The Minnesota Vikings grabbed headlines on the first day of the 2013 NFL Draft. Why? Because they had an astonishing three picks in the first round alone, each filling a massive need at defensive tackle, cornerback and wide receiver. The rest of their six picks in the draft were also viewed highly, and all in all, the Vikes received pretty good draft grades. So how is the Vikes draft class shaping up now that we’re six weeks into the season? Mixed results. Here’s a closer look.
Sharrif Floyd, their first pick (No. 23 overall), was viewed as one of the best value picks in the entire draft. Not only did the Vikings scoop up a guy that was supposed to go top-5, but he plays a position (3-tech) where the Vikes are looking for a future replacement for perennial Pro-Bowler Kevin Williams (who’s in the last year of his contract). So far, Williams has played pretty well. He’s been hindered by some minor knee issues, but he’s shown a knack for getting up field and pressuring the QB, especially of late (1.5 sacks the last two games). There’s no question Floyd has a bright future with the franchise.
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (No. 25 overall) was the one guy that was expected by pundits to step in and make an impact right away, but the coaching staff has decided to bring him along slowly, preferring to keep him inside at nickel. He’s arguably been the most consistent corner on the Vikes roster thus far but has certainly made his share of rookie mistakes. Rhodes did suffer an ankle injury in the team’s horrible loss Sunday to the Carolina Panthers and is awaiting an MRI to see the full extent of the injury. Regardless, despite his lack of outrageous stats thus far, he’s shown glimpses of potentially being a shutdown cornerback.
Receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (No. 29 overall) was drafted with the explicit intention of replacing the deep threat that Percy Harvin provided in years past. With an outstanding combination of both size and speed and a dearth of playmakers on the roster, it wasn’t hard to understand why he sought after by Minnesota. But through five games, Patterson only has eight receptions for 85 yards and no touchdowns. Yes, he’s provided some exciting highlights on special teams, but he hasn’t been a factor at all offensively for the Vikes.
It’s been a baffling question all season long: Why isn’t Patterson getting more playing time? Coach Leslie Frazier continues preaching to fans and the media that they want to get him the ball more, and he did receive the most playing time of the season (19 snaps) on Sunday. But there’s still no effort to actually get him the ball. He’s been targeted only 11 times this season. He was drafted to be a playmaker, and he can’t achieve that without getting the ball.
The rest of the Vikings’ draft picks have struggled to make much of an impact, aside from 5th round punter Jeff Locke, who’s actually made the biggest impact out of all the rookies.
Linebackers Gerald Hodges (4th round) and Mike Mauti (7th round) have struggled to see the field, as both are listed on the third string. There is some potential there, however. Hodges is an outstanding fit as an OLB in the Vikes’ 4-3 cover 2 defense, and Mauti, if he can ever regain full strength in his knees after numerous ACL tears, provides every intangible you could ask for in a ‘Mike’ backer.
Backup left guard Jeff Baca (6th round) hasn’t been given too many chances thus far, and he’s still somewhat of an unknown. Guard Travis Bond and defensive tackle Everett Dawkins have been relegated to practice squad and also are lumped into the unknown category.
All in all, lots of questions are still in the air. There’s no doubt there’s a lot of talent in the Vikings 2013 rookie class, but there hasn’t been much production. It will be interesting to see how this group plays down the stretch.