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Monday Morning Mailbag: Rookie Class' Impact On Veterans?

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Do you think this rookie class could be good enough to beat out some veterans on the team? -- Tony (@tony55744) Chisholm, MN

This happens every year and I don't see this year's class being an exception. Everyone from last year's class is still on the Vikings roster this offseason, but with 11 members I don't think that's a fair expectation to have for the 2017 class. All eyes will be on the first two picks – Dalvin Cook and Pat Elflein – to earn playing time right off the bat. I also expect several other draft picks, such as Rodney Adams, Ben Gedeon and Bucky Hodges, to push for playing time, if not a starting role, between now and the end of the preseason in August. As always, a big key for many of them will be demonstrating the ability to contribute on special teams. Kentrell Brothers and Jayron Kearse both did that last year and it was a big reason why they made the team.

I love the Vikings draft, especially the moving up to get Cook and Elflein. I am hoping this move now allows them to use Jerick McKinnon as a slot on some downs with Cook in the backfield. I am thinking this will make up for losing Cordarrelle Patterson in the short passing game. -- Roydon Richards

McKinnon certainly has the ability and skill set to be used in that manner, but I wouldn't rule him out from being used regularly in a rotation at running back, as well. I wrote last week about three reasons Cook can make an instant impact, with the second reason being he'll receive plenty of practice reps with free agent signing Latavius Murray out until training camp. The same holds true for McKinnon – he'll also see a bunch of reps with the first-team and second-team while Murray is on the mend and Cook is assimilating with his new team.

Who on our team, if any, were undrafted free agents? Of the players this year who were signed as undrafted free agents have the best chance to make the squad? -- Mitch Nelsen Milaca, MN

By my count, the Vikings have nine current players on the roster who entered the League as undrafted free agents – TE Kyle Carter, WR Isaac Fruechte, FB CJ Ham, DS Anthony Harris, QB Taylor Heinicke, OL Zac Kerin and CB Tre Roberson. Most notable, of course, are Marcus Sherels (2010) and Adam Thielen (2013). It's very difficult to identify at this early stage who has the best chance to make the roster among this year's undrafted free agents, but two to keep an eye on just because of the position they play are OTs Aviante Collins out of TCU and Nick Fett out of Iowa State.

I never played football, so I don't know how much it would take to learn a new position. But it seems to me that Elijah Lee is a bit too small to be a linebacker. With all of his pass breakups in college, could he transition to play defensive back? -- Larry Turlock, CA

Listed at 6-2, 229 pounds, he is the lightest linebacker on the roster. But I watched him at this weekend's rookie camp and he doesn't look out of place as a linebacker. Plus, he packs a solid punch when running and tackling judging by some of his highlights from his days at Kansas State. Also keep in mind that teams do desire hybrid-type of linebackers to play in sub packages because they matchup better with some of the athletes offenses send out in the passing game, and so Lee may find a niche in that way, too.

This has been a sneaky-good draft! I'm worried a bit with the trading back, but I absolutely love our picks! Rodney Adams is another Stefon Diggs-like receiver. Bucky Hodges was a steal. Good, solid B if not an A in my book. What do you think? -- Kyle Texas

As always, time will tell on the quality of a draft class. I know a lot of people loathed the trading back on Day 3, but I loved how GM Rick Spielman went up and got Cook and Elflein on Day 2. That was aggressive and it continued a trend from free agency – finding ways to fix the running game; perhaps fifth-round pick Danny Isidora can find a way to help in that manner, too. With the Day 3 picks, the Vikings have a great chance to fill some of the voids left by players who departed via free agency. Adams, Stacy Coley and Hodges, are three players who will compete to help in the passing game, and Gedeon, Jaleel Johnson, Lee, Ifeadi Odenigbo and Jack Tocho are all candidates to compete for spots on special teams as well as on defense.

I like what we did in the draft and free agency! Fair to say Vikings fan have a reason to be optimistic this year. I enjoyed your recently posted interview with Moritz Böhringer, as you know I'm still rooting for him (pass that along to him if you don't mind) and hope to see him on the field this year. Keep up the great coverage! -- Michael Hoffman Sacramento, CA

Glad you enjoyed the chat with Böhringer. It was fun to catch up with him in that way just one year after he was taken in the 2016 NFL Draft. I'm rooting for him, too. You have to give him a lot of credit for making it as far as he has given the number of hurdles in his path, from the language barrier to the sophistication of the game compared to the level of play he experienced in Germany. He has been working hard here in Minnesota the last 12 months and he's improved along the way. He still has a lot of improvement to make but there's no doubt his efforts have been commendable so far.

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