When your team selects one player in the first round of the NFL Draft, fans get excited. When your team picks three guys in the first round, fans tend to go into meltdown mode.
From the moment Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson put on their super-clean Minnesota Vikings hats and gave commissioner Goodell a big hug, the question became, "What can we expect from this guys this season?"
In order to efficiently project what we can expect to see out these three first-round picks, we first must examine the strengths of each player, then determine the roles that they will be filling heading into the 2013-14 NFL season.
Sometimes high expectations outweigh realistic ones, so by wading our way through the murky waters of perception, we can figure out how each player should perform throughout their rookie campaigns.
The first man taken in April's draft, Sharrif Floyd was the most unexpected of all the first-round choices.
Heading into the evening, many Vikings fans and analysts had projected the team using their two first-round picks on a wide receiver, cornerback or linebacker combination.
But as Floyd plunged down draft boards, the Vikings decided to roll the dice on this former University of Florida All-American.
Floyd's fall was pretty surprising considering how highly regarded of a player he was heading into the draft.
Talking about drafting Floyd with Peter King from Sports Illustrated, general manager Rick Spielman said:
For us, our first round was sort of a combination. I prefer to be patient on draft day and let the board unfold, because it usually happens better than you think. And here, I certainly didn't expect Floyd to be there at 23. I expected him to be gone in the top 10.
Possessing an explosive first-step, Floyd thrives when being able to use his bullish strength to shed blocks and make plays consistently at the line of scrimmage.
But what stands out the most when you look at Floyd as a prospect is that he has tremendous room to grow into a dominant player.
Changing positions in college—Floyd went from playing defensive end back to his natural position of defensive tackle—never gave him the ability to focus on one particular one.
In Minnesota, he will finally be able to dedicate all of his time to improving his habits, techniques and growing into a dominant defensive tackle for the franchise.
What we know so far
With All-Pro Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams entering the last year of his the contract, it's very possible that the 33-year-old Williams is nearing the end of his magical run with the team.
Originally, there was a thought that Floyd could line up alongside Williams this season, but now with camp underway, it's seems like Floyd will play behind Williams on the depth chart to help develop as an under tackle.
The good news for Floyd fans is that coach Frazier recently told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he wants to limit Williams snap count to be around 30-35 a game.
That means Floyd will have a real chance to step and contribute right away whenever he's called on.
This well-thought-out battle plan seems like the most efficient way to utilize the raw abilities of Floyd while letting him learn under a veteran like Williams in the process.
What to expect this season
Playing behind Kevin Williams, Floyd's success will be predicated on his ability to take advantage of the snaps he's given.
With a "nothing is earned" mentality going on at Vikings camp, according to ESPN 1500, Floyd could end up contributing on special teams as well this season.
While it may be boring to watch a player like Floyd play in a backup capacity this season, the wealth of knowledge he can consume when lining up behind Williams and playing alongside guys like Brian Robison and Jared Allen will ultimately make him a better player.
Unlike a lot of struggling franchises in the NFL who need their rookies to step in immediately and contribute, Floyd has the luxury of playing on an experienced playoff-caliber team. That means that learning is the most important thing for Floyd early on.
Although it won't happen this season, down the line, replacing the iconic Kevin Williams is going to be one daunting task—a task that this incredibly capable defensive tackle is more than ready for.
So what can we expect to see from Floyd this season?
Expect Floyd to rotate in and consume snaps whenever Williams needs a rest.
At times, he will show everyone why he was such a highly sought after prospect throughout the entire draft process.
While all rookies struggle, Floyd's limited snap count could either mask his mistakes or put them under a microscope, depending on what transpires during his time on the field.
With a role potentially there for him on specials teams as well, look for this well-rounded young man to put it all together and blossom into quality player as the season winds down.
The second player to wind up in a Vikings uniform last April was former Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
While the team was clearly in desperate need of adding a young cornerback into the mix, and when Antoine Winfield left earlier this offseason, the need for drafting a playmaker in the secondary was magnified.
Ranked as the 20th-best overall player on Mike Mayock's Top 100 prospect list, the ball-hawking Rhodes has been described as a super-physical cornerback whose game is complimented by his sheer size and big frame.
Standing at 6'1", that size Rhodes possesses allowed him to dominate in press-coverage at the LOS during his time at Florida State—a skill that should translate well in the NFL.
A hard-hitting defensive back who plays incredibly aggressive when he's out there on the field, Rhodes is a high-volume player who loves to shut down opposing wide receivers and hover around the football whenever he gets the chance.
What we know so far
We know that Xavier Rhodes has been impressing his coaches and teammates ever since he walked into rookie camp.
Making it clear to everyone that his scouting report was accurate, as recently as yesterday Rhodes showed off his superior physical strength when he lined up against Vikings wide receiver Stephen Burton.
Stopping him dead in his tracks, Rhodes proved early on in camp that he could start Week 1 and help fill the void Winfield left for this team.
Because unlike Sharrif Floyd, Rhodes doesn't have the luxury of being eased into a starting role.
With Antoine Winfield off to Seattle, this young Vikings secondary has to rise to the occasion and consistently make plays all season long.
A hard-working and humble young man, when talking to FOX affiliate KVRR about being a rookie and contributing to this young secondary, Rhodes said:
We're going to have faith in ourselves, you know, who else will? So, we have faith that we'll come in and help the team b any means necessary. If that's special teams, defense, offense, no matter what it is, we came here just to help the team.
What to expect this season
With Chris Cook expected to be the No. 1 corner and Josh Robinson getting reps in the nickel formation, Rhodes will end up as the No. 2 cornerback when Week 1 comes rolling around.
Of course, he will have to learn on the fly being a rookie pushed into a starting role, but his attitude, size and physical style of play we touched on earlier should give him a shot at developing as a quality No. 2 cornerback from the jump.
While he's bound to turn some heads, there's no sugarcoating the fact that Rhodes is in tough position lining up against experienced NFL wide receivers—especially in the NFC North.
That means that like all cornerbacks playing in this pass-heavy NFL we live in today, he will struggle at times.
Being one of only three teams left that uses the Tampa 2 scheme as a base defense—the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys being the other ones—learning a new system will present Rhodes with a learning curve he has to overcome.
For the Vikings, in order to get the most out of Rhodes while he learns the nooks and crannies of the game and their defensive system, the coaches will have to embrace a little bit of defensive creativity to help him thrive.
If the team can adjust without compromising their scheme and let Rhodes engage more with receivers in a man-to-man look, expect this ultra-talented defensive back to make a run at Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Vikings fans will remember the decision to trade back into the first round of the draft and select the dynamic Cordarrelle Patterson for a long time.
While some say defense is the bread and butter of a championship caliber team, no one will argue that there is nothing more exciting than drafting an explosive offensive talent in the draft.
And explosive is exactly what this former University of Tennessee standout is.
But unlike Austin, Patterson, who boasts that warp-drive speed, isn't 5'8".
Standing at 6'2", this young man is an athletic freak with great size.
Watching his ESPN Sports Science profile, whether you're talking about his huge catch-radius, the school-bus-sized range he covers or his outstanding reaction time, you get to see first-hand just how much potential this guy brings to the table.
And that potential is exactly why general manager Rick Spielman went after Patterson in the first place.
What we know so far
Thanks to his rawness in various areas as a wide receiver and the more experienced Jerome Simpson lurking on the roster, Patterson will have to really shine during training camp and the pre-season if he has a shot at starting alongside Greg Jennings.
But even though he might not start Week 1 on the offensive side of the ball, all reports indicate that Patterson has the inside track to be the Vikings return man according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
That makes total sense considering how dynamic of a playmaker he can be whenever the football is in his hands.
Allowing Patterson to contribute right away on special teams will give fans a taste for how good this young man can be when he matures and his skill set gets more refined.
According to Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune, Patterson has impressed training camp already. When talking about Patterson as a wide receiver Leslie Frazier said, “If you were going to put together a receiver, he would look like Cordarrelle.”
What to expect this season
So what should we expect out of Patterson this season?
For starters, Patterson will be a tremendous threat in the return game.
His moves, burst and second-level speed could make him the most lethal return man the NFC North has seen since Devin Hester.
Plugging him into that role will instantly upgrade the Vikings special teams unit and give them a chance to put up points every time this young man touches the pigskin.
From the wide receiver vantage point, even if he doesn't line up alongside Jennings to start the season, because of the rare gifts he possesses, look for this guy to get a ton of touches on reverses, hitches and shots downfield.
The best part about Patterson as a player is that if he thrives in any role and grows right away, the offensive prowess and ability he has will launch him into the stratosphere of success, making the Vikings a better team every time he touches the field.
While Rhodes and Floyd might be the more polished rookies to come out of this Vikings draft class, Patterson is going to be the most exciting player to watch.
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