New Vikings draftees and undrafted free agent signings gathered this weekend at the new practice facility in Eagan, Minn. for rookie minicamp. It is the first time that fans get to see the latest crop of NFL talent in purple, and the first time the rookie teammates square up on the practice field.
The new additions to the roster bring several storylines to keep an eye on, both with rookie camp breaking and OTAs beginning.
Mike Zimmer added another mult-dimensional corner in Mike Hughes. He has the ability to play the nickel and cover the slot, but Hughes also possesses good man coverage skills. Ideally, he would one day be able to cover top receivers. He also figures to get some opportunies as a return man, as he was one of the best in the country last season.
Hughes has the most eyes as the first round pick. But undrafted Holton Hill might be getting close to the same attention. Hill is a big corner (6-foot-2) out of Texas that could have been a top-50 pick if it was not for his off-field baggage. However, the Vikings did their homework and felt comfortable with picking him up. He is a freak athlete with a similar build to Xavier Rhodes. If he can keep his mind straight, the Vikings may get one of the biggest steals in this 2018 draft.
Main Storyline Questions: Does Hughes take away snaps from Waynes or Alexander? is this the year Sherels gets cut due to Hughes’ return ability? Does Hill make the 53 and have an immediate impact?
Protecting The Quarterback
Offensive line was the biggest need for the Vikings heading into the draft, and they addressed it. However, it was not addressed as early as some were hoping for, due in part to their targets going earlier than expected. However, the Vikings added Brian O’Neil and Colby Gossett to the fold. O’Neil is an athletic right tackle that was used a lot to get Pittsburgh’s running game going. The big thing for O’Neil is whether he will be ready to contribute year one. He has a ton of upside, but still needs to add a lot of strength and weight.
The pick of Gossett in round six has received applause from fans and media alike. He has the ability to play both tackle and guard as he did at Appalachian State. He should be in the fold for the starting competition at one of the guards spots.
Main Storyline Questions: The offensive line needs help, but will either of these two play meaningful snaps for the Vikings come this 2018 season?
Attacking the Quarterback
The Vikings selected Jalyn Holmes and Ade Aruna as their pass rushers this year. Holmes has the ability to play both end and slide inside to tackle in certain pass rushing scenarios. Aruna has freak athleticism, but did not have great sack numbers during his time at Tulane. Holmes’ versatility means he should get meaningful snaps this season. Aruna, on the other hand, will likely get a redshirt year if he makes the roster.
Main Storyline Questions: How will Holmes perform as a three-technique? Does Holmes play the Brian Robison role of this team? Does Aruna make the 53 man roster?
The Kicking Game
The Vikings trading up in the fifth round to select Daniel Carlson, a kicker out of Auburn, was not a popular move amongst fans, or with current kicker, Kai Forbath. Forbath kicked well for the Vikings, but the missed extra points were a point of contention. Carlson has never missed an extra point in his career, and comes to the Vikings as one of the most accomplished kickers in recent college football. He has a big leg and will play most games indoors this season, so expect some 60-plus-yard attempts if he wins the job. Which he should; you do not trade up for a kicker unless he will be your starter this season.
Main Storyline Questions: Does Carlson beat out Forbath for the starting job? What happens if Carlson loses the battle?
Third Down Back
Another undrafted free agent pickup that was popular amongst fans was Roc Thomas. Thomas, a former Auburn player that transferred to Jacksonville State, has game breaking ability. There are obvious comparions to Jerick McKinnon, and the Vikings could use a third down back that is electric with the ball. Mike Boone also has made some waves, due to his strong performance at his pro day and his general explosion
Main Storyline Questions: Can Thomas and/or make the 53-man roster? If so, will they see meaningful snaps as third down backs?