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Do you think our rookie class will over- or under-perform in the 2020 season?
— Isaac Goldsberry in Big Lake, Minnesota
This is tricky one because of the unusual start to their NFL careers that all rookies across the league had to deal with in recent months.
The Vikings, of course, made a seven-round record of 15 picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, and then added a dozen undrafted free agents after the draft. That means that almost one-third of Minnesota's current 87-man roster consists of players who have never played an NFL game. And while a chunk of those 27 players will not make the final 53-man roster, some of them will make it, and will be counted upon to help out.
I expect first-rounders Justin Jefferson and Jeff Gladney to play sizable roles this season, and perhaps even start a fair amount of games. We'll see how the offensive line shakes out, but Ezra Cleveland's experience in a Boise State offense that uses zone blocking could accelerate his contributions. Cleveland was a second-round pick, and the Vikings went with five consecutive defensive players after him.
That group — Cameron Dantzler, D.J. Wonnum, James Lynch, Troy Dye and Harrison Hand — could be a sneaky key to how well the Vikings do in 2020. While those players will likely get some looks on defense, nearly all of them could be important special teams players as rookies. And speaking of special teams, fifth-round pick K.J. Osborn could very well be the team's primary punt returner this season.
As for the undrafted free agents, I'm excited to see what players like CB Nevelle Clarke, WR Quartney Davis and LB Jordan Fehr do at training camp.
How will the rookie class fare in 2020? I think the expectation is that it meets, or even exceeds, the standard set by the 2019 class led by Garrett Bradbury, Irv Smith, Jr., Alexander Mattison, Bisi Johnson and Austin Cutting. If this group can play that well, that will make back-to-back deep draft classes for the Vikings.
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of January 4, 2021.
Over/Under … will Anthony Harris have 6 interceptions like he did last season?
— Ken Engel
Great question, Ken. As we know, Harris tied for the league lead with six picks in 2019 along with New England CB Stephon Gilmore and Buffalo CB Tre'Davious White. That also meant that Harris led all safeties across the league.
I'm going to be bold here and take the over on your question. Harris is one of the smartest players on defense, and has a knack for baiting opposing QBs into mistakes. (Just go back and look at how he tricked Aaron Rodgers into an interception in Week 16 last season).
But I also think he's going to get more chances because of the unproven players the Vikings have at cornerback. If opposing offenses feel like they can throw the ball more often against Minnesota in 2020, Harris (and fellow safety Harrison Smith) could make them pay by lurking around in the secondary.
My first question is … do you think we will be switching up our scheme on defense at all, or do you think we will continue to stick with the 4-3 defense that we've been running under Zimmer? Also, who do you think will step up this season in our linebacking core aside from Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks? I like the improvement we've seen from Eric Wilson, but are there some other guys who we should be watching out for? And last but not least, do you think the inexperience of a lot of our receivers like Chad Beebe, Justin Jefferson & Dillon Mitchell will hurt us this season, especially with the guys being thrown off by the lack of time spent in camp?
— Jaycee McKinney
Thanks for the email, Jaycee. I broke down your questions in three segments.
1. The team likely will be keeping a 4-3 base scheme, but there could be some new looks/wrinkles this year with the addition of veteran Dom Capers to the coaching staff. Perhaps that means different alignments to throw off opposing QBs, but there could be some variations to what we've seen in the past.
2. Aside from the players you mentioned, keep an eye out for Troy Dye in 2020. The fourth-round pick is the only player in Oregon history to lead the team in tackles for four consecutive seasons. He finished third in program history in career tackles (397) and tied for fourth in tackles for loss (44.0). He could be an early special teams standout, and he has the potential to work his way into the defense down the road.
3. There may appear to be a lack of experience at WR behind Adam Thielen, but keep in mind that Tajaé Sharpe is going into his fifth season and Beebe is going into his third. Jefferson may be a rookie, yes, but he has drawn strong reviews from coaches and teammates so far. Mitchell knows the offense and has a year of experience, as do players such as Alexander Hollins and Davion Davis. Plus, keep in mind that the Vikings want to run the ball on offense, meaning the Vikings likely won't have an all-out aerial attack this season.
Attending my first training camp in Mankato was something I will always cherish. With the virus and distance of having to travel to Minneapolis, I was wondering if there was any venue that fans could watch the public version of Vikings training camp??? I am sure everyone would like to log onto a computer and watch what is happening training wise???
— Tom Manders in Osakis, Minnesota
Thanks for the email, Tom, and for your support of the team. As things stand now, the expectation is that training camp will begin in a few weeks, likely in the last week of July.
As it stands now, the league, and all 32 teams, are still working through the logistics of what training camp will look like, including whether or not fans will be allowed. We will keep you updated on Vikings.com and our social media platforms with all of the latest and detailed information on camp.
But when camp does arrive, and whether there are fans or not, you can still count on Vikings Entertainment Network to bring you in-depth coverage of training camp, whether that's videos, articles, podcasts or on social media.