EAGAN, Minn. — Minnesota's 2023 NFL Draft class and its group of undrafted free agents hit the practice fields Friday for the first time in Vikings helmets, practice jerseys and shorts.
A total of 42 players, that included six players selected two weeks ago, 15 undrafted free agents, players invited to tryout, and returnees Josh Sokol and T.J. Smith hit the field for a session that lasted about an hour-and-a-half on a cloudy and breezy but generally mild — and dry! — day at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
Running back DeWayne McBride and receiver Malik Knowles did not participate in drills.
The session included a significant amount of work in position drills, along with some routes by the offense against air, two short 7-on-7 sessions and some special teams drills.
Here are three observations from Friday's rookie minicamp practice resented by Minnesota Eye Consultants, the Proud LASIK Partner of the Minnesota Vikings:
1. Addison smooth in transition
Jordan Addison put plenty of smooth plays on his college game film. Whether it was for two seasons at Pittsburgh that he capped by winning the Biletnikoff Award or last season at Southern California, he showed a playmaking prowess in many different ways.
The first-round pick donned his No. 3 Vikings practice jersey and looked the part of a receiver who will be ready to contribute to the Vikings offense. He worked on the outside and from the inside and had clean cuts and footwork, even though he was catching passes for the first time from fifth-round pick Jaren Hall and tryout invitee Logan Nelson.
Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said Addison has been participating in videoconference meetings "within the confines of the rules" since his selection with the No. 23 overall pick.
O'Connell noted Addison's confidence in lining up at multiple spots but said he was most interested in watching the receiver run in and out of his breaks during routes.
"I thought Jordan had a really, really good day and just looks and feels the part, which is exactly what I expected out of him," O'Connell said.
2. A close-up look at Hall passing
O'Connell threw some routes to receivers for part of practice but spent a considerable amount of time with the quarterbacks. A former QB who was drafted 15 years ago by New England, he said "I maybe overdo it sometimes" with the amount of focus he places on the position.
O'Connell also understands not to put too much weight on rookie minicamp. He wants quarterbacks coach Chris O'Hara and assistant Grant Udinski to be able to form an initial bond but added, "I'll spend a lot of time with Jaren."
"I'm a big fan of his. Love the way he came out and commanded a group of guys that are learning a bunch of information for the first time," O'Connell said. "There were some ups, there were some downs, and that's what we expect. And then ultimately, just trying to give him tangible, real things that when Monday morning rolls around and the vets walk in here and he starts throwing beside Kirk [Cousins] and Nick [Mullens], that he's got some real tangible things that he can work on every single rep."
Addison said Hall has a soft touch on his throws, and Hall said "the man runs smooth routes" of his draft classmate.
Hall said it was a bit of a transition, from footwork to other fundamentals. He was looking forward to reviewing the practice film.
3. Defense and special teams
Vikings defensive backs Mekhi Blackmon, a third-round pick, and Jay Ward, a fourth-rounder, took their first steps under the guidance of new Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores.
Both offer some position versatility, as well as athleticism that could help on defense or special teams.
O'Connell was asked about both players and trying to glean much from either during minicamp to pinpoint roles for either during OTAs or training camp.
"I don't think you really can because you've gotta start somewhere. … Like I said, some of these guys, really, are learning – whatever they've learned, they've learned this morning and then came out to the grass and worked on it," O'Connell said. "Now, if you start to feel like a guy has ownership – at least mentally – of multiple aspects of the defense, that's a really good thing. And I think Flo has already mentioned how quickly he felt some of the guys were picking things up. And like I said, limited volume of defensive calls.
"But it's exciting to see the versatilities in their bodies. And then when that special teams period starts, really start to see just the natural athleticism show up in Hat's (Special Teams Coordinator Matt Daniels') drills," O'Connell added. "He does a great job trying to lay out drill work that we can see those things, but also, he's looking as hard as anybody to see what roles they'll have on that phase, as well."