The Minnesota Vikings revealed a noticeable lack of talent at the cornerback position throughout the 2013 season. Despite having a glaring need at this position, the Vikings opted not to draft a cornerback until the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Two picks following a selection of former Virginia Tech cornerback Antone Exum, the Vikings drafted former Maine defensive back Kendall James.
Despite a fourth or fifth round draft projection, James fell to the Vikings in the sixth round, likely due to playing for a “small school” college and having a below average physical frame for the cornerback position. While James is considered an undersized cornerback, standing at 5-foot-10 and weighing 180-pounds, he is very athletic, has blazing speed and possesses excellent coverage skills.
While at Maine, James was highly productive. As the No. 1 cornerback on his team, James recorded eight career interceptions and consistently shut down the opposing team’s best wide receiver. In the NFL, however, James will need to improve his instincts, play-recognition ability, tackling skills and gain weight in order to find consistent playing time.
Since the Vikings have an evident hole at the cornerback position, James will, at the very least, have an opportunity to compete for a roster spot. While the competition at this position for the Vikings may not be stiff, there are numerous players competing for a similar role as James. Included in this competition are expected starters Xavier Rhodes and Captain Munnerlyn, Josh Robinson, Derek Cox, Shaun Prater, Robert Steeples as well as fellow rookies Exum and Jabari Price.
Since the Vikings likely will not roster nine cornerbacks, James will have to prove himself at OTAs and training camp in order to make the 53-man roster. At OTAs, James mostly has seen playing time at slot cornerback. With the presence of Munnerlyn, James will likely have to showcase enviable abilities at other defensive back positions in order to make the team.
While James may one day prove to be a valuable asset to a NFL team, 2014 will not be the year. Barring injury his competitors, James will likely be placed on the Vikings’ practice squad or see most of his playing time on special teams if he does in fact make the 53-man roster.