown promise. There could be room at tight end as well.
The truth is that, barring a spectacularly bad camp (I don't expect it but, hey, it could happen), Ellison's versatility will win him a spot. He won't start and might not be on the field a high percentage of the time, but he will prove himself to be a solid role player and should find himself a Viking for some time to come.
Greg Childs, WR
Childs dropped in part because of a knee injury, but he may actually see more success more quickly than his former Arkansas and current Vikings teammate Jarius Wright.
It actually makes you wonder if this is the sort of circumstance where, the Vikings liked Wright, went to examine him, but saw something they were excited about in Childs.
Two receivers from the same school? At least we know they work well together.
I say Childs might have quicker success because his game translates into a more complimentary role for the offense than Wright's, who duplicates the talents of several players including Percy Harvin.
Childs has the speed to be a vertical threat and the size to go up and outfight a defensive back for the ball.
All he needs to do is prove he is healthy and can stay that way in camp, and I see nobody in front of him who will keep him off the field after Percy Harvin and Jerome Simpson get theirs.
I fully expect a very solid rookie season from Childs.
Robert Blanton, CB and Blair Walsh, K
In a Tampa 2 scheme like the one the Vikings run, it's good to have a tall corner who can get around the field quickly. Blanton is a player who can do that, though he is a little limited overall as a player.
I expect him to have a fine camp, nothing really special, but enough to carve himself out a role as a bench player and someone who might be in some of the sub packages.
Walsh already has the job won—unless he implodes at training camp. I don't expect that to happen, so barring injury, the Vikings will have a rookie kicking field goals and extra points.
There's a good chance that he will do more of the former than the latter.
Audie Cole, LB and Trevor Guyton, DE
I've been excited by these two since the draft, in fact, even AT the draft, and my enthusiasm continues unabated.
Cole has tremendous instincts and awareness and makes up for a lack of natural athleticism with a great work ethic and a nose for the ball.
Guyton has a high motor and hits hard.
Neither guy is likely to ever be a Pro Bowl player, but both will be outstanding role players and have the potential to be much, much more.
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