After making three picks in the first round, and no picks in Rounds 2 or 3, the Minnesota Vikings finally got a chance to make a selection—but it might have been the wrong choice.
The Vikings selected outside linebacker Gerald Hodges from Penn State. With a bigger hole to fill in the middle, Minnesota's view must be to add depth to backup starters Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson.
Hodges was an exceptional linebacker at Penn State where he led the team in total tackles in his junior and senior seasons. In his four years he finished with 249 tackles, 21 for a loss, 5.5 sacks and three interceptions.
In 2011, as a junior he earned first-team, All-Big Ten honors. He finished with 106 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss and an interception.
His career numbers at Penn State would have been better if not for an injury on the opening kickoff of the 2010 season against Alabama. He played well after missing four games, finishing with 31 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
According to CBS Sports, Hodges' strengths include the ability to seek out the ball-carrier and make the tackle. They describe him with above average athleticism and the range to make plays from sideline to sideline. A converted safety, NFL.com sees his coverage skills as an asset that projected him as high as a second- or third-round pick.
However, they identify that at 6'1" and 243 pounds, there is a question if he has a prototypical NFL-body, and he struggles at shedding blocks.
A poor showing at the NFL Scouting Combine, where he ran 4.78 seconds in the 40-yard dash, contributed to his falling to the fourth round.
NFL.com compares him to current free-agent NFL linebacker Quincy Black, formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A third-round pick in 2007, Black became a starter in 2009. He has started 40 games the last four seasons.
Hodges should have a similar projection as he gets acclimated to the speed of the NFL.
There's no question that Hodges will make the team, making a contribution to the coverage units on special teams. He will most likely open the season as one of the backups for Greenway or Henderson.
It took Henderson, an undrafted rookie from Maryland, three years as a backup before he cracked the Vikings' starting lineup. Signed to a two-year deal this offseason, the timing may be just about perfect for the Vikings to groom Hodges as his replacement.