Minnesota Vikings

How Kendall James Fits with the Minnesota Vikings

Maine defensive back Kendall James after an NCAA football game in Orono, Maine, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael C. York)
Michael C. York/Associated Press
Darren PageFeatured ColumnistMay 10, 2014

After selecting defensive back Antone Exum two picks prior, the Minnesota Vikings went back to the well by selecting Maine cornerback Kendall James.

Kendall James goes in the opposite direction of Exum in terms of size.  His height and weight are below average for cornerback prospects and are limiting traits for his NFL projection.  

Greg Gabriel of the National Football Post highlighted those concerns, saying, "Overall, James has some talent, but he needs to be more aggressive. His lack of bulk and strength may be the difference in making a club. At this time, I see him as more of a practice squad/developmental player."

The Vikings may view him as a prospect who has the frame to add weight.  If they thought his weight could never get above 180 pounds, then selecting him at all would not make sense.

Their interest in Kendall James was likely related to his athletic ability.  He posted a 40-yard dash under 4.5 seconds and a 39-inch vertical leap, per NFL.com.  His light feet and fluid hips are traits that are sought after in cornerback prospects.  Mike Zimmer will have an idea for how to use that athleticism.

Though Kendall James played on the outside for Maine, he is likely to see the bulk of his playing time come from the slot for the Vikings.  That nickel position should hide some of his size issues when asked to match up with lighter, smaller receivers who play in the slot.  

His light feet and mirroring skills give him man-coverage capabilities.  The Vikings' new defensive scheme will use more man-coverage concepts than the previous scheme, so there's value in Kendall James.

James has a curious fit into the depth chart as it stands.  Minnesota recently signed Captain Munnerlyn, who is viewed as a cornerback who plays best from the slot.  Marcus Sherels also falls into that category.  Josh Robinson has experience in the slot, though his best position is yet to be determined.

A sixth-round pick shouldn't be expected to contribute immediately, but Kendall James may not bring something the Vikings don't already have.  He needs to make special teams contributions in order to differentiate himself and make the pick worthwhile.  James just doesn't project as a cornerback who can play on the outside, so there's only so big of an impact he can make down the road.  

Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net described James in a similar way. Pauline wrote, "James possesses the speed and skill to line up as a dime back in the NFL if he toughens up and displays ability on special teams."

If Kendall James brings an adequate amount of competition to the secondary, then the pick is worth it.  Making the team should be his first goal.  If he makes the final roster, it may only be a matter of time until he sees the field.  At least that's how the cornerback position has been for the Vikings in recent years.

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