The Minnesota Vikings walked away from the 2013 NFL draft with nine total selections. The seven-round event included three picks in the first round, as the Vikings became the first team to do so since the 2001 St. Louis Rams.
With rookie minicamp taking place on May 3, all eyes were on first-round selections Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson.
The excitement in Minnesota was certainly building.
The Vikings kicked off organized team activities (OTAs) on May 28, and coaches have begun evaluating the team's 90-man roster. While certain players are a lock to make the team, others will need to stand out among the rest of their teammates.
This especially includes the Vikings' late-round selections in the NFL draft, three of which were selected in the seventh round.
The Vikings will need to trim their roster to 53 players by the end of August and begin filling the practice squad off waivers after making final cuts.
While the Vikings signed 16 undrafted free agents, as well as Minnesota State-Mankato receiver Adam Thielen after cutting rookie Nicholas Edwards, these players tend to be long shots to make the roster.
However, tell that to undrafted free agent and Hall of Fame defensive tackle John Randle.
As OTAs continue this week, we examine each of the Vikings' nine drafted rookies and a projection into the 2013 season.
Everett Dawkins was the Vikings' final selection of the NFL draft at 229th overall. The senior out of Florida State has a quick step and good technique against offensive linemen. He uses his hands well and should add depth to the defensive line for Minnesota.
According to general manager Rick Spielman, via the Star Tribune, Dawkins was the best value with the Vikings' final pick:
He was a little bit undersized but a very quick up-field, one-gap penetrator. 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.
Dawkins will likely be right on the bubble of the 53-man roster, with the preseason providing important opportunities to showcase his talent. If the Vikings choose to cut him, he will need to pass through waivers prior to being available for the practice squad.
Whether Dawkins makes the practice squad or the roster, he will unlikely suit up for the 46-man active roster on game days. His stat sheet will most likely be blank for the 2013 season.
With the 214th pick overall, the Vikings added a big-bodied guard to an already-impressive offensive line. However, guards Charlie Johnson and Brandon Fusco could both use some competition in training camp.
Bond towers over most teammates at 6'6", 329 pounds, although his height has also caused him to lose leverage against defenders and play off-balance. He'll need to demonstrate better quickness over the next few months to secure a backup position with an already-set offensive line.
Similar to Dawkins, this prospect out of North Carolina will be right on the edge of final-day cuts. He should have the slight advantage over fellow offensive lineman Troy Kropog as the coaching staff finds room for final numbers.
Bond's performance will be limited all year, but if the Vikings can keep him with the organization, he could be a solid developmental project with good upside.
The Vikings drafted Michael Mauti as their first selection in the seventh round, an intriguing pick for a player coming off his third torn ACL in college. Prior to the latest injury, he had 96 tackles (four for loss), 2.5 sacks and three interceptions with Penn State.
Although present at OTAs, Mauti continued to rehabilitate his left knee and did not participate in on-field drills. The coaching staff will assess his situation at the beginning of training camp in Mankato.
Although Minnesota has one of the top medical staffs experienced in helping players recover from ACL injuries, fans should temper their expectations for Mauti early in the season. Success stories like Chad Greenway and Adrian Peterson are promising, but patience is still key in this situation.
If the former Nitany Lion can pass all tests medically, he will make the 53-man roster and start by contributing on special teams. If not, the Vikings will most likely place Mauti on injured reserve and allow him to eventually play onto the active roster.
Jeff Baca appears poised to join the Vikings as a likely backup behind the aforementioned guards Charlie Johnson and Brandon Fusco. He demonstrated the ability to attack defenders and drive through blocks as a senior at UCLA.
Baca would need to slip during minicamp and training camp to lose the short track to a roster spot with Minnesota. While he may not suit up every Sunday, Baca is the type of tenacious blocker with a constant motor that will pay dividends in his career.
The former Bruin may not start any games in 2013, but he should see playing time towards the middle of the season. If nothing else, he will serve as a good option to rest part of the offensive line in blocking for MVP running back Adrian Peterson.
Minnesota removed any punter controversy early by cutting long-time Viking Chris Kluwe on May 6, just nine days after drafting UCLA specialist Jeff Locke.
With that move, Locke will become the team's starting punter and may feel a bit of a spotlight when he trots out onto the field for the first time on fourth down.
In terms of projecting Locke's production, let's first take a look at how he'll be compared. In 2012, Kluwe had a long punt of 59 yards, while averaging 45.0 with a net average of 39.7. His average was 22nd in the NFL and his net average was 17th.
Expect Locke to have a far stronger leg than Kluwe, something that could allow him to take kickoff duties over for Blair Walsh. His net average of 39.94 yards was second in the Pac-12 in 2012 and already slightly better than Kluwe (despite a mediocre coverage team).
A teammate of Michael Mauti at Penn State, Gerald Hodges has the potential to make an immediate impact with the Vikings. Possessing excellent coverage skills as a converted safety, he will contend for a starting linebacker position on the weak side.
Mike Wobschall of vikings.com has been impressed with Hodges during OTAs:
My observation on him is that I think he plays bigger than he's listed, yet he still impresses me with his movement skills. To steal and reverse a line from defensive backs coach Joe Woods, Hodges is a big man with little-man movement skills. There are times I see him out of position on a play, but for the most part I've liked what I've seen and I think he's a candidate to earn significant playing time even as a rookie.
While veteran Marvin Mitchell will see snaps at the "Will" position, as Erin Henderson slides to middle linebacker, expect Hodges to make a push for a starting role into the season. He should come away with 15-20 tackles and a potential interception in coverage.
The player fans are most excited to see in his debut, Cordarrelle Patterson will find opportunities to make plays in a variety of ways. Spielman demonstrated a vote of confidence in the former Tennessee playmaker by trading back up into the first round to snag Patterson.
With Greg Jennings lining up as the No. 1 receiver and second-year player Jarius Wright sliding into the slot, expect Patterson and Jerome Simpson to trade off opposite of Jennings.
There's no denying Patterson's raw athletic ability, and while Simpson may see expanded playing time in the first few games of the season, this rookie sensation should become a full-time starter at least halfway into the season.
Patterson will also field kickoffs for the Vikings in 2013, leaving the potential for a big play outside of his receiver role. It seems unlikely the coaching staff will also have him field punts right away as part of his duties, but don't be surprised if he's offered the chance in the preseason.
Projecting into the upcoming season, Patterson has the skill-set and drive to make a big splash in the NFL. Looking at receivers from last year, no rookie cracked the top 20 in receiving yards. Justin Blackmon was the top rookie receiver with 865 yards, ranking 29th.
Patterson may shake that up in 2013, providing Christian Ponder with the type of arsenal he was lacking last season.
With the 25th overall pick, the Vikings landed one of the top cornerbacks in the draft. The 6'1", 210-pound defensive back should have little competition in starting opposite of Chris Cook.
So far in both rookie minicamp and OTAs, Rhodes has looked impressive in coverage and breaking on the ball in drills. With the departure of veteran Antoine Winfield, the team is in need of new chemistry.
When asked about drafting Rhodes, Spielman had this to say, according to the Pioneer Press:
When we're looking at corners, coach (Leslie) Frazier and his defensive staff have a specific player in mind in this scheme. Xavier fit every specification we were looking for, especially with the type of receivers we have to match up against and the type of quarterbacks we have to play in this division.
Even with receivers like Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall lining up against Minnesota's defense two times a year, the Vikings should be in the best position among the division to defend the deep ball.
Rhodes should be on the field from Day 1 of the season, with cornerback Josh Robinson playing in nickel situations. The standout from Florida State could be one of the top defenders in Minnesota's secondary, which already includes breakout safety Harrison Smith.
The Vikings' top overall selection has received slightly less attention than Cordarrelle Patterson and Xavier Rhodes, primarily because they still have six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kevin Williams on the team.
But that's just fine for Sharrif Floyd and the Vikings.
One of the top defensive prospects on many experts' draft boards, including Mike Mayock and B/R's Matt Miller, Floyd slid to Minnesota and Rick Spielman drafted value vs. need. He still wound up filling top positions of need in wide receiver and cornerback in the first round.
Floyd has demonstrated great strength and athleticism during his college career and brings an excellent work ethic to Minnesota. According to the aforementioned Mayock, the Vikings received an outstanding player at No. 23:
He's going to play with a guy by the name of Kevin Williams, a former first-round pick who has become an All-Pro. And Sharrif is going to learn from him, both about the NFL, about life, about being a three-technique, and in a couple years, he'll replace Kevin. I give Rick Spielman and Leslie Frazier an awful lot of credit for pulling the trigger here at 23.
While Floyd may not have as immediate of an impact as Patterson or Rhodes, he may develop into the type of franchise player that anchors a defense for years to come. He should receive rotation snaps on the defensive line and collect solid tackle numbers with some opportunities for sacks later in games.
Offensive linemen will have a new challenge in 2013 having to face fresh substitutions of Williams and Floyd, a combination that should lead to success for Minnesota.
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