Rookie, Undrafted Free-Agent Watch for Minnesota Vikings Training Camp

Tim ArcandCorrespondent IJuly 17, 2013

Rookie, Undrafted Free-Agent Watch for Minnesota Vikings Training Camp

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    The Minnesota Vikings have been successful in the NFL draft of late. Since 2007, when the Vikings drafted Adrian Peterson with the seventh pick in the draft, they have had 26 of 46 selected players start at least one game, and 28 of those players are still with the team. 

    The Vikings have been equally successful in signing undrafted free agents. Pro Football Reference lists 10 undrafted players who appeared for the Vikings last season. Eight of them started their careers in Minnesota. 

    For the second straight year, the Vikings had multiple selections in the first round. Last year, they added starters left tackle Matt Kalil and safety Harrison Smith with their two first-round picks. 

    This year, the Vikings had three picks among the first 32, dealing their way back into the first round. 

    The expectations will be high for these three players to contribute in 2013. 

    Here's a breakdown of the Vikings' draft picks and undrafted rookies heading into training camp. 

Defensive Tackle Sharrif Floyd

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    • College: Florida
    • Draft Status: Round 1, Pick 23 
    • Height: 6'3''
    • Weight: 303 pounds
    • College Production: A two-year starter at Florida, he played in 37 games, starting 26 of them. He finished with 115 tackles, 26 for a loss, 4.5 sacks and three blocked field goals.

    Analysis

    With Floyd, it's not about the statistics. Walter Football had him listed as the top defensive tackle in the draft and projected him to be a top-16 pick. There is no way to explain why he dropped to 23, but for the Vikings and their fans, he was a great addition. 

    Floyd is a wide body who can plug the middle and help stop the run. Since the departure of Pat Williams following the 2010 season, the team has been looking for a run-stopper to line up next to Kevin Williams. The only problem is that Floyd plays the same position as Williams, a 10-year veteran with six Pro Bowls. 

    It will be interesting to see how things shake out at the end of camp. Don't be surprised if either Floyd or Williams is shifted to the nose tackle position in order to have Minnesota's best four linemen on the field at the same time. 

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes

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    • College: Florida State
    • Draft Status: Round 1, Pick 25 
    • Height: 6'1''
    • Weight: 215 pounds
    • College Production: A three-year starter at FSU, Rhodes declared for the draft following his junior season. In 43 games, he finished with 140 tackles, two sacks and eight interceptions.

    Analysis

    According to Mike Mayock from NFL.com, Rhodes is a "long, powerful" cornerback with the ability to press receivers in man coverage. This is exactly what the Vikings need when they face wide receivers Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall twice each season. 

    He was the fourth cornerback taken in the first round. Walter Football and CBS Sports rated Rhodes as the second-best corner in the draft behind Dee Miller from Alabama.

    With the release of Antoine Winfield, Rhodes has a good chance of starting when the season opens in Detroit. At the very least, he will see plenty of action as the top backup. 

Wide Receiver Cordarrelle Patterson

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    • College: Tennessee
    • Draft Status: Round 1, Pick 29 
    • Height: 6'3''
    • Weight: 205 pounds
    • College Production: Patterson made his mark in only one season at Tennessee. The junior led the Volunteers in all-purpose yardage with 1,858 yards and scored a total of 10 touchdowns. He was second in receiving with 46 receptions for 778 yards and third in rushing yardage with 308 yards on only 25 carries. He caught five touchdown passes, rushed for three more and returned both a punt and a kickoff for another.

    Analysis

    Patterson gives the Vikings a little of what they lost in Percy Harvin in a slightly bigger package. According to head coach Leslie Frazier, in a report from the StarTribune.com, the Vikings' plan is to ease him into the offense. 

    We’re going to look at him primarily as a kick returner. He’s done some punt return but that’s not where we’re going to be looking at him primarily.

    Patterson is exceptional with the ball in his hands in the open field. He has the explosiveness to create huge gains on short passes and the speed to stretch the field on deep ones. 

    Look for Frazier to have him listed initially as a backup, but he will see significant playing time. 

Linebacker Gerald Hodges

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    • College: Penn State University
    • Draft Status: Round 4, Pick 23 (120 overall)
    • Height: 6'2''
    • Weight: 233 pounds
    • College Production: He started 29 of 49 games for the Nittany Lions. He finished with 249 tackles, 5.5 sacks and three interceptions.

    Analysis

    Hodges filled a need for the Vikings that was created when Jasper Brinkley signed with Arizona. Originally, some thought that he would fill the void at middle linebacker, but then the Vikings announced that Erin Henderson would make the move. 

    That gave Hodges the edge to start at weak-side linebacker. The signing of Desmond Bishop has scrapped those plans, so Hodges finds himself entering camp battling for a backup position. 

    A former safety, he has the ability to provide man coverage on secondary receivers on pass defense. As a senior, he led Penn State with 109 tackles with 8.5 for a loss. He will be battling with college teammate Michael Mauti and last year's seventh-round pick Audie Cole to make the team. 

Punter Jeff Locke

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    • College: UCLA
    • Draft Status: Round 5, Pick 22 (155 overall)
    • Height: 6'0''
    • Weight: 209 pounds
    • College Production: In four years at UCLA, Locke kicked 275 punts and averaged 44.2 yards. He also converted 6-of-9 PATs and was 2-of-3 on field goals.

    Analysis

    For the second straight year, the Minnesota Vikings picked a specialist with a mid-round draft pick. This selection spelled the doom of eight-year veteran Chris Kluwe, who was released following the draft. 

    The Vikings were successful with the selection of kicker Blair Walsh last year. Walsh finished a perfect 10-for-10 on field-goal attempts over 50 yards. It will be interesting to see what Locke can do on the special teams unit. While not needed on kickoffs, he provides the Vikings with some insurance in the event Walsh cannot handle those duties. 

Offensive Guard Jeff Baca

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    • College: UCLA
    • Draft Status: Round 6, Pick 28 (196 overall)
    • Height: 6'3''
    • Weight: 302 pounds
    • College Production: A four-year starter at UCLA, Baca started 45 games for the Bruins. He began at left tackle, starting eight games as a freshman. He made the shift inside to guard as a sophomore and played on either side of  center throughout his collegiate career. 

    Analysis: Baca performed well at the 2013 NFL combine. He was the top offensive lineman in the three-cone drill and the 20-yard shuttle run.  

    With the departure of Geoff Schwartz to free agency, Baca has the chance to earn a backup role because of his ability to play multiple positions along the line. He will be battling fellow rookie Travis Bond and DeMarcus Love to make the team.   

Linebacker Michael Mauti

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    • College: Penn State University
    • Draft Status: Round 7, Pick 7 (213 overall)
    • Height: 6'2''
    • Weight: 243 pounds
    • College Production: A three-year starter at Penn State, Mauti finished with 183 tackles, 12.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks and four interceptions. Knee injuries cost him his sophomore season in 2009. 

    Analysis

    Mauti suffered three ACL injuries during his career at Penn State. He is coming off the second to his left knee and hopes to be cleared for training camp. He exhibits poise in the middle of the defense and the strength to be a great run-stopper. 

    Mauti will be competing with Audie Cole to make the team as a backup middle linebacker. If his knees hold up, he might be the better player between the two. If they don't, he could spend the year on injured reserve. 

     

Offensive Guard Travis Bond

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    • College: North Carolina 
    • Draft Status: Round 7, Pick 8 (214 overall)
    • Height: 6'6''
    • Weight: 329 pounds
    • College Production: A two-year starter at North Carolina, Bond saw action in every game over four seasons for the Tar Heels. 

    Analysis

    At 329 pounds, Bond is the third heaviest player on the Vikings roster. During the Vikings' OTAs, Bond backed up both Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt at tackle, despite playing most of his collegiate career at guard.

    During his career at North Carolina, his weight fluctuated from as low as 316 pounds to as high as 375 pounds, which is where he finished his junior season. According to NFL.com, Bond's strengths include good mobility and power. His size makes it difficult for defenders to shed his block. 

    As for weaknesses, he is slow to get his hands up and sometimes doesn't finish his blocks well, relying on his size more than his athleticism.  

    He will be long shot to make the team and will most likely wind up on the practice squad. 

Defensive Tackle Everett Dawkins

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    • College: Florida State University
    • Draft Status: Round 7, Pick 23 (229 overall)
    • Height: 6'2''
    • Weight: 292 pounds
    • College Production: He played in 57 games over five years at FSU. He finished with 106 tackles, 15 for a loss, seven sacks and an interception. 

    Analysis

    Dawkins is projected to be a backup at best. He joins the Vikings at a position that is now a logjam with the addition of Sharrif Floyd in the first round. He was a steady player at Florida State, averaging 30 tackles and 1.7 sacks per season. 

    To make the roster, he will have to beat out veterans Letroy Guion, Fred Evans and Christian Ballard, along with fellow rookie Floyd—that's most likely not going to happen. His fate will be the same as last year's seventh-round pick, Trevor Guyton, a defensive end from California, who was released before the end of training camp. 

Undrafted Free Agents

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    Undrafted free-agent list from Vikings.com:

    Colin Anderson, tight end from Furman 

    Brandan Bishop, safety from North Carolina State

    Darius Eubanks, linebacker from Georgia Southern

    Erik Highsmith, wide receiver from North Carolina

    Marquis Jackson, defensive end from Portland State

    Zach Line, fullback from Southern Methodist

    Bradley Randle, running back from UNLV

    Rodney Smith, wide receiver from Florida State

    Adam Thielen, wide receiver from Minnesota State-Mankato

    Collins Ukwu, defensive end from Kentucky

    James Vandenberg, quarterback from Iowa

    Camden Wentz, center from North Carolina State

    Jerodis Williams, running back from Furman

    Nathan Williams, linebacker from Ohio State

     

    The Minnesota Vikings filled out their NFL 90-man maximum roster by signing a bevy of undrafted rookies and former practice squad players. This list is so fluid that the names posted on NFL.com following the draft have changed significantly. 

    They signed three wide receivers, increasing the number to 12 total on the roster—the most of any position. They also added two running backs and a fullback, despite returning two Pro Bowlers in Adrian Peterson and Jerome Felton at those positions. 

    Perhaps the player with the best chance to make the team from this bunch is Iowa quarterback Vandenberg. Only one of four signal-callers on the roster, his only competition will be McLeod Bethel-Thompson for the emergency quarterback position.