Which Vikings rookies have the best shot to make significant contributions in their first NFL season?
Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune tackled this question recently, ranking the rookies in order of "most likely to stand out." He pointed out that 27 of 87 players currently on Minnesota's roster are rookies, "many positioned with opportunities" to play.
Krammer also reminded that the recently ratified Collective Bargaining Agreement "will help" the first-year players, being that it allows teams to now dress 48 players (previously 46) for regular-season games, and the practice squad roster has increased from 10 players to 12. In addition, "teams can now promote two practice squad players each week for games without subjecting them to waivers when returning to the practice squad." Teams can now make two such moves per player.
All of that being said, Krammer – probably to no surprise – tabbed Minnesota's pair of first-round picks, WR Justin Jefferson and CB Jeff Gladney, as the most likely to make key contributions in 2020. Next on the list was another cornerback, Mississippi State's Cam Dantzler. Krammer wrote:
After Hughes and Gladney, the Vikings have the third-round Dantzler, Holton Hill, Kris Boyd, Nate Meadors and Mark Fields returning at corner. That's a lot of room to play considering the Vikings primary defense is nickel (three corners).
Dantzler projects as an outside corner after deflecting 20 passes with five interceptions in three years for Mississippi State. He's got the length (listed 6-2, 188 pounds) to defend against taller outside receivers, but Dantzler said he's been trying to add weight. The Vikings like his attitude in the run game and upside as a cover man, meaning Dantzler could be playing at some point in 2020.
Next up on the list were WR K.J. Osborn and DE D.J. Wonnum. Krammer reminded that "the Vikings drafted Osborn – the ACC's leading punt returner, averaging 15.9 yards – with plans for him to compete for the job" in Minnesota.
Osborn (listed 5-11, 203 pounds) isn't expected to contribute immediately as a receiver. However, his character was highly touted by Vikings Director of College Scouting Jamaal Stephenson, and they believe he's a safe bet to earn roles on special teams.
Krammer said that Wonnum "steps into a fluid depth chart" for the Vikings at defensive end.
If he's the No. 4 end, behind Danielle Hunter, Ifeadi Odenigbo and Anthony Zettel, that's a role that saw 33.5 [percent] playing time by Odenigbo last season.
Zimmer may get creative with or tighten up the rotation after departures of Everson Griffen and Stephen Weatherly. If Wonnum (listed 6-5, 258 pounds) proves capable as a rookie, he will have room for snaps. His relentless pursuit at [South Carolina] led to 14 sacks in four years, and Vikings coaches see Hunter-like traits in Wonnum's unrefined game.
Krammer finished out his list with rookies in the following order: LB Troy Dye, S Josh Metellus, T Ezra Cleveland and WR Quartney Davis, whom the Vikings signed as an undrafted free agent.
Davis (listed 6-1, 201 pounds) was another effective slot receiver in college who will compete for a job on the back end of the 53-man roster. The Vikings general inexperience at receiver could open lanes for Davis if opportunities arise during the regular season.
CBS Sports calls 2007 NFL Draft Vikings 'Best' of past 20 years
Since 2000, the Vikings have drafted 182 players. Which class can be deemed the best?
CBS Sports' Bryan DeArdo took a stab at highlighting each NFL team's "best" draft class of the past two decades. He wrote:
With this year's draft now in the rearview mirror, we decided to take a look back at each team's best draft since 2000. We're excluding the 2020 draft, as those players have yet to take an NFL snap. And while older draft classes will clearly have an advantage, the potential already shown in some recent draft classes did result in some from the last few years cracking this list.
For the Vikings, DeArdo pointed to the 2007 NFL Draft, in which Minnesota made eight selections.
Adrian Peterson, the team's first-round pick in the '07 draft, won league MVP honors in 2012 and is currently fifth all-time on the NFL's career rushing list. Second-round pick Sidney Rice earned Pro Bowl honors in 2009, catching 83 passes for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns that season while helping the Vikings advance to the NFC Championship Game. Defensive end Brian Robison recorded 60 sacks over his 11-year career with the Vikings. And while he spent more of his career as a backup, quarterback Tyler Thigpen managed to carve out an eight-year career, a considerably impressive feat for a seventh-round pick.
Here's a look at Minnesota's full lineup of draft picks that year:
RB Adrian Peterson (Round 1, No. 7 overall)
WR Sidney Rice (Round 2, No. 44 overall)
DB Marcus McCauley (Round 3, No. 72 overall)
DE Brian Robison (Round 4, No. 102 overall)
WR Aundrae Allison (Round 5, No. 146 overall)
LB Rufus Alexander (Round 6, No. 176 overall)
QB Tyler Thigpen (Round 7, No. 217 overall)
WR Chandler Williams (Round 7, No. 233 overall)