Minnesota Vikings undrafted free agents

Minnesota Vikings undrafted free agents that could make the final roster

Last week, we looked at an early prediction of the Vikings’ depth chart heading into 2018. These offseason guesses are fine reads, but often neglect to represent a team’s undrafted free agent (UDFA) class.

Every year, dozens of talented players slip through the cracks to sign as UDFAs. Although many will fail to stick around in September, some may become valuable starters. Here are the five undrafted free agents most likely to make the Vikings’ roster in 2018.

Jake Wieneke, WR, South Dakota State

Minnesota Vikings undrafted free agents

Former South Dakota State wide receiver Jake Wieneke (No. 19) makes an acrobatic touchdown grab against Cal Poly. (Photo by Dave Eggen/Inertia)

Wieneke is your prototypical red zone threat. His size (6-foot-4, 221 pounds) gives him an immediate advantage near the goal line. Combine this with his insane high-pointing ability and physicality and Wieneke is a clear threat inside the 20-yard line. He is an impressive route runneri as well.

Wieneke put up insane numbers in college, with over 5,000 career receiving yards and 59 touchdowns. The main knock on the former Jackrabbit is his speed. He does not have great straight-line speed, which could be a major handicap heading into the NFL. Faster cornerbacks will not allow him to gain any separation, no matter how crisp his route running is.

Despite this, he will likely compete with Laquon Treadwell for the team’s fourth receiver spot.

Roc Thomas, RB, Jacksonville State

Minnesota Vikings undrafted free agents

Running back Roc Thomas at the NFL combine. (Photo from AL.com)

As a running back, Thomas is relatively small in stature, standing at only 5-foot-10. This brought down his draft stock, causing him to go undrafted. But what he lacks in height he makes up for in work ethic and quickness. Thomas is a very elusive back that can dominate defenders at the next level.

His jump cuts are second to none, but he does need to improve his vision to complete his game. He was impatient at times, jumping to the outside instead of waiting for running lanes to develop. If this can be corrected, Thomas can be a special talent. He has the potential to be a great change-of-pace back and could be the Vikings’ third running back this fall.

Holton Hill, CB, Texas

Holton Hill could have (and should have) been drafted, but his maturity issues forced many teams to push him away. He is long, fast and physical, fitting the mold of coach Mike Zimmer’s ideal cornerback. He also excels in coverage, minus the ball skills that first-round pick Mike Hughes has.

Despite playing cornerback, Hill is not afraid to commit to the run and is an excellent tackler. Based purely on talent, Hill could have been drafted as high as the third round. But after being suspended from Texas for violating team rules, his character came into question.

His perceived immaturity is a major red flag and will dictate whether he stays in the NFL. If Zimmer can set him straight, the Vikings may have found a diamond in the rough.

Hercules Mata’afa, LB, Washington State

Minnesota Vikings undrafted free agents

Hercules Mata’afa (No. 50) hits pressured Cal quarterback Austin Hinder. (Photo by James Snook-USA TODAY Sports)

Like many undrafted free agents, Mata’afa is a high-production player that may struggle to find a position in the NFL. At Washington State, he was a disruptive force as an interior defensive lineman. His quickness and toughness helped him earn an All-American and All-Pac-12 selection in 2017.

Unfortunately, we will not be able to see Mata’afa play on the defensive line at the professional level. He is far too small (6-foot-2, 254 pounds) to play as a defensive tackle, and does not have the burst needed to play as a 4-3 defensive end. He is currently listed as a linebacker, providing a steep learning curve for the native Hawaiian.

Mata’afa may need another year to develop, but his tenacity will help him compete for a job during training camp.

Garret Dooley, LB, Wisconsin

Like many Wisconsin defenders, Garret Dooley is very technically sound. He displays good hand use and is a solid tackler. Dooley is also a strong competitor who has been raved about by his coaches at Wisconsin.

He fits the mold of a traditional 4-3 middle linebacker, but lacks the athleticism needed in today’s NFL. None of Dooley’s physical attributes “wow” on tape. He is stiff as a runner and pass rusher and is too slow to excel in coverage. However, he only started for one year in college, and will now have an NFL weight room at his disposal.

Right now, he is only a practice squad-caliber player, but with the lack of depth at the linebacker position, Dooley might sneak onto the Vikings’ active roster.

 

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Minnesota Vikings depth chart

Way-too-early Minnesota Vikings’ depth chart prediction

With the NFL Draft over and training camp over a month away, we are officially in the “dead zone” of the NFL offseason. With that being said, it is never too early to speculate how teams’ depth charts will look heading into next season.

The Minnesota Vikings have the majority of their depth chart set in stone, aside from some spots on offense. Here is a way-too-early Minnesota Vikings’ depth chart prediction.

Offense

Below is the current projected depth chart for the Minnesota Vikings. Rookies are in bold.

1 2 3 4 5
Quarterback Kirk Cousins Trevor Siemian Kyle Sloter
Running back Dalvin Cook Latavius Murray Mack Brown
Fullback C.J. Ham
Wide receiver Stefon Diggs Adam Thielen Kendall Wright Laquon Treadwell Tavarres King
Tight end Kyle Rudolph David Morgan Tyler Conklin
Left tackle Riley Reiff Rashod Hill
Left guard Nick Easton Cornelius Edison
Center Pat Elflein Josh Andrews
Right guard Mike Remmers Danny Isidora Colby Gossett
Right tackle Brian O’Neill Cedrick Lang
Minnesota Vikings depth chart

Kirk Cousins as a Washington Redskin. Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

There are not too many surprises with the quarterback position. The Vikings signed Cousins to a massive three-year, $84 million contract during free agency. He will be the team’s franchise quarterback going forward.

Dalvin Cook missed most of last season due to an ACL tear. Prior to the injury, Cook was a favorite to win rookie of the year. His dynamic ability as a runner and receiver out of the backfield will make this offense one to be reckoned with.

There was some movement along the offensive line, as this was the Vikings’ biggest need heading into the offseason. Second-round pick Brian O’Neill will start at right tackle, forcing Mike Remmers inside at guard. It is likely that several of these linemen rotate to find the best combination of players.

Defense

Now moving on to defense, here is the anticipated depth chart. Again, rookies are in bold.

1 2 3 4 5
Left defensive end Danielle Hunter Brian Robison
Left defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson Jalyn Holmes
Right defensive tackle Linval Joseph Jaleel Johnson Dylan Bradley
Right defensive end Everson Griffen Tashawn Bower
Weak-side linebacker Ben Gedeon Reshard Cliett
Middle linebacker Eric Kendricks Eric Wilson
Strong-side linebacker Anthony Barr Kentrell Brothers
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes Trae Waynes Terence Newman Mike Hughes Mackensie Alexander
Strong safety Andrew Sendejo Anthony Harris
Free safety Harrison Smith Jack Tocho
Minnesota Vikings depth chart

Sheldon Richardson as a New York Jet. (Photo from turnonthejets.com)

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The only new starter on the Minnesota Vikings’ defense is Sheldon Richardson. Richardson signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the team in March. He should provide an additional pass rush to Minnesota’s already stout defensive line.

Due to the amount of depth on the Vikings’ defense, rookies Mike Hughes and Jalyn Holmes will struggle to find playing time in 2018. However, Hughes should get on the field early as a returner.

One big question on the defense is the fate of linebacker Kentrell Brothers. Last month, Brothers was suspended for the first four games of the 2018 season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Seventh-round pick Devante Downs has the best chance of any of the Vikings’ linebackers to fill in for Brothers. However, this remains unlikely, due to Downs recovering from a serious leg injury.

Special Teams

Minnesota Vikings depth chart

Former Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson. (Photo by Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports)

  • Kicker: Daniel Carlson
  • Punter: Ryan Quigley
  • Long Snapper: Kevin McDermott

Don’t forget about special teams! The only change from the Vikings’ 2017 roster is at the kicker position. It is facetious to guess who will win the Vikings’ kicking job this early, but Daniel Carlson does appear to be the favorite.

At Auburn, Carlson displayed one of the strongest legs in football. Although his accuracy took a small dip in 2017, the Minnesota Vikings believe he can be the team’s long-term answer at the position.

 

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Minnesota Vikings rookies

Instant impact: The Minnesota Vikings’ rookies

Every year, we hear the same question being asked after the NFL Draft: Who will be the next Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara or Andrew Luck? Rookie sensations take over the NFL each season, reshaping both their team and the league in the process. In 2017, Kamara made the Saints’ even more formidable, turning them into Super Bowl contenders.

With the 2018 NFL Draft long gone, it is time to predict which rookies will make an immediate impact with the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings have one of the best rosters in the league, but could still use an influx of young talent.

The following players are the three most likely to make an instant impact with Minnesota in 2018.

Brian O’Neill, OT, Pittsburgh

Minnesota Vikings rookies

Pitt tackle Brian O’Neill (No. 70). (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Leading the pack is the Vikings’ second-round pick, Brian O’Neill. The Minnesota Vikings’ offensive line has struggled for the last several years, making tackle a position of need. Last offseason, the Vikings signed tackles Mike Remmers and Riley Reiff in free agency. Both are just average starters and are getting older (29 years old each).

With Reiff locked in at left tackle, O’Neill will likely start on the right side. This will also allow Remmers to move inside at right guard, a position he is more suited for.

O’Neill is not the strongest of tackles, but was one of the most athletic offensive linemen in this year’s draft. He also has very long arms and good mechanics. At Pittsburgh, O’Neill played every game, which is a testament to his outstanding durability.

While he needs to become stronger to take on NFL pass rushers, the Vikings’ lack of depth along the offensive line will allow O’Neill to play early and often in 2018.

Chance of starting next season: 85 percent

Mike Hughes, CB, UCF

Despite him being Minnesota’s first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Mike Hughes is just a notch below O’Neill here. This is in large part due to the Vikings’ outstanding depth at the cornerback position. Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Terence Newman all have a greater chance at starting Week 1.

Minnesota Vikings rookies

UCF corner Mike Hughes returns a kickoff for a touchdown against rival USF. The return would end up being the game-winning score. (Photo by Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)

In addition, coach Mike Zimmer is infamous for bringing along his rookies slowly. For example, both Waynes and Anthony Barr had to fight for playing time as rookies, despite being selected high in their respective drafts.

Hughes may not be quite ready to start on defense either. With limited experience at UCF, he would benefit from seeing a reduced role in 2018.

That being said, there is a high probability of Hughes becoming a force on special teams. He was one of the most dynamic kick returners in college, returning two kickoffs and a punt back for six points. His speed and physicality would make him an excellent gunner as well.

Hughes has the traits of a lockdown cornerback, but he needs some time to develop early on. Expect him to be featured on special teams, and eventually move into the slot corner role.

Chance of starting next season: 70 percent

Tyler Conklin, TE, Central Michigan

Minnesota Vikings rookies

Former Central Michigan tight end Tyler Conklin. (Photo by Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)

Conklin is one of the more intriguing players in this year’s class. In 2016, he was one of the most dynamic players at the position, displaying great body control, hands and blocking ability. He is the stereotypical “basketball player converted tight end” and will be a great red zone target in the NFL.

Unfortunately, a severe foot injury derailed his 2017 season. Conklin looked unlike himself last season, struggling to find separation and was sluggish on the field. In order for him to make the 53-man roster, Conklin will need to bounce back from his injury fast. If he can return to his 2016 form, he could be a draft steal.

There is little depth at the tight end position behind Kyle Rudolph, so Conklin could easily become the Vikings No. 2. Kirk Cousins also enjoys utilizing his tight ends, making Conklin’s role even more important.

He still needs to fully recover, but Conklin could see plenty of playing time early in 2018.

Chance of starting next season: 35 percent

Bonus pick: Daniel Carlson, K, Auburn

Stop the presses. We got a kicker battle on our hands!

Carlson will be competing with 2017 starter Kai Forbath for the Vikings’ kicking job this summer. The outcome of these kicking competitions is always difficult to predict, making Carlson impossible to rank.

At Auburn, he displayed one of the strongest legs in football, making 13 field goals of over 50 yards. His accuracy took a slight hit compared to his 2015-16 stats, but was still one of the best kickers in the draft.

 

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vikings offseason needs

Minnesota Vikings Post-Draft Needs

Earlier this off-season, we identified five goals that the Vikings should strive for heading into the 2018 season. With the NFL Draft over, most of the major moves have come and gone. Nevertheless, the NFL never sleeps, and there is always time for improvement.

The Minnesota Vikings are one of the most complete teams in the league but could still use some additional depth on their roster. Here is an updated list of their primary needs, as well as the Vikings’ post-draft needs:

Find a Quarterback

Vikings post-draft needs

Photo by John Autey/ Pioneer Press

Heading into the off-season, the Minnesota Vikings had three quarterbacks, with all of their contracts due to expire. Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford, and Case Keenum are all solid starting quarterbacks, but the team decided not to re-sign any of them.

With only second-year player Kyle Sloter on the roster, the Vikings became a clear favorite for free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins. Cousins would then sign a three-year, $84 million contract with the team.

They had their guy, but the Vikings weren’t done there. General Manager Rick Spielman swung a deal with the Denver Broncos to acquire Trevor Siemian in exchange for a seventh-round pick. Siemian will provide the team with a solid backup, should Cousins get injured.

Fix the offensive line

vikings post-draft needs

Pitt tackle Brian O’Neill (70). Photo from vikingsterritory.com

The offensive line was easily the biggest concern for the Vikings heading into the off-season. After being one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL in 2016, they improved slightly, thanks to the addition of Pat Elflein, Mike Remmers, and Riley Reiff; however, they still have a massive hole at guard.

With longtime starter Joe Berger retiring, their need became even more desperate. The Vikings did take tackle Brian O’Neill in the second round of the NFL Draft, and he should become an immediate starter. He will likely start at right tackle, forcing Remmers to move inside at guard. This will help, but the offensive line is still the Vikings’ weakest position group.

Find a third receiver

After stellar performances by Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen in 2017, the Vikings were unlikely to invest heavily in the wide receiver position this off-season. However, there is a massive drop-off in production after the Diggs-Thielen combo. The Vikings’ third receiver, Laquon Treadwell, only caught 20 balls for 200 yards last season.

Adding a third receiver for Kirk Cousins was needed, and they did just that. Free agent wide receiver Kendall Wright quietly signed a one-year deal with the Vikings in April. Wright was one of the Bears’ leading targets last season, catching 59 passes for 614 yards. He will fit in right away as the Vikings’ new slot receiver.

Re-sign Terence Newman

Vikings post-draft needs

Minnesota Vikings cornerback Terence Newman breaks up a pass meant for Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. (Pioneer Press: John Autey)

The Vikings have an incredibly deep cornerback corps, with Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and first-round pick Mike Hughes. Rhodes and Waynes will be the team’s starting corners, but Hughes will need time to develop.

Having a veteran presence at the nickel corner position would allow for more flexibility for Mike Zimmer’s play-calling, as well as giving Hughes a mentor.

Re-signing with the Vikings also makes sense for Newman. He is familiar with Zimmer’s scheme and will likely be a starter in Minnesota. Newman re-signed with the Vikings on April 30th. The deal is only for one year and is worth the veteran minimum of $1 million.

Give Linval Joseph a running mate

With names like Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen, and Linval Joseph, the Vikings’ defensive line is one of the best in the league. Adding depth to the defensive line wasn’t the Vikings’ biggest need, but it would help bring their defense to the next level. Veteran defensive tackles Tom Johnson, Shemar Stephen, and Sharif Floyd are no longer with the team, making a hole at the position.

Minnesota filled this void with former Pro-Bowler Sheldon Richardson, who signed on a one-year, $8 million deal. In his rookie year with the New York Jets, Richardson looked like a future All-Pro, but his play quickly declined thereafter. With the amount of talent now surrounding him in Minnesota, 2018 could be a breakout year for Richardson.

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Vikings cornerback

Breaking down the Vikings’ cornerback situation

“You can never have too many cornerbacks,” said Mike Zimmer, hours after Trae Waynes had his fifth-year option exercised. “That’s how we feel about corners — just one more. So as many times as we can find guys that can cover around here, the more we want.” Zimmer’s philosophy is being pushed to the limit this offseason, as the team also re-signed veteran corner, Terence Newman.

Currently, the Vikings have Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Mike Hughes, Mackenzie Alexander, Terence Newman and Marcus Sherels all at the cornerback position. This impressive amount of depth is both a blessing and a curse for the Vikings.

With so many corners on the roster, the Vikings may be forced to let a talented player go. Although training camp is still eons away, let’s take a closer look at the Minnesota Vikings’ cornerback situation.

The Starters

Vikings cornerback

Minnesota Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes. Photo: AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes are set in stone as the Vikings’ starting cornerback duo heading into 2018. Rhodes is a perennial All-Pro and is arguably the best cornerback in the NFL. He was tasked with covering some of the league’s best wide receivers and did so flawlessly.

Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, and A.J. Green accounted for only nine receptions for 120 yards combined in their games against the Vikings. At only 27 years old, Rhodes is still in his prime and will be Minnesota’s lockdown corner for years to come.

Playing across from Rhodes is former first-round pick Trae Waynes. Coming out of Michigan State, Waynes was expected to be a lockdown corner who excels in press coverage. He hasn’t lived up to expectations so far, but he is still a solid starting cornerback.

His size and speed allow him to cover anyone on the field and is physical enough to break up contested catches. Trae Waynes is the favorite to start as the Vikings No. 2 corner, behind Rhodes.

The Wild Card

Vikings cornerback

UCF corner Mike Hughes returns a punt for 63 yards and a score. Photo: Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS

If there is anyone that can challenge Trae Waynes for the No. 2 corner spot, it’s Mike Hughes. Hughes was drafted in the first round (No. 30 overall) by the Minnesota Vikings last week. At UCF, he displayed impressive speed, physicality, and ball skills. All three of these traits are vital for success in Mike Zimmer’s scheme, and Hughes should fit in right away.

He was one of the bright spots on an underperforming defense and was one of the Knights’ biggest playmakers. However, with only one full year of starting experience, it may be wise for him to sit and develop behind Waynes and Rhodes. He will need coaching to address his footwork and hand usage, so it’s unlikely that he will be a Week 1 starter.

He will, however, have an immediate impact on special teams. Mike Hughes was one of the most dynamic kick returners in college last season, returning three kicks back for scores. With his raw ability, it can be difficult to determine how big of an impact Hughes will have on the Vikings’ defense in 2018, making him a true wild card.

The Supporting Cast

Vikings' cornerback

Terence Newman breaks up a pass against the Oakland Raiders. Photo by Jerry Holt/StarTribune.com

In today’s pass-happy NFL, the “nickel corner” has nearly become a full-time position. With teams throwing the ball now more than ever, defenses are forced to have a third cornerback on the field at all times. The Vikings have two cornerbacks that could fill this role in 2018: Terence Newman and Mackensie Alexander.

Newman, who turns 40 this season, played well for his age in 2017. He doesn’t have the speed he once had but was still effective in coverage against slot receivers. He had five passes defended, including one interception, in 2017.

Mackensie Alexander, a former second-round pick from Clemson, can also play nickel corner for the Vikings. He has seen limited playing time so far in his career, mostly due to the presence of Terence Newman. Expect him and Newman to battle for the starting nickel corner spot come August.

Fringe Players

Vikings cornerback

Texas cornerback Holton Hill. Photo: Will Gallagher/IT

Most NFL teams, including the Vikings, typically have six or seven cornerbacks on their active roster. Minnesota currently has eight, with Marcus Sherels, Holton Hill, and Horace Richardson filling the final three spots. This means that one (if not more) of these players will not be with the Vikings during the 2018 season.

Sherels has mostly contributed as a special teams ace for Minnesota, as a gunner and a returner. However, with him turning 30 and the team drafting Mike Hughes in the first round, his time may be limited. The Minnesota Vikings signed Horace Richardson as an undrafted free agent following last year’s draft. He has not started in an NFL game so far and will be fighting for a roster spot.

The Vikings also added Holton Hill as a rookie free agent this year. Hill’s draft stock fell dramatically due to maturity issues, forcing him to go undrafted. Despite his character issues, Hill still has an abundance of talent at his disposal and is the early favorite from this group to secure a roster spot.

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Vikings 2018 draft picks

Breaking down the Vikings’ 2018 Draft picks

After months of planning and preparation, the NFL Draft has finally arrived. This year’s draft lived up to the hype, with a flurry of trades and surprising picks. For the Minnesota Vikings, the NFL Draft was somewhat of a mixed bag. The Vikings picked up a handful of talented players but did not attack positions of need like many predicted. Here is an in-depth analysis of each of the Minnesota Vikings’ 2018 draft picks.

Round 1

Pick No. 30: Mike Hughes, CB, UCF

vikings 2018 draft picks

UCF corner Mike Hughes returns a kickoff for a touchdown against rival USF. The return would end up being the game-winning score. Photo: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

At the University of Central Florida, Mike Hughes was one of the Knights’ biggest playmakers. Hughes displays excellent physicality when in press coverage and has the speed to run with any NFL receiver. He also has impressive ball skills for his size (5-foot, ten inches).

Last season, Hughes had 11 passed defended, including four interceptions. His combination of speed, ball-skills and physicality is rare among draft prospects and fits the mold of Mike Zimmer’s ideal cornerback. Additionally, Hughes adds value on special teams. With UCF, he returned three kicks back for six points (two kickoffs, one punt), including a game-winner against rival South Florida.

The main concern regarding Hughes is his lack of experience. Hughes only played at UCF for one season and has some issues with coverage. He will need coaching on footwork and route recognition to be successful at the next level. However, Mike Zimmer is one of the most widely respected defensive back coaches in the NFL, so these problems should be corrected.

Round 2

Pick No. 62: Brian O’Neill, T, Pittsburgh

Heading into the draft, the Vikings biggest need was along the offensive line. General manager Rick Spielman believes that the answer is Pittsburgh tackle Brian O’Neill, who was taken at the end of the second round.

O’Neill is a tremendous athlete and has plenty of upside. He has very long arms and quick feet, which are essential for stopping NFL pass-rushers. O’Neill also avoided injuries throughout his entire career in Pittsburgh, making him a safe prospect.

With what he has in speed and quickness he lacks in strength and technique. Gaining some strength will help him be more dominant as a run-blocker, as well as giving him more versatility along the offensive line. He also showed inconsistencies in his footwork during Senior Bowl practice.

Despite this, O’Neill should be able to start at right tackle very early in his career. The Vikings’ offensive line is one of the thinnest in the NFL, and O’Neill should have an immediate impact.

Round 3

The Minnesota Vikings did not have a pick in the third round. They traded down with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for their fourth and sixth-round picks.

Round 4

Vikings 2018 draft picks

Former Ohio State defensive end Jalyn Holmes. Photo: Jay LaPrete, Associated Press

Pick No. 102: Jalyn Holmes, DE, Ohio State

With the amount of talent in Ohio State at the defensive end position, Jalyn Holmes struggled to find a lot of playing time. However, when he was on the field, Holmes was a force to be reckoned with on the defensive line. He was an all-conference honorable mention in back-to-back seasons and had over ten sacks in that span.

Jalyn Holmes has plenty of upside due to his size (6-foot five, 285 pounds), but seems to be a player without a position. He doesn’t have the speed or technique to be a 4-3 edge rusher, and he isn’t quite strong enough to be a 3-4 defensive end.

 

Holmes will need time to develop and should benefit greatly from sitting behind Sheldon Richardson on the Vikings’ depth chart. As a rookie, he will likely be a rotational defensive end on 3-4 formations.

Round 5

Vikings' 2018 draft picks

Former Central Michigan tight end Tyler Conklin (87). Photo: Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Pick No. 157: Tyler Conklin, TE, Central Michigan

You can add Tyler Conklin to the long list of former basketball players that made the transition to tight end. In 2016, Conklin looked like a future star at the position, with excellent hands and blocking ability. Like many former basketball players, he has great body control and knows how to get open on passing downs.

Unfortunately, Conklin suffered a severe foot injury that heavily impacted his 2017 play. His quickness and route-running looked dramatically different after the injury. Even without the medical issues, Conklin will still need to work on his ball skills, as he was often “boxed out” by defenders.

If he can bounce back from the injury, he could be a steal and an eventual replacement four Kyle Rudolph.

Pick No. 167: Daniel Carlson, K, Auburn

Despite having Kai Forbath on the roster, the Minnesota Vikings decided to select Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson in the fifth round of the NFL Draft. Carlson has one of the biggest legs in football, making 13 attempts from over 50 yards out. This will also be helpful on kickoffs, where Forbath struggled last season. Carlson looked like the best kicker in football in 2015 and 2016, but his accuracy did decrease slightly last season.

If he can stay confident and work on his mechanics, he can be the Vikings’ kicker for the next 15 years. He and Forbath will compete for the starting kicking job during training camp this summer.

Round 6

Pick No. 213: Colby Gossett, G, Appalachian State

Colby Gossett is one of the bigger projects in the draft, both figuratively and literally. His massive size (six-foot five, 311 pounds) and strength make him appealing to run-heavy NFL teams. He can very easily burst off the line of scrimmage and push defensive linemen five yards downfield. Additionally, Gossett has not missed a start since 2014.

However, nearly every aspect of his mechanics will need to be worked on. From his wide hand placement to inconsistent footwork, Gossett will benefit greatly from a year on the practice squad. He has the ability to become a great guard, but his inaccuracies make him a liability in the passing game.

Currently, Gossett will spend time either as a backup or on the team’s practice squad. Once his mechanics are cleaned up, he can remake the Vikings’ offensive line into one of the league’s best.

Pick No. 218: Ade Aruna, DE, Tulane

Vikings' 2018 Draft picks

Ade Aruna (87) at Tulane University. Photo: USA Today Sports

From one project to another, Aruna is also a prospect with outstanding measurables with inconsistent tape. He is a talented edge rusher with the versatility to play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme.

Aruna lit up the combine, finishing as a top performer in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, and 20-yard shuttle. However, these athletic traits did not result in much production at Tulane. Aruna only tallied 11 sacks in three seasons, which is very low given his skills. In order to succeed at the next level, he will need to greatly improve his pad level and hand use to take advantage of tackles.

His raw ability and pass-rushing potential draws some comparisons to current Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter. Hunter was also seen as an athletically-gifted project when he was selected in the third round of the 2015 Draft. He is now one of the league’s best up-and-coming defensive ends.

If coach Mike Zimmer can get similar results from Aruna, he could end up being a great value pick.

Round 7

Vikings' 2018 draft picks

Cal linebacker Devante Downs. Downs missed the majority of the 2017 season due to injury. Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Pick No. 225: Devante Downs, LB, California

Downs’ value to the Vikings will be entirely dependent on his health heading into 2018. Prior to last season, Downs was one of college football’s best middle linebackers and was on the cusp of a breakout season. He lived up to the hype, tallying 65 tackles and three sacks in his first seven games.

Downs seemed destined to be a mid-to-high draft pick, but that all changed in a Week 7 game against Washington State. He suffered a “lower-body injury” and was ruled out for the remainder of the season. Very little is known about the injury, so his future in the NFL is up in the air.

 

If he can make a full recovery, Downs could compete with Ben Gedeon at the weakside linebacker spot and will earn playing time on special teams.

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vikings 2018 draft picks

Minnesota Vikings select Mike Hughes No. 30 overall

The Vikings continue to improve their already dominant defense.

With the 30th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings have selected cornerback Mike Hughes from UCF. Hughes will join All-Pro Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes to form an impressive trio at the cornerback position.

The Vikings were expected by many to take an offensive lineman in the first round, but they opted for Hughes instead. He will likely sit behind Rhodes and Waynes next season and should develop into an eventual starter.

What the Vikings are Getting

Mike Hughes vikings

UCF cornerback Mike Hughes (19) picks off a pass against rival USF. Photo by Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

At the University of Central Florida, Mike Hughes was one of the Knights’ biggest playmakers. Hughes displays excellent physicality when in press coverage and has the speed to run with any NFL receiver. He also has impressive ball skills for his size (5-foot, ten inches).

Last season, Hughes had 11 passed defended, including four interceptions. His combination of speed, ball-skills, and physicality is rare among draft prospects and fits the mold of Mike Zimmer’s ideal cornerback.

Additionally, Hughes adds value on special teams. With UCF, he returned three kicks back for six points (two kickoffs, one punt), including a game-winner against rival South Florida. He should have an immediate impact in the return game and will gain more defensive snaps as his rookie year progresses.

The main concern regarding Hughes is his lack of experience. Hughes only played at UCF for one season and has some issues with coverage. He will need coaching on footwork and route recognition to be successful at the next level. However, Mike Zimmer is one of the most widely respected defensive back coaches in the NFL, so these problems should be corrected.

What’s next?

Mike hughes vikings

James Daniels, C, Iowa. Daniels remains as one of the highest ranked prospects heading into Day 2 of the NFL Draft. Photo from Hawkcentral.com

The Vikings’ main need heading into the second day of the draft remains their offensive line. Minnesota was expected to select a lineman with the 30th overall pick, but opted for Hughes when he slid in the first round. The offensive line, especially guard, is the Vikings’ only true weakness.

Minnesota was one of the least efficient rushing offenses in the NFL in 2017. Also, protecting newly-minted quarterback Kirk Cousins will be a priority next season. The Vikings could grab a few quality guards later in the draft, despite missing out on some elite talent. Two names to watch are James Daniels and Will Hernandez. Both are considered to be second-round talents, so one could fall to the Vikings’ second pick (No. 62 overall).

Daniels, a center from Iowa, is one of the most technically sound linemen in the draft. He is undersized, but has the strength and protection skills to become an immediate starter. Hernandez, a guard from UTEP, is another good talent that slipped out of the first round. He is the epitome of a power run-blocker, but still holds up well in pass protection.

Regardless of who is picked at No. 62, improving the offensive line is a must for the Minnesota Vikings.

Featured image by Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

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minnesota vikings draft trades

Three possible Vikings draft-day trades

After months of waiting, draft day is finally upon us. The 2018 NFL Draft is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in recent memory and is likely to feature several draft-day trades. The Minnesota Vikings are not likely to pull off any blockbuster trades, but general manager Rick Spielman is no stranger to working the draft board. Here are three Vikings draft trades that could go down on Thursday night.

Vikings trade back with Browns

minnesota vikings draft trades

Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman (Photo by Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)

Minnesota Vikings receive: Pick No. 33, Pick No. 114

Cleveland Browns receive: Pick No. 30

The Vikings have one of the deepest rosters in the NFL, giving them flexibility to move up or down the draft board. For moving back only a few picks, the Vikings would receive Cleveland’s fourth-round pick. The Cleveland Browns have the draft capital to add another first-round pick if a talented player falls to the end of the first round.

Minnesota would still be able to pick a talented player with the 33rd overall pick and could add even more depth with their new fourth-round selection. Having the first pick in the second round would also provide the Vikings with some trade leverage. The first pick of the second round is highly coveted, so Minnesota could trade down again to accumulate more picks.

Vikings trade up to No. 19 to draft Isaiah Wynn

minnesota vikings draft trades

Georgia guard Isaiah Wynn (77). Photo from saturdaydownsouth.com

Minnesota Viking receive: Pick No. 19

Dallas Cowboys receive: Pick No. 30, Pick No. 94, Pick No. 204

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Vikings could trade up in the first round to draft one of this year’s best guards. In exchange for their first (No. 30 overall), third (124), and sixth-round (204) picks, the Vikings move up 11 spots for Georgia guard Isaiah Wynn.

The Cowboys are in the wide receiver market, but Calvin Ridley is likely to be gone by pick No. 19. With no other first-round receivers available, trading back would make sense for Dallas. They could still get a talented wide receiver at pick No. 30, and now have additional picks to replenish their defense.

As for the Vikings, they would be able to jump teams in need of offensive linemen to get the player of their choice. Detroit (20), Cincinnati (21) and New England (23) are likely to take an offensive lineman, so there is no guarantee that Wynn will fall to pick No. 30. The Vikings are an offensive line away from being Super Bowl favorites, so an aggressive move like this may be in the cards.

Vikings swing a Day 2 trade with Arizona

Minnesota Vikings receive: Pick No. 47

Arizona Cardinals receive: Pick No. 62, Pick No. 94

minnesota vikings draft trades

Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Arizona Cardinals seem to be in rebuild mode, meaning they will be open to accumulating as many draft picks as possible. Like the previous scenario, the Vikings may look to move up to take a talented lineman. However, this time they will be targeting Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown.

At Oklahoma, Brown was an absolute beast at left tackle. His strength and run blocking are second to none, and he could start as a right tackle as a rookie. Heading into the offseason, Brown looked like a surefire first-round talent, but a poor combine performance ruined his draft stock.

He is still likely to be a mid-second round pick, making it unlikely he will fall to the Vikings at pick No. 62. In exchange for their third-round pick, the Vikings could move up 15 spots to take one of the most intriguing players in the draft.

 

Featured image from vikings.com

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Vikings top five drafts

Minnesota Vikings’ top five drafts of all-time

With the NFL Draft right around the corner, it’s fun to look back on how each team has performed in years’ past. The Minnesota Vikings have an excellent track history in the draft, especially for finding defensive talent. With a handful of all-time greats and dozens of Pro-Bowlers, finding the Vikings’ best draft is no easy feat. Nevertheless, here are the Minnesota Vikings’ top five drafts of all time:

#5: 1964

Hall-of-Famers: 1

vikings top five drafts

Minnesota Vikings defensive end Carl Eller. Photo from thebsblog.com

Pro-Bowlers: 2

The Vikings’ 1964 draft class will mostly be remembered by the selection of Carl Eller with the 6th overall pick. Eller would become one of the infamous “Purple People Eaters” and is one of the best defensive ends of all time. Carl Eller earned first-team All-Pro honors five times with the Vikings, from 1968-1971, and again in 1973. He is still listed as the team’s all-time sack leader, with 130.5.

Minnesota also drafted guard Milt Sunde in the 20th round of the draft. Sunde was a solid starter for the Vikings for over a decade, earning one Pro Bowl nod in 1966.

#4: 1998

Hall-of-Famers: 1

Pro-Bowlers: 2

Randy Moss and Matt Birk headline the Vikings’ class of 1998. Birk spent 10 seasons in Minnesota and was one of the NFL’s best centers during that span. With the Vikings, Birk made six Pro Bowls, and was selected as first-team All-Pro twice. Being picked in the 6th round (173rd overall), Birk was arguably the steal of the draft.

With the Vikings’ first pick in the 1998 draft, they managed to find an all-time great. Randy Moss revolutionized the wide receiver position and ended up being a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. With the Vikings, Moss earned five Pro Bowl nods and three first-team All-Pro selections. Despite only spending six years with the team, Moss was inducted into the Minnesota Vikings’ ring of honor in 2017.

#3: 2007

Vikings top five drafts

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson is the Vikings’ all-time leading rusher. Photo by Charlie Neibergall/AP

Hall-of-Famers: 0

Pro-Bowlers: 2

The selection of Adrian Peterson with the seventh overall pick by itself would put the Vikings’ 2007 draft class near the top in their franchise’s history. When he was in his prime years in Minnesota, Peterson was by far the best running back in the NFL.

In his nine-year run with the Vikings, Peterson was selected as either a first or second-team All-Pro seven times. The highlight of his illustrious career came in 2012 when he fell just short of Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record.

Along with Peterson, the Vikings also selected Sidney Rice and Brian Robison. Rice was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2009 and Robison has been a starter for the Vikings for over a decade.

#2: 1961

Vikings top five drafts

Photo by the Associated Press.

Hall-of-Famers: 1

Pro-Bowlers: 3*

Going back to where it all began, the Minnesota Vikings’ first draft in franchise history went off with a bang. With the first overall pick, the Vikings selected Tommy Mason, a running back from Tulane University. Mason made the Pro Bowl three times in six years with the Vikings before leaving for the Los Angeles Rams. His best year was in 1963, where he was named first-team All-Pro.

The Vikings also added linebacker Rip Hawkins and cornerback Ed Sharockman. Hawkins made the Pro Bowl in 1963 and Sharockman played 11 seasons for the Vikings.

The highlight of the 1961 Draft was drafting quarterback Fran Tarkenton in the third round. Tarkenton would retire as the NFL’s all-time leader in nearly every passing category. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986 and is still seen as the Vikings’ greatest quarterback in team history.

#1: 1967

vikings top five drafts

Minnesota Vikings’ defensive end Alan Page. Photo from nfl.com

Hall-of-Famers: 1

Pro-Bowlers: 4

In the 1967 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings drafted one of the best defensive players of all time. With the 15th overall pick, the Vikings selected defensive end Alan Page. Page has a laundry list of accomplishments, including nine straight Pro Bowl appearances, six first-team All-Pro selections, and MVP in 1971.

The Vikings also grabbed a pair of Pro-Bowl receivers in Gene Washington and Bob Grim.

In the seventh round, the Vikings picked cornerback Bobby Bryant from South Carolina. Bryant enjoyed a 12-year career with the Vikings, earning two All-Pro selections in 1969 and 1975.

This huge haul of talent would help turn Minnesota into legitimate Super Bowl contenders throughout the 1970s.

 

*The Vikings also drafted Pro-Bowler Jerry Mays in 1961, but he turned down the offer to play in the AFL.

 

Featured image from Damian Strohmeyer.

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Eric Kendricks

Vikings re-sign Eric Kendricks

The Minnesota Vikings re-signed Eric Kendricks to a five-year, $50 million deal on Monday, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. The contract reportedly includes $25 million of guaranteed money. Prior to the extension, Kendricks only had one year left on his rookie contract.

What the Vikings are Getting

Eric Kendricks

Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) blitzes New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

After being selected in the second round of the 2015 draft, Kendricks made an immediate impact on Mike Zimmer’s defense. The former UCLA Bruin has led the Vikings in tackles in every year he’s been in the league.

Kendricks displays all of the traits needed to be a dominant linebacker and is one of the NFL’s best up-and-coming defensive players. He shows exceptional speed and awareness, allowing him to fly towards the ball carrier. He is also underrated is pass coverage and had a 31-yard pick-six last year against the Cincinnati Bengals.

With the deal, Kendricks will be able to play with fellow defensive stars Harrison Smith, Everson Griffen, and Linval Joseph for years to come.

What’s Next?

With Kendricks locked up, general manager Rick Spielman can now focus on re-signing Anthony Barr, Danielle Hunter and Stefon Diggs. This should be no easy feat, as Kirk Cousins’ massive deal has the Vikings playing a game of cap space limbo.

Hunter and Diggs are both playing on the final year of their rookie contracts and are due for an extension soon. Barr is also due to be a free agent in 2019, since he is playing on his fifth-year option.

Barr, Kendricks’ college teammate, is likely to be the next Viking to see a big payday. After seeing limited playing time as a rookie, Anthony Barr has made the Pro Bowl in each of the last three seasons. He and Kendricks have become the centerpieces of Mike Zimmer’s defense, and now they’re about to be paid like it.

Featured image from si.com

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