Of the Vikings 12 NFL Draft picks in 2019, nine have already seen game action. Seven of them have played in all eight games.
Matthew Coller of SKOR North evaluated Minnesota's rookie draft class at the midway point of the season, starting with first-round pick Garrett Bradbury. He said the rookie center struggled some out of the gate but "looked the part" over the past four games.
Coller said that Bradbury "survived the early punches against extremely difficult competition and has [begun] an upward trajectory."
He also provided a "second-half" outlook for Bradbury:
Bradbury should be much more prepared for the Bears and Packers interior defensive lines when he sees them again at the end of the season. Not only has the former N.C. State standout improved over the last four weeks, the Vikings appear to have found schematic solutions to help the entire offensive line. Without many top-notch defensive tackles on the second half slate, Bradbury has an opportunity to put his tough start in the past and play an important role in both run blocking and pass protection.
Coller next looked at tight end Irv Smith, Jr., who was drafted 50th overall. Through eight games, Smith has 15 catches for 174 yards; the Vikings have used him in multiple tight end sets to stress defenses and create mismatches against opponents.
The sheer presence of Smith has made the Vikings more unpredictable because he can block, create yards after catch on short passes and run intermediate routes effectively.
Coller opined that it's "unlikely we will see a large change" in the way Smith is utilized throughout the second half of the season but anticipates that he may get targeted more "as he becomes more and more comfortable."
As for the Vikings third-round selection, running back Alexander Mattison, Coller said the former Boise State standout has proven to be "someone who [can] slam away at defenses and offer a change-up from Dalvin Cook."
Assuming the Vikings MVP-caliber starter remains healthy, there is plenty of value in having a backup who can allow Cook to take the occasional series off or rest late in games that have already been decided. He won't be the first player featured in the NFL Films season recap, but Mattison could certainly be viewed as a sneaky valuable player by the year's end.
To see Coller's draft pick assessments in full, click here.
Packers and Vikings called 'legitimate Super Bowl contenders' at midway point
After starting the season 2-2, the Vikings have won four straight games and are sitting in a much more comfortable position at the midway point.
The Packers retain their seat at the top of the division, however, having defeated the Vikings in Week 2 and having just one loss to their name thus far.
Forbes contributor Steve Silverman believes that both NFC North teams look like Super Bowl contenders halfway through the 2019 regular season. He wrote:
The Green Bay Packers and Vikings are rolling along with 7-1 and 6-2 records, respectively, and it would not be a shock for either of these teams to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. The Packers are rejuvenated as the Aaron Rodgers-Matt LaFleur partnership is working at peak efficiency.
The Vikings appear to have gotten serious since suffering their Week 4 loss to the Bears. Since that time, Cousins has been one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league. He has completed 155-of-215 passes for 1,997 yards with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions this season, and he appears intent on quieting his many critics.
Silverman said that while it's "debatable" which offense is stronger between the two, Minnesota's defense "is far more dangerous" than Green Bay's.
While [the Packers have] made plays at key moments, they don't have the overall talent to compare with Eric Kendricks, Danielle Hunter, Harrison Smith and Anthony Barr. Look for the Minnesota defense to assert itself in the final half of the season.
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster for the 2019 season.
Vikings teammates 'Row the Boat' during mini bye
The University of Minnesota football team is 8-0 for the first time since 1941.
The Golden Gophers defeated Maryland 52-10 at the U of M on Saturday, and a trio of Vikings teammates were on hand to watch Gophers Head Coach P.J. Fleck lead his team to another victory.
Defensive linemen Linval Joseph, Danielle Hunter and Shamar Stephen joined FOX 9 analyst Ron Johnson for the game during a Vikings mini bye that followed their own win on Thursday Night Football.