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Minnesota Vikings: 5 Players Whose Stock Is on the Rise After OTAs

Giancarlo Ferrari-KingFeatured ColumnistJune 6, 2014

Minnesota Vikings: 5 Players Whose Stock Is on the Rise After OTAs

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    The Minnesota Vikings' second OTA session wrapped up yesterday, allowing the coaching staff to get a better feel for how this roster is shaping up.

    We still haven't gotten the chance to see the team at full strength, as rookies Anthony Barr and Scott Crichton once again weren't in attendance.

    Even without the two rookie edge-rushers, this second session of OTAs served as a valuable tool for the Vikings. 

    Understanding how head coach Mike Zimmer thinks and getting a feel for the entire coaching staff is a huge part of the players taking the next step as a team.

    Reviewing all of the action from a busy week of OTAs, let's now take a look at five players whose stock is on the rise.

QB Teddy Bridgewater

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    It's always a good sign when the quarterback your team drafted in the first round of the 2014 draft has been garnering rave reviews from his head coach.

    Teddy Bridgewater once again was able to go out and impress Zimmer during OTAs.

    After seeing his young QB put in work, Coach Zimmer explained to Andrew Krammer of 1500ESPN.com what makes him such a capable prospect.

    "[Bridgewater] is a worker, he wants to be really, really good," Zimmer told Krammer. 

    Discussing Bridgewater's transition into the pros, the first-year head coach followed up by saying:

    He's kind of feeling his way a little bit around the guys, that'll come with time. He understands he's a young guy, he'll keep...progressing and be comfortable around everybody. I like him a lot, he's going to be a good football player for us.

    It's an exciting time for Vikings fan as training camp approaches. Having Bridgewater in pads means hope is just around the corner.

    Look, there's nothing wrong with having veteran QB Matt Cassel as the starter early in September. But the simple fact that the Bridgewater era is lurking on the horizon makes life a whole lot better in Vikings land.

    As the team finishes up OTAs, it's going to be critical for the 21-year-old quarterback to take as many reps as possible and maintain an ascent in his developmental trajectory.

    Who knows, maybe the Bridgewater era will kick into gear sooner than we think. Based on his growth so far, playing Sept. 7 against the St. Louis Rams doesn't seem unrealistic anymore.

WR Adam Thielen

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    Associated Press

    Former Division II wide receiver Adam Thielen is a talented young man looking to find a place on a deep wide receiver corps this summer.

    After spending the 2013 season on the practice squad, the 6'2" pass-catcher has a lot of work to do if he wants to impress Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner.

    ESPN.com's Ben Goessling was in attendance during OTAs. He got the chance to watch Thielen and came away impressed. 

    "He hauled in Bridgewater's sideline throw, and seemed to have a good rapport with the rookie quarterback all day, connecting on a crossing route between two levels of coverage during 11-on-11 work," Goessling wrote.

    The problem with Thielen isn't his ability. It's that the Vikings have a lot of depth when it comes to the wide receiver position.

    Thielen's saving grace may be Turner's scheme. A fast wide receiver who can stretch the field, his skill set meshes beautifully with the vertical passing attack Turner loves to use.

    Getting off to a hot start in OTAs is a great way for Thielen to begin his ascent up the Vikings depth chart.

RB Jerick McKinnon

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Jerick McKinnon is a runner.

    Without having a true position to call his own, his transition from an option quarterback into a halfback will take some time.

    But one thing we already know is that he can flat-out groove with the football in his hands.

    When the Vikings went out and took McKinnon in the third-round of the 2014 draft, NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock said, "They don't even know where to play him. He could start as a defensive back, but I think he'll be on offense in the NFL."

    Currently listed as a running back, McKinnon has already managed to make an impression on the one and only Adrian Peterson, per Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press.

    He’s quiet, but he’s a hard worker. A smart kid, you can see he’s hungry to learn. When I’m watching him in meetings and things, and out here at practice, he’s definitely picking up things, picking up the offense well. He’s quick, got some great explosiveness that I’ve seen. I think he’s going to be able to do some good things.

    McKinnon's work at running back actually wasn't the thing that made him shine during OTAs.

    As ESPN.com's Ben Goessling noted, McKinnon looked great taking snaps as a wide receiver.

    The goal seems to be to line him up all over the field on offense and see what he's capable of doing.

    Even though his role will primarily be backing up Matt Asiata and perhaps Peterson at running back, there could be times when we see him used as more of an "offensive weapon"—that's the title the Jacksonville Jaguars gave Denard Robinson before the 2013 season.

    McKinnon is an explosive talent who's hard to ignore. A talent that general manager Rick Spielman wouldn't have taken in the third round of the draft if he didn't have a plan in mind.

CB Derek Cox

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    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    There's a desperate need for the Vikings secondary to make considerable strides leading up to the start of the regular season.

    One area of the secondary that has to find an immediate answer is at cornerback. Outside of second-year man Xavier Rhodes and free-agent signee Captain Munnerlyn, the position is pretty much wide open.

    Munnerlyn will be in the mix to work alongside Rhodes on the outside, but he also will be used frequently as the team's primary slot cornerback in nickel packages.

    By the time OTAs wrap up, the two names worth paying attention to on this depth chart will be Derek Cox and Josh Robinson.

    After experiencing some serious turbulence lining up in the slot last season, Robinson should improve now that he will be working on the outside once again. Cox on the other hand is trying to rebrand himself as a quality cornerback after struggling to live up to the four-year, $20 million contract he signed in 2013 with the San Diego Chargers.

    Of the two, Cox seems to be picking up Coach Zimmer's philosophy on defense the quickest.

    "He's catching on to the defense we're trying to teach, and really, he's been getting better every single day that we've had him," Zimmer told Andrew Krammer of 1500ESPN.com.

    The real test won't come until later on this summer. But for now, it seems like Cox is doing everything he can to make amends for the apathetic 2013 he endured with the Chargers.

T Antonio Richardson

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    The man they call "Tiny" is making a big name for himself during OTAs.

    He won't replace Matt Kalil or Phil Loadholt on the offensive line, but with each passing day, Antonio Richardson is looking like he's going to be part of the Vikings' future plans.

    When he was asked about Richardson after OTAs finished up, per Vikings.com, Coach Zimmer said, "He’s a very talented guy. Obviously, he has great size and length, he catches on pretty good as far as the scheme, we’re excited about him, we think he has a chance to be a good player."

    Who wouldn't be excited about a guy who Rob Rang and Derek Stephens of NFLDraftScout.com (h/t CBSSports.com) once compared to Dallas Cowboys great Erik Williams?

    At 6'6", 336 pounds, he's a mountain of a man who's incredibly hard to move off the point of attack.

    Originally projected to be selected between the second and third round of the draft, NFL.com's Nolan Nawrocki wrote in detail about what Richardson does best on the field:

    Good strength to anchor vs. power and possesses enough brute strength to hold his ground even when he locks his legs. Is not easily moved and can position-sustain. Bends fairly well for as big as he is and is agile enough to handle speed.

    Considering that the Vikings brought him as an undrafted free agent, Richardson is easily one of the best offseason additions this team has made in a very long time.

    Keep an eye out for Tiny. If he can keep his health in check, the sky is the limit for the former Tennessee Volunteer.

     

    All CFB stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com, unless noted otherwise. All stats courtesy of NFL.com.

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