Monday Morning Mailbag: Elflein/Bradbury Dynamic, Browning's Potential, Trading Back In The Draft, More

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First off, love your content. You guys do amazing. The message from the coaching staff seems to be to get the five best offensive linemen and go from there. But my question is: Don’t you think Pat Elflein having a full offseason without surgery is more important than his (possible) move to offensive guard?
-- Rodney
West Virginia

There is no question Elflein will be a key cog in the offensive line for the foreseeable future. What position he’ll play…that’s a question that will be answered in the coming weeks as we get through Organized Team Activities and the mandatory minicamp. Yes, the surgery and rehab Elflein went through a year ago likely raised the degree of difficulty in 2018, and so too did the injury to fellow lineman Nick Easton, which caused the Vikings to shuffle things around a bit on the interior. At the end of the day, the Vikings have worked hard to change and improve the offensive line, and Elflein is a big part of the solution.

I want to ask about my favorite undrafted free agent – Jake Browning. I loved watching him at UW and was wondering your thoughts about him. Do you see a serious backup contender or is he more of a project/developmental type quarterback? Skol!
-- Stefan

The answer could be both. He’s a rookie, so by definition he’s a developmental prospect. But there’s no reason he shouldn’t come into the Vikings offseason program with every intent to compete with the other quarterbacks for positioning on the depth chart. Free agent signee Sean Mannion and returning veteran Kyle Sloter are probably considerably more likely to win the backup job at this point, but that doesn’t mean Browning and fellow rookie camp quarterbacks Sean McGuire and David Pindell shouldn’t come in and compete their tails off to see what happens.

Most of the elite defensive line prospects were gone when Minnesota picked at No. 18. Still there were a couple of guys with very high grades who could have filled the all-important three-technique niche in our defense. Is there a player currently on our roster who coaches may be looking at as special enough to not regret missing out on this year’s top defensive tackle prospects? I liked the Armon Watts pick.
-- Jeff Kilty
Sacramento, CA

This question touches on a key area of roster management that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough – player development. We get caught up in talking about free agent signings and draft picks, but we don’t discuss how important player development is to a team’s success. Look at the progress the Vikings have made with players like Stefon Diggs, Anthony Harris and Danielle Hunter. These players were not household names when they were drafted or signed, but through the years they’ve developed in the Vikings program and are now significant contributors. I’d say Jalyn Holmes is the answer to this question. He’s a guy the Vikings liked a lot a year ago during the pre-draft process and while he didn’t play a lot as a rookie he may be in line to play a lot more in Year 2 if he can keep developing at the current pace and learn from the talented veterans in his position group.

The Vikings got a steal with Cameron Smith. I am a huge USC fan and watched him a lot. When healthy, he is a dominant football player. Where and how do you think the Vikings will use him? Great edge rusher in my opinion.
-- John Heil
Denver, CO

The Vikings obviously have two studs at linebacker with Anthony Barr and Erik Kendricks. With the defense in sub packages on more than half of the snaps, there aren’t a lot of game reps to go around for linebackers not named Barr and Kendricks. The team likes Ben Gedeon and there’s quality depth behind the top three with Kentrell Brothers and Eric Wilson. With that being said, Smith did play both inside and outside linebacker at USC, so that only increases his chances of seeing the field on defense. However, it’ll be on special teams where Smith will likely see his first and most significant opportunity to contribute.

I was happy with our first two picks. But over the years, Spielman continues to trade down for 6th- and 7th-round picks. To my knowledge, of the last 20 or so 6th and 7th round picks, Stephen Weatherly is on the roster. There was a lot of talent in rounds 3-5. Why not select athletes that can make the team rather than continually trade for athletes that won't?
-- Jon Ivonen
Chisholm, MN

You don’t have to like the philosophy, but you at least have to be fair to it. Weatherly is not the only 6th- or 7th-round pick in the last 20 to be on the roster. The others are: Ade Aruna, Devante Downs, Jayron Kearse, David Morgan, Ifeadi Odenigbo and Shamar Stephen. And let’s not act like the Vikings have neglected the middle rounds. Tyler Conklin, Pat Elflein, Ben Gedeon, Jayln Holmes, Danny Isadora, Jaleel Johnson, Alexander Mattison, Dru Samia and Cameron Smith were all taken in rounds 3-5 in the last two drafts; Stefon Diggs was a 5th-rounder Here’s the bottom line: If you’re on the clock in the 3rd round and you have a handful of players with similar grades, it makes complete sense to trade back to a point where you are sure you’ll get one of those five players because then you get a player you like AND you get extra picks, which is just more chances of finding a diamond in the rough.

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