With Super Bowl LII in the rearview window and the NFL Scouting Combine just around the corner, talk already is transitioning to this year's NFL Draft.
Before getting too in-depth with the most intriguing upcoming prospects, however, Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com took a look back the 2017 season and graded each NFC North team's rookie class. Bergman gave the Vikings a B, saying that "few teams capitalized on need with their first two picks better than the Vikings," with which Minnesota selected running back Dalvin Cook and center Pat Elflein.
Cook racked up 354 yards on 74 carries before suffering a knee injury in Week 4, and Elflein started all 14 games he played at center. Bergman wrote:
*Minnesota shored up its sieve of an offensive line in free agency and then acquired a centerpiece in Elflein, who made the PFWA All-Rookie Team. If not for his season-ending ACL injury in Week 4, Cook very well might have been the top rookie back in a class that featured Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara. *
Bergman noted linebacker Ben Gedeon, drafted in the fourth round, as a "capable plug-and-play starter," and he also highlighted quarterback Kyle Sloter as a "notable" rookie free agent signing by the Vikings.
The Bears, who traded up one spot to nab quarterback Mitchell Trubisky at No. 2 overall, also received a B grade from Bergman. The Lions were given a B, and the Packers received a C for their draft that focused on defense with the first four picks.
Green Bay singled out the secondary as its most vulnerable area and attacked the weakness with its first two selections. Unfortunately, [Kevin] King and [Josh] Jones both underperformed in their rookie campaigns. The same cannot be said for Green Bay's late-round pickups at RB. [Aaron] Jones was a welcome surprise in filling in for Ty Montgomery, showcasing a needed change of pace from the hard-running [Jamaal] Williams. They are a future pairing to fear. The Pack saw little from their other picks.
Vikings new OC DeFilippo familiar with mobile quarterbacks
When recently hired Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo spoke with media members via conference call last week, he emphasized that athleticism "is part of" a quarterback finding success on the field.
DeFilippo has worked with a number of signal callers during his coaching career, and Andrew Krammer of the *Star Tribune *opined that his experience with quarterbacks like Carson Wentz, Derek Carr, Mark Sanchez and Johnny Manziel should "widen the coach's scope" during the process of determining the Vikings quarterback for 2018. Krammer wrote:
*The Vikings are no strangers to mobile quarterbacks having started Tarvaris Jackson, Christian Ponder, Joe Webb, Teddy Bridgewater and Case Keenum in the past decade. DeFilippo's personal experience still comes at a greater pace. *
*DeFilippo has overseen some great footwork, too. Two of the seasons with fewer rushing attempts by his QBs — 2014 with Carr and 2012 with Palmer — saw each passer rank sixth in sack percentage that season. *
The past two seasons with Wentz have marked the first campaigns where a DeFilippo-coached NFL quarterback ranked in the top half in both sack percentage (Wentz was 12th in 2016 and 14th last season) and rushing attempts (12th and 5th).
Krammer pointed out that Keenum's athleticism was one of the strengths that helped him succeed with the Vikings in 2017. He wrote that Keenum was "one of the league's most-pressured quarterbacks, according to Pro Football Focus, and yet minimized the damage" with his scrambling ability.
Krammer added that the Vikings will need to "weigh his strengths and deficiencies against other options" at the position.
The decision at quarterback must come first. But whatever scheme is run under DeFilippo may incorporate West Coast philosophies given his experience with the system from all the way back to his days as a Notre Dame graduate assistant to his two stints under Greg Knapp, Jeff Garcia's former play caller, and his most recent experience in a diverse Eagles approach under Doug Pederson, an Andy Reid/West Coast disciple.