Minnesota Vikings 2012: Ranking the Vikings Rookies by Immediate Impact in 2012

Drew Tull@@drewtullContributor IIJuly 27, 2012

Minnesota Vikings 2012: Ranking the Vikings Rookies by Immediate Impact in 2012

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    The 2012 Minnesota Vikings kick off training camp on Thursday followed by their first practices on Friday. 

    The 2012 team will have a much different look than their past two seasons as it will be dominated by a much younger nucleus of players.

    In 2010 the Vikings had the fourth-oldest team in the NFL.  Last season, the Vikings were near the middle of all NFL teams at the time of the 53-man cuts. 

    With the departure of numerous veterans this offseason the Vikings are likely to rank in the bottom five in the NFL in terms of age once the 53-man roster cuts are made.  The fact that they are getting younger means that the rookies will be expected to contribute right away.

    This article will look at the 2012 10-man draft class and will rank each player on their projected impact on the 2012 season only.

    Let’s start with number 10.

No. 10: Trevor Guyton

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     Height: 6'3"

    Weight: 280

    College: California

    40-yard Dash: 5.04

    Draft: 7th Round Draft Pick (219 overall)



    Trevor Guyton spent his first three years in college in the shadows behind first round draft picks like Tyson Alualu (Jacksonville Jaguars 10th overall selection in 2010) and Cameron Jordan (New Orleans 24th overall selection in 2011).

    It wasn't until his senior season that Guyton got a chance to show his abilities highlighted by 12.5 tackles for loss that included 5.5 quarterback sacks. 

    Guyton has a very thick frame but has quick feet for a lineman which gives him the ability to track down ball carriers.  He lined up at numerous spots as a senior in Cal's 3-4 defense but saw the most action as a 5-techinique DE.


    Where he fits in Minnesota

    Guyton possesses great potential after having a breakout senior season.  While at 280 lbs he is undersized to play DT, he will likely work at DE in the Vikings 4-3 scheme.  I wouldn't consider him a long-shot to make the team, but he will need to show the skills in training camp that had NFL scouts giving him such high marks coming into the 2012 draft.


    2012 projected impact

    Guyton seems to be in the same mold as current Vikings player Christian Ballard.  Ballard (6’4", 283 lbs.) is a rotational DT/DE who is known for his ability to provide pressure up the middle.  Guyton should make the team as the last lineman kept on the roster.

No. 9: Audie Cole

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    Height: 6'5"

    Weight: 239

    College: North Carolina State

    40-yard Dash: 4.76

    Draft: 7th Round Draft Pick (210 overall)



    Audie Cole made his mark at N.C. State by being an athletic and versatile linebacker.  After leading the team in tackles as a junior at strong-side linebacker, Cole volunteered and took over the middle linebacker role and called all defensive plays as a senior.  That year he led the team again as the leading tackler in addition to sacks and forced fumbles.

    Cole is a smart and instinctive player who is quick to read plays as they develop.  He is also a fluid player who can work well against the run as well as drop into coverage.  The Minnesota Vikings coaching staff got a chance to get a long look at him prior to the draft at the Senior Bowl where they were his coach.


    Where He Fits in Minnesota

    With the exception of Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson on the outside, the other remaining position are up for grabs.  Cole has the ability to play both inside and outside at linebacker, which will increase his chances of making the team.  He will also be a member of the special teams units where his willingness to learn paired with his size and speed will make him an asset.


    2012 Projected Impact

    Cole will likely only see time on special teams where he could be among the leaders in tackles.  A year learning behind players like Greenway and Henderson will serve him well in the future where he could begin to challenge for increased playing time as soon as 2013.  I have him ranked only slightly lower than the next player on the list.

No.8: Rhett Ellison

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    Height: 6'5"

    Weight: 250

    College: USC

    40-yard Dash: 4.88

    Draft: 4th Round Draft Pick (128 overall)



    Rhett Ellison made his mark in college out of the spotlight.  The USC captain was a steady and versatile fullback and tight end during his college career. 

    He is a proficient blocker and pass catcher as well as an outstanding special teams player.  As a senior, he appeared in all 12 games, compiling 22 catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns.  He also blocked a field goal and earned All-Pac-12 first team as a special teams player. 


    Where He Fits in Minnesota

    The retirement of H-Back Jim Kleinsasser has left open a role as a great lead and in-line blocker that can be a threat to catch passes.  Ellison had moments in minicamp where he showed off his hands.  He will certainly be asked to play special teams as well.


    2012 Projected Impact

    Ellison will be a role player in the offensive scheme but has the makeup to be one of the significant contributors on special teams.  To be a bigger part of the offense, he will need to prove his ability to be an in-line blocker and/or lead blocker.  The Vikings are likely to keep FB Jerome Felton to go along with the solidified tight end tandem of Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson, which limits Ellison's impact in 2012. 

No. 7: Robert Blanton

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    Height: 6'1"

    Weight: 200

    College: Notre Dame

    40-yard Dash: 4.63

    Draft: 5th Round Draft Pick (139 overall) 



    Robert Blanton hasn't played safety since high school, but the Minnesota Vikings see a future there for him after drafting him in the fifth round in 2012. 

    Blanton played cornerback throughout his entire career at Notre Dame where he was known to use his speed and power all over the field.  As a senior he was targeted 110 times with opponents completing just 30 passes (27.27%) for 198 and no touchdowns.

    Blanton showed the willingness to tackle as well by recording nine tackles for loss as a senior.


    Where He Fits in Minnesota

    Blanton will be in competition with holdovers Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford for a starting safety spot next to fellow rookie and Fighting Irish Alum Harrison Smith.  


    2012 Projected Impact

    Blanton is not likely to open the season with a starting safety spot as he is learning the position.  As the season progresses, he could earn some starts or at least challenge for increased snaps.  Blanton has a good size and speed mixture and nose for the ball to make his immediate impact on special teams where he could replace veteran Eric Frampton for the last safety spot and special teams ace.

No. 6: Jarius Wright

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    Height: 5'10"

    Weight: 180

    College: Arkansas

    40-yard Dash: 4.40

    Draft: 4th Round Draft Pick (118 overall)



    Jarius Wright left behind a legacy at the University of Arkansas as the all-time leader in reception and yards and second in touchdowns.

    Wright's lightning-quick abilities gave him a lot of action at the “Z” (flanker) position, but he has experience in the slot and split end.  Wright is also a dangerous return man throughout his college career and was used as a change-of-pace running back on occasion. 

    At the Senior Bowl, the Minnesota Vikings coaches got to see the speedster use his exceptionally quick feet and loose hips to burst out of cuts and create consistent separation.  They also saw a receiver who flashed quick hands to catch throws away from his body, along with excellent leaping ability and fearlessness elevating for the ball in a crowd.


    Where He Fits in Minnesota

    Wright will make the team out of camp barring an absolute collapse and could be the favorite to win the punt returner job.  At receiver he will be the primary backup to Percy Harvin and could be groomed as the eventual replacement.


    2012 Projected Impact

    Wright’s impact will be most felt in the return game where he should earn the starting job handling punts.  He has the quick, shifty speed, making him a threat to score each time he touches the ball.  A limited role in the passing game will limit his overall impact.

No. 5: Josh Robinson

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    Height: 5'10"

    Weight: 199

    College: Central Florida

    40-yard Dash: 4.29

    Draft: 3rd Round Draft Pick (66th overall)



    Josh Robinson is simply an exceptional playmaker.  Whether it is an interception or a kick return, he possesses an explosive second gear, allowing him to do exciting things when he gets the ball in his hands.  Robinson was clocked at a 4.29 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, which was the fastest of any player timed.

    The junior cornerback has shown good press coverage technique with outstanding timing, leaping ability and natural hands going up for the thrown ball. He moves well in space and shows good urgency to close once he locates the ball, especially in the air.  He had 46 passes defended, which ranked 11th in the NCAA in 2011.

    Though he is willing to throw his body around, he made 45 plays in run support during the last two seasons, which is an area of the game he will look to improve upon in the NFL.


    Where He Fits in Minnesota

    Robinson will battle throughout training camp with veteran free agent Chris Carr for the nickel corner position. Carr will likely have the edge early on, but with a strong camp the rookie could earn more snaps.  Robinson is also in the running for kick returner and punt returner positions. 


    2012 Projected Impact

    In a pass-happy NFL, having three quality cornerbacks has almost become essential. Robinson should eventually supplant Chris Carr and receive more snaps in nickel packages.   If he can prove to be a quick study, he can be the outside corner with Chris Cook, allowing Antoine Winfield to play the slot corner against three-receiver sets. I also see him as the favorite to utilize his straight-line speed as the starting kick returner.

No. 4: Greg Childs

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    Height: 6'3"

    Weight: 217

    College: Arkansas

    40-yard Dash: 4.41

    Draft: 4th Round Draft Pick (134 overall) 



    Greg Childs has a tremendous combination of size and speed which he showed off at his Pro Day and the NFL Scouting Combine.  After an impressive sophomore season that had draft experts viewing him as a top prospect, he suffered a knee injury that he never fully recovered from in college.  This offseason he showed off 4.41 40-yard dash speed to go along with an incredible vertical jump and more impressive bench pressing of 19 reps of 225 pounds. 

    Childs primarily started at the “X” or split end position at the University of Arkansas but also saw starting assignments at flanker and slot receiver.  Despite missing the better part of two seasons, he ranks ninth on the school career-record list with 133 receptions.


    Where He Fits in Minnesota

    Childs is one of two rookie receivers along with Arkansas teammate Jarius Wright.  Unlike Wright, Childs has a clearer cut path for playing time especially right away if he can prove healthy.  Free agent Jerome Simpson is the favorite to be the full-time starting split end but must serve a three-game suspension to begin the regular season.  This opens a door for Childs to earn significant snaps or even starts early on in 2012.


    2012 Projected Impact:  

    Childs ranks No. 4 on my list simply because he could earn the starting split end position in the preseason with Simpson serving his suspension.  Childs has all the tools, and if he is healthy, could run away with the position and cause a dilemma for coaches when Simpson returns.  

No. 3: Blair Walsh

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    Height: 5'10"

    Weight: 192

    College: Georgia

    40-yard Dash: 4.96

    Draft: 6th Round Draft Pick (175 overall)



    Blair Walsh comes to the Minnesota Vikings after establishing many records in the Southeastern Conference.  Walsh owns the University of Georgia and SEC all-time points record.  Walsh also ranked third for the Bulldogs and fifth in the SEC for field goals made.

    As a junior Walsh was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation’s top placekicker. 

    As a senior Walsh slipped a little, connecting on only 21-35 field goal attempts but was a weapon in returns as he possesses one of the strongest legs in the draft.  He averaged 65.4 yards per kickoff, posting 19 touch backs on 68 attempts.


    Where He Fits in Minnesota

    The Minnesota Vikings decided after the draft that they were going to hand the starting job to Blair Walsh and released veteran Ryan Longwell.  This leaves Walsh with no competition in-house, and as long as he performs in training camp, he will open as the starter.


    2012 Projected Impact

    Walsh will certainly be one of a few Vikings rookies that should start on opening day.  Walsh has the potential to be a very solid placekicker, and the Vikings want him to be the long-term solution. Special teams coach Mike Priefer has been working with Walsh on not rushing his kicks to get him back to his junior season form. 

No. 2: Harrison Smith

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    Height: 6'2"

    Weight: 214

    College: Notre Dame

    40-yard Dash: 4.58

    Draft: 1st Round Draft Pick (29 overall)



    Harrison Smith is a very smart, consistent team player who makes plays with his knack for timing the ball in the air.  He has a take-charge attitude that will do whatever the coaches ask of him.

    Smith has range and competitiveness to be able to play both safety positions. He showed a quick break to get to the thrown ball, and he shows fearlessness stretching out to get to the ball at its high point, evident by his 28 pass deflections and seven interceptions for the Fighting Irish.


    Where He Fits in Minnesota

    Smith is the favorite to start at free safety right away.  He saw a lot of first team reps in minicamp and OTAs, and that should continue in training camp. 


    2012 Projected Impact

    If Smith can use his steadiness and leadership to help the safeties become a unit that is stable, he will be a success.  His value could be seen more on intangibles than stats.  That said, he ranks at my No. 2 position, followed closely by Blair Walsh because of his immediate impact against the pass.

No. 1: Matt Kalil

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    Height: 6'7"

    Weight: 295

    College: USC

    40-yard Dash: 4.99



    Matt Kalil is the son of Frank Kalil, who was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1982, and brother of Ryan Kalil, who is the starting center for the Carolina Panthers.  The Kalil brothers are middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley’s twin brother Casper also plays for the Panthers.

    Matt Kalil is an excellent athlete that showed consistent performances and dominance throughout his college career.  In 26 career starting assignments, he never allowed a quarterback sack.

    He was also a standout on special teams, where he blocked two extra point tries and a pair of field goals, including a potential game-winner against Utah.


    Where He Fits in Minnesota

    Kalil becomes the starter at left tackle on day one ,protecting quarterback Christian Ponder’s blindside.  His presence allows the Vikings to move Charlie Johnson back into his natural left guard position.


    2012 Projected Impact

    Kalil ranks as the No. 1 player on the list mostly because of his importance on the offensive line and in protecting Ponder's blindside.  Kalil should quickly establish himself as one of the better left tackles, and in doing so will allow the Vikings to use fewer tight ends to help block and allow Ponder more time in the pocket.