EAGAN, Minn. – It's a limited sample size, to be sure, but Head Coach Mike Zimmer has appreciated what he's seen from the team's 2021 draft class throughout the first two days of Vikings rookie minicamp.
Zimmer spoke to Twin Cities media members prior to Saturday afternoon's practice and fielded questions about a number of Minnesota's newest members.
This weekend has provided Zimmer the opportunity to see first-round selection Christian Darrisaw on-field rather than just studying tape of the former Virginia Tech tackle.
"Christian's a very good athlete, really good feet, good size. So far he's done a really nice job with the technique of things; so it's so far, so good," Zimmer said during his videoconference. "We've really seen him in two walk-throughs and one practice, so we'll get to know these guys a lot better as we move forward."
After the Vikings snagged Darrisaw in Round 1, they waited patiently for their next pick, Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond, whom they snagged at No. 66 overall.
What is Zimmer most looking for out of Mond in these first days of practice?
"I think the biggest thing for him right now is learning the process of the plays, getting in the huddle and out of the huddle, calling the different plays and different checks that we have," Zimmer said. "I want him to be himself. We brought him in here as a talented, athletic quarterback, and I just want him to be himself.
"But the things he can learn from Kirk [Cousins] are the way that he handles the games, the way that he goes about his business in the classroom and on the field, how to work," he added.
Here are four other topics Zimmer covered during his session with media:
1. Wyatt Davis catching on well
Zimmer also spoke highly of third-round selection Wyatt Davis, who has so far been playing the right guard spot he did at Ohio State.
"You would always like to [play a player at his position from college]. Last year with [Ezra] Cleveland, we moved him," Zimmer said. "It's where we think they might fit, get a look at them. It's still very early, and I'm sure that won't be the last place he lines up in these next OTAs (organized team activities).
"Wyatt's got terrific size, he's got good movement, seems to be catching on really well with footwork and the things that we're doing," he later added. "He looks good in there so far."
2. A Pittsburgh pair
Zimmer was asked what he and Assistant Head Coach/Co-Defensive Coordinator Andre Patterson liked about the pair of defensive linemen Minnesota drafted out of Pitt.
Patrick Jones II, drafted 90th overall, had been on the Vikings radar for quite some time, Zimmer noted.
"We kind of got on Patrick fairly early in the process. We started watching guys we liked. Pat plays really, really hard," he said. "He's done a nice job so far out here with us, and we like his length. We have a certain prototype that we look for in our ends."
And although defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman (199th overall) opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, Zimmer felt confident in the "big sack numbers" he put up for the Panthers the previous season.
"And he's athletic," Zimmer said of Twyman. "The three-technique position, we're looking for guys that have the twitch and acceleration. One of the things we tried to do when I had Geno Atkins and some of those guys who are a little bit smaller size guys is that we look for nickel pass rushers and they kind of grow into the spot. We're hoping he can do that."
3. Bynum showing 'brilliance'
Camryn Bynum played cornerback all throughout his time at Cal, but the Vikings drafted him as a safety.
The transition to safety is a good one for some corners to make, Zimmer explained, especially for someone with the football I.Q. that Bynum has demonstrated.
"So far, he's seemed really brilliant on the field. Understand that we don't have a lot [of the playbook] in, obviously, but he's been able to understand the concepts," Zimmer said. "It's still going to take some time because he's seeing things from a different perspective now. He was a good tackler in college, so that helps. So those are the kind of things you look for. He's a good athlete, good size.
"So far I've been impressed with his athletic ability, but it will take some time for him to learn to be a safety, I think, but we'll see," Zimmer added. "He's really smart."
4. Special teams focus
Some of Minnesota's 11 draft picks will be looked to to make an early impact on offense and defense. But it's important not to forget about special teams, where many youngsters will have a chance to shine.
The Vikings have a kicker, punter and long snapper in rookie minicamp this weekend, but they'll also get looks at gunner options, coverage teams and return specialists. Day 3 draft picks Kene Nwangwu (No. 119) and Ihmir Smith-Marsette (No. 157) will certainly be among those vying for a kickoff returner role.
"We have to improve a lot of special teams," Zimmer said. "We weren't very good last year in that area, and part of it is we've got to return the ball better on punts, we've got to return better on kicks, we have to cover better, we have to punt the ball better.
"All those things are a factor, so we're putting a major, major emphasis on trying to improve that area of the football team, and obviously with the defense, as well," he added.