If nothing else, 2017 taught us that the Vikings are going to linger around the top of the NFC for awhile. A big reason for that is the contributions made by rookies. For the most part, Viking rookies proved that not only will they develop into strong players, they can be productive right here, right now.
Here are grades for those rookies, limiting to players who were on the field in at least three games in 2017.
RB Dalvin Cook: A-
Cook was far and away the Vikings’ top rookie through four games and was driving towards a Rookie of the Year campaign. Unfortunately, it was cut short by a torn ACL after just four weeks. The length of his season is the only thing docking his overall grade. When on the field, Cook looked outstanding, going for over 100 yards from scrimmage twice in just 3.5 games.
C Pat Elflein: B+
Elflein earns high marks for the mere fact that he started 14 games at center for a Super Bowl contender as a rookie. And he did so while rarely looking over-matched, even while squaring off with some of the league’s best interior defenders. Sure, Elflein was a little suspect at times as a pass protector and did not get consistent push in the run game. But his screen blocking was impeccable and when he sat out with injury, the line clearly took a dip.
LB Ben Gedeon: A-
This may surprise some fans, but Gedeon was actually one of the surest tacklers on the Vikings’ defense this season. According to Pro Football Focus, Gedeon did not miss a tackle in run defense in 2017. As the third linebacker, Gedeon did not see a great number of snaps, despite being the starting Will. But when he was in, Gedeon was solid as a run-stopper and as a special teamer.
DT Jaleel Johnson: C
Some of these grades just have to default to a C, due to lack of evidence. Johnson fits that category. He was fourth in the defensive tackle rotation with three starting caliber players in front of him. As such, he only saw action in five games, recording a tackle and a face-masking penalty. Johnson figures to get a bit more run in 2018.
OT Aviante Collins: C
Collins was the fourth tackle, so he saw no action at that position. However, in spots Collins found a niche as the third tight end in jumbo packages. There is nothing really to write home about here, Collins is a great athlete who simply has to wait his turn.
LB Eric Wilson: A-
Wilson played nary a snap of meaningful game action at linebacker in 2017, yet he made his mark in his rookie season in kick coverage. Wilson was among the team leaders in special teams tackles, anchoring one of the league’s premier cover units. His future as a linebacker is likely minimal, but Wilson found a way to contribute.
G Danny Isidora: D+
Isidora’s primary role, especially towards season’s end, was as a blocker on the field goal unit. He seemed to perform well enough there, no snafus to speak of. Isidora did get a little playing time in the middle of the season, however, even getting a start at guard in week eight. He did not have a particularly good game against a good Cleveland front, but Isidora still will likely figure into the guard competition next year.
WR Stacy Coley: D
Coley barely qualifies for this list. Though he performed well at receiver in preseason, he saw little action there in the regular season, seeing only one target. His only real action was as kick returner for four games. During that stretch as return man, Coley brought the ball out just once, returning for 19 yards. After week eight, Jerick McKinnon and Marcus Sherels handled most of the return duties.
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