The Vikings' three first-round selections, Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson, will be expected to contribute in 2013.
As one of the headliners of the NFL draft, the Minnesota Vikings' draft class will be under closer scrutiny than most. Specifically, the Vikings' three first-round selections will have grandiose expectations thrust upon them.
That's the focus here.
We'll go rookie by rookie as to what can be expected of Minnesota's nine-man class in the 2013 season, with statistical projections.
Sharrif Floyd recorded 46 tackles, 13 for loss, with three sacks and a forced fumble in 2012 with Florida.
Kevin Williams and Letroy Guion should be the starters to open the 2013 season. Depending on how quickly Sharrif Floyd picks up Minnesota's scheme, he could be a starter at some point this season.
Floyd will need to bulk up some (he's listed at 6'3" and 297 pounds on NFL.com) and get better acquainted with the defensive tackle position. He was a versatile defensive lineman at Florida, playing every position.
But the Vikings have no doubts about where he'll play within their scheme. He is a defensive tackle.
Floyd possesses the ability to shoot gaps quickly, with violence or grace, which should enable him to get after quarterbacks and make some plays in the backfield.
He's not Pat Williams, but he's not known as someone who can run down players in the open field.
His stats in his final season at Florida don't overwhelm (46 tackles, 13 for loss, three sacks and a forced fumble) but part of that has to be because he moved around so much.
He'll be a contributor in his rookie season and his ceiling is very high.
Projections: 25 tackles, three sacks, four tackles for loss
Xavier Rhodes recorded 39 tackles, two for loss, with three interceptions with Florida State in 2012.
With Antoine Winfield out, the Vikings had to make a splash in the cornerback field. The splash they made was quite large.
Xavier Rhodes was considered a consensus top-three cornerback in this draft and Minnesota scooped him up at No. 25.
Rhodes has the size (6'1", 210 lbs) and speed (4.43-second 40-yard dash) to be a No. 1 cornerback.
An NFL.com scouting report also says he has the shutdown cover skills to become a No. 1 cover corner.
That same report cites concerns about his abilities to blitz and play zone coverage. Those two concerns are not overly great given Minnesota's defense. It likes to have its cornerbacks play man coverage and the cornerbacks do not blitz frequently.
Rhodes should start across from Chris Cook for Week 1.
Projection: 50 tackles, four interceptions
Cordarrelle Patterson caught 46 passes for 778 yards with five touchdowns in 2012 with Tennessee.
The Vikings didn't trade their 2013 second-, third-, fourth- and seventh-round picks to draft someone they didn't think would be a gifted talent at some point in his career.
They're very confident in Cordarrelle Patterson's abilities long term, but their short-term expectations should be tempered.
There are an abundance of knocks against Patterson including his maturity and experience as a wide receiver. Patterson played one year of Division I football with two seasons of JUCO-level competition, too.
Route-running will be a concern, according to a CBS Sports scouting report. It also questions his ability to make smart decisions with the ball in his hands, saying he tries to go for the home run play too frequently.
But the raw talent, size (6'2", 216 lbs) and speed are very real and should get the Vikings and their fans excited. He ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.
Patterson projects as a prototypical No. 1 receiver long term with the ability to return punts and kickoffs. He can also lineup in the backfield.
There's a lot to like, but patience is key.
Projections: 45 receptions, 650 receiving yards and five touchdown receptions
Gerald Hodges led Penn State with 106 tackles in 13 games last season.
Gerald Hodges was the leading tackler (106) for Penn State in 13 games last season.
Hodges is an outside linebacker who can provide depth at the position, or maybe compete for a starting job should Minnesota shift Erin Henderson to middle linebacker.
He is a converted safety, which provides him with stronger pass coverage skills than many of his peers. His 4.78-second 40-yard dash suggests he may struggle to keep up with faster running backs, but an NFL.com scouting report says otherwise.
That same report questions his size, strength, ability to get off blocks and blitzing skills.
"But the thing he really has is the athletic skill set," Vikings general manager Rick Spielman told the Star Tribune. "The way he played in space. At Penn State this year, he was usually lined up outside, they put him over the slot at times, they stacked him a few times. And you can see the athletic skill set and the position flexibility he can bring.”
Projection: Hodges won't be a starter but will play time at outside linebacker in addition to time on special teams; 15 tackles
Jeff Locke averaged 43.3 yards per punt with 34 dropped inside the 20 and 22 punts of 50-plus yards at UCLA last season.
Besides the trade back into the first round, this is the most surprising move of the draft.
It was no secret that Minnesota has been upset with Chris Kluwe's social activism. Special teams coach Mike Priefer called out Kluwe, saying the punter needed to focus on punting.
Knowing that, it's tough to take general manager Rick Spielman at his word for why the team selected Jeff Locke in the fifth round.
"It had nothing to do with Chris Kluwe’s off-field concerns, I have no issues if Chris Kluwe wants to express his opinion, that’s his right, that’s his freedom of speech," Spielman told the Star Tribune about the selection of Locke. "This is just a football decision to bring in a guy to come in to compete."
Locke was the first punter selected in this draft. Most teams don't select punters in the draft unless they have a dire need. The Vikings must feel they have a dire need because this wasn't the first punter move this offseason.
The Vikings had signed veteran T.J. Conley, but cut him on Monday. That's another sign that Minnesota really likes Locke.
Kluwe posted a career-best 39.7 net average on punts but booted his fewest inside the 20-yard line (18) since his rookie season in 2005 (17).
Locke pooched 22 punts of 50-plus yards and 34 inside the 20 in 77 attempts last season. He averaged 43.3 yards per punt and can also kickoff.
Projection: Locke will be Minnesota's 2013 punter; 43 yards per punt, net of 39.5, 25 inside the 20
Jeff Baca (No. 60) is 6'3" and weighs 302 pounds.
Geoff Schwartz signed with the Kansas City Chiefs this offseason, which means there is at least one offensive lineman spot open on Minnesota's roster.
Jeff Baca could compete for that. Baca (6'3", 302 lbs) has a versatile background. He played both guard and tackle at UCLA, although his measurables suggest he's best suited for guard in the NFL (he'll still need to bulk up for that).
"He’s one of those Viking-fit type," Vikings general manager Rick Spielman told the Star Tribune. "I know what [offensive line coach] Jeff Davidson looks for. He’s a very tough, competitive kid that has some position flexibility."
An NFL.com scouting report called Baca "as tenacious a blocker as there is in this draft class." That will bode him well in Minnesota's smash-mouth style offense.
With only one offensive line spot "up for grabs," Charlie Johnson's left guard position, Baca is unlikely to see the field much (or at all) should he make the team.
Projection: If he makes the team, he won't see the field much (barring injury).
Michael Mauti accumulated 95 tackles, four for loss, 2.5 sacks and three interceptions at Penn State last season.
An ACL tear cost Michael Mauti all but four games in 2011, but he returned to play in 11 of 12 games last season.
He recorded 95 tackles, four for loss, 2.5 sacks and three interceptions in his final season at Penn State.
Mauti is a big, strong linebacker (6'2", 243 lbs) who benched 225 pounds 28 times at the combine.
He's not known as an overly athletic linebacker and his injury history is something to keep an eye on, an NFL.com scouting report says.
That athleticism is a concern. Minnesota has previously battled linebackers lacking athleticism (Jasper Brinkley, E.J. Henderson) and that may not be something it's interesting in doing again.
Mauti shouldn't fill the gigantic hole Minnesota has at middle linebacker.
Projection: five tackles (if he makes the team)
Travis Bond was projected as a seventh-round pick by CBS Sports.
At this point in the draft, these players typically become depth fodder. That's what should be expected from Travis Bond (who was projected as a seventh-round pick by CBS Sports).
Bond is physically overwhelming (6'6", 329 lbs) and despite playing guard at North Carolina, his frame suggests he's better suited to play tackle in the NFL.
General manager Rick Spielman told the Star Tribune that regardless of where Bond plays, he fits Minnesota's system.
"He fits the type of lineman we’re trying to bring in here," Spielman said. "Guys that can move at the point, especially with the running game we try to establish."
Bond was a two-year starter at North Carolina who lost nearly 45 pounds prior to his senior season. He was a top-20 offensive line prospect coming out of high school.
The only spot that is essentially "up for grabs" on Minnesota's offensive line is Charlie Johnson's left guard spot, but Bond shouldn't expect to compete for that.
Projections: If he makes the team, he won't see the field (barring injury).
Everett Dawkins recorded 26 tackles, 1.5 for loss, and .5 sack in 2012.
The Vikings' defensive tackle depth chart has at least five names ahead of Everett Dawkins: Kevin Williams, Letroy Guion, Fred Evans, Sharrif Floyd and Christian Ballard.
Then, it may be Everett Dawkins.
There was a reason Dawkins was a seventh-round pick. He's not expected to be an impact defensive tackle and he will struggle to make the roster.
"He was a little but undersized but a very quick up-field, one-gap penetrator," Vikings general manager Rick Spielman told the Star Tribune. "He was the highest rated guy on our board at the time and felt he was just too good of a player not to draft and to pass up."
Translation: He's a pass-rushing tackle whom the Vikings didn't think they needed but was too good to pass up.
As Spielman said, at 6'2" and 292 pounds, he will need to add significant bulk to stand a chance on the interior of a defensive line. But he has skills as a pass-rusher, which Minnesota's defensive tackle group lacks (outside of Floyd).
In addition to bulking up, he'll need a very strong showing in training camp to make the roster.
An NFL.com scouting report says he needs to get stronger and play under control to make it in the NFL.
Projection: Five tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss (if he makes the roster)