5 Unheralded Minnesota Vikings Who Must Step Up in 2014

5 Little-Known Vikings Who Need to Deliver in 2014

Gerald Hodges
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

After a disappointing 2013 campaign, the Minnesota Vikings are bent on being contenders this upcoming season. They rebuilt their coaching staff, re-signed a few key players and even made a couple of free agency splashes. Making a mark via the 2014 NFL Draft will be essential as well, but their current roster must also perform.

Here’s a look at five unheralded Vikings players who must produce in 2014.

WR Adam Thielen

Adam Thielen
Getty Images

WR Adam Thielen

Adam Thielen
Getty Images

Not many people know about Thielen, but he’s a player the Vikings are certainly exciting about moving forward. A Minnesota State product, Thielen grabbed the team’s attention last year after going undrafted, displaying great size, hands and vertical ability. Even with their top three receivers basically set, the Vikings are expecting progress from Thielen. The raw receiver could deliver with an NFL season already under his belt.

MLB Michael Mauti

Michael Mauti
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

MLB Michael Mauti

Michael Mauti
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, the Vikings took a seventh-round flier on Mauti, who was coming off a serious knee injury. If it wasn’t for the health concerns, though, Mauti might have been a Day 2 pick. That’s why there’s reason to believe heading into 2014 that he could become a significant contributor. The Vikings are without a clear starting middle linebacker heading into April, and will likely look from within to fill the void. Can Mauti step up?

MLB Audie Cole

Audie Cole
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

MLB Audie Cole

Audie Cole
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

If Mauti can’t step up, maybe Cole can do the job at middle linebacker. The 2012 seventh-round pick got some significant playing time towards the end of last season, and showed well as the starter. While there are concerns about his lack of elite athleticism and speed, he makes up for it with smarts, instincts and technique. If Cole gets an opportunity to win the starting job, you have to believe he’ll put up one tough fight.

G Jeff Baca

Jeff Baca
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

G Jeff Baca

Jeff Baca
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings nearly let Charlie Johnson walk this offseason, momentarily opening the door at left guard. Even though they ended up re-signing him, someone like Baca will be given every opportunity to supplant him as the starter. Baca, a 2013 sixth-round pick, showed promise last preseason and appears to have the coaching staff excited about his future heading into 2014. Johnson needs to be benched, and Baca is the best bet to take his place.

OLB Gerald Hodges

Gerald Hodges
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

OLB Gerald Hodges

Gerald Hodges
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Hodges wasn’t drafted to be a backup. When the Vikings grabbed him in the fourth round last year, they were hoping he would develop into a starter. Well now is the time for him to live up to expectations and earn a starting role. The starting weakside linebacker spot is wide open, meaning that Hodges will get every chance to win the job this offseason. If he’s anywhere as good as the Vikings are hoping, Hodges will be a household name soon.

Gil Alcaraz IV is the Director of Content for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @GilAlcarazIV, like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.


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  • kyle

    I’d also like to add Brinkley to the mix. We know what Brinkley brings to the table. He’s one helluva thumper in the run game. I wouldn’t be surprised if Zimmer has packages specifically for his skill set. I am very intrigued by what the Vikings’ defense looks like as a whole. This will be a very exciting year.

  • Brian Lietz

    Notice how there are THREE linebackers on this list!!! Personally, I’d take WR Adam Thielen off the list, and plug in SS Jamarca Sanford. If he improves upon his play from last year just a bit, then he’s a starter for sure. Otherwise, he needs to be replaced, possibly by a rookie.