Last year's standouts, free agent signings and draft picks get most of the attention this time of year. And that means some players who will be standouts this upcoming season are being overlooked now. Here are seven Vikings who aren't getting much attention now but whose play may command attention once the 2014 season begins.* *
RB Matt AsiataWhy He's Overlooked: The Vikings have the best running back in the NFL on their side, and now fans are excited about how Norv Turner will use third-round pick Jerick McKinnon as a complementary back.
Why He Shouldn't Be Overlooked: Adrian Peterson is still in his prime and McKinnon will have a role, but Toby Gerhart's departure via free agency this offseason has opened up a spot as Peterson's backup. McKinnon may be better suited as a change of pace/scat back, meaning there is still room for a north-south bruiser on the depth chart, a role Asiata is capable of executing.
LB Jasper BrinkleyWhy He's Overlooked: The selection of Anthony Barr in the first round, speculation that Chad Greenway could slide to the middle and the prospects of youngsters Audie Cole and Michael Mauti battling for playing time have grabbed the attention at this position.
Why He Shouldn't Be Overlooked: Brinkley is a bona-fide thumper against the run on the inside and could be everything Mike Zimmer wants out of a middle linebacker in the Vikings base defense. He was drafted by the Vikings in 2009, left via free agency for Arizona in 2012, and was re-signed by the Vikings this offseason.
LB Gerald HodgesWhy He's Overlooked: Barr gets most of the attention at outside linebacker and Greenway is a returning starter at the position.
Why He Shouldn't Be Overlooked: Hodges came to Penn State as a safety but left the program as a linebacker selected by the Vikings in the 2013 NFL Draft. He flashed consistently on special teams as a rookie last year, and he possesses the "tweener" traits as an outside linebacker that may appeal to Zimmer as he schemes a way to defend matchup-nightmare slot receivers and tight ends.
OG Charlie JohnsonWhy He's Overlooked: The only time we tend to notice offensive linemen is when they make a mistake, and Johnson has been much-maligned of late. Plus, many fans and media are focused on Jeff Baca's development, the signing of Vladimir Ducasse in free agency and the selection of David Yankey in the fifth round of this year's draft.
Why He Shouldn't Be Overlooked: He's a returning starter who can start at as many as three positions along the line, he is durable and tough, he is smart and he is familiar with offensive line coach Jeff Davidson's expectations.
FB Zach LineWhy He's Overlooked: The Vikings have a Pro Bowl-caliber fullback in Jerome Felton and then do-everything player Rhett Ellison also figures to be a prominent part of the blocking scheme. Plus, Line was injured before the season even started last year.
Why He Shouldn't Be Overlooked: At roster cut time, position flexibility and special teams ability reign supreme. Line was a dynamic runner in college, has the strength and toughness to be a lead blocker now, and can play on multiple special teams phases.
CB Shaun PraterWhy He's Overlooked: Aside from being a returner from last year's maligned secondary, Prater is also overlooked because there's (rightfully) great anticipation about Xavier Rhodes heading into his second season, the Vikings signed Captain Munnerlyn (and Derek Cox) in free agency and then they selected two cornerbacks in this year's draft.
Why He Shouldn't Be Overlooked: Prater had one of the team's three interceptions by cornerbacks last season, he was a standout at the team's voluntary minicamp earlier this offseason and he fits the profile of the type of player coach Zimmer always seems to maximize.
DE Brian RobisonWhy He's Overlooked: Jared Allen and Kevin Williams are gone, Tom Johnson, Linval Joseph and Corey Wootton were signed in free agency, and both Scott Crichton and Shamar Stephan were drafted.
Why He Shouldn't Be Overlooked: Robison is now the dean of the Vikings defensive line, but at 31 years of age he's still in his prime and he's coming off a career season in which he had 9.0 sacks to go along with 14.0 TFLs, 40 quarterback hits and even a defensive touchdown.