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Monday Morning Mailbag: Rookie Expectations, An Unlikely Reunion & Less Likely Trade Idea

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the Mailbag! Every Monday we'll post several comments and/or questions as part of the Monday Morning Mailbag. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

Click here to submit a comment or question to the Mailbag. Remember to include your name and town on the email. The questions below have been edited for clarity.

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Will Mike Zimmer use his rookies this year?

— John in South Haven, Minnesota

An intriguing question from John to start us off. Off the top of my head, I think the answer here would be 'yes,' but let's dive a little deeper into Zimmer's history with rookies, and if any trends have changed in the past seven years.

Many people seem to believe that Zimmer, who is known as an old-school coach, doesn't like to play rookies right away and wants them to earn their playing time.

And that may be the case with a player such as Trae Waynes (who played roughly 18 percent of the defensive snaps in 2015). Laquon Treadwell (7.60 percent) and Mackensie Alexander (6.57 percent) also weren't big contributors as rookies.

A pair of those players are cornerbacks, however, a position that usually takes time to learn. Plus, the Vikings had a host of established veterans already on the roster and had time to bring Waynes and Alexander along slowly. But for the most part, the majority of Day 1 and Day 2 picks play a solid amount in their rookie seasons.

Anthony Barr (71.72 percent) and Teddy Bridgewater (77.54 percent) played a bunch in 2014, even if Bridgewater's 12 starts occurred after Matt Cassel was injured. So, too, did Eric Kendricks (71.02 percent in 2015), Pat Elflein (85.84 percent), Brian O'Neill (76.12 percent), Garrett Bradbury (96.58 percent) and others in recent seasons.

And, the Vikings obviously played a bunch of rookies in 2020, most notably Justin Jefferson, Jeff Gladney, Cameron Dantzler and Ezra Cleveland. Injuries and a lack of depth played a role last season, but that's also a pretty talented group.

So, what does it mean in 2021? I expect a handful of players in this rookie class to make an impact right away.

Obviously, Christian Darrisaw and Wyatt Davis will play a ton if they both earn starting jobs right away and can stay healthy. Chazz Surratt could be in the mix for the third linebacker spot, while defensive linemen Patrick Jones II, Janarius Robinson and Jaylen Twyman could all carve out rotational roles for themselves. And Ihmir Smith-Marsette could vault himself into the WR3 conversation with a strong training camp and preseason.

View photos of the Vikings organized team activity on June 10 at the TCO Performance Center.

Others, however, maybe won't play as much. Kellen Mond obviously highlights this group, but perhaps players such as Kene Nwangwu, Camryn Bynum and Zach Davidson either help out on special teams or spend a season on the practice squad before contributing to their respective side of the ball in 2022.

But overall, yes, I do expect most of this group of rookies to help out right away. And that doesn't mean they all have to be stars like Jefferson was a year ago. But solid contributions from rookies usually go a long way in helping provide great depth and also making a run at the playoffs.

Why not bring Adrian Peterson back? Pay him the big bucks.

— Randy Pegnkopf

Ahhh, nostalgia. There's no doubt that Adrian is the greatest running back to ever wear Purple. He also is considered one of the best players of his generation.

But a reunion with the Vikings? I'd say it's a very low chance.

For one, the Vikings already have a star running back in Dalvin Cook. And speaking of big bucks, his multi-year contract extension that he signed in September kicks in this year.

Plus, the Vikings like their depth behind him with Alexander Mattison, Ameer Abdullah and Nwangwu. Perhaps if a rash of injuries hits that group, then maybe Peterson would become an option? But I'd guess this reunion isn't very probable right now.

View the best images from Week 3 of OTAs at the TCO Performance Center shot in black-and-white by the Vikings team photographer Andy Kenutis.

Did Danielle Hunter make it to mandatory OTAs?

— Blake Dufner in Rockford, Minnesota

He did not. Because, as we've noted for the past few Mailbags, Organized Team Activity practices are not mandatory. They are voluntary.

The only thing mandatory in the offseason program is minicamp, which will be Tuesday through Thursday at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center. If Hunter doesn't show up to those, then it will be the first time he has missed something he is required to attend.

We'll find out soon enough if he is there or not. For what it's worth, the team is rightfully keeping things close to the vest with the star defensive end.

Vikings Assistant Head Coach/Co-Defensive Coordinator/defensive line coach Andre Patterson was asked last week about his recent communication with Hunter. His response?

"I will keep that between me and D. And that's all I'm going to say on that," Patterson said.

How come you didn't take the North Dakota State QB [Trey Lance]. Minnesota boy, undefeated and could have been our future. San Francisco was smart.

— Allen Vandal

No doubt that Lance was one of the top QB prospects and all the things Allen listed — a Minnesota native who went undefeated in college and would have been the Vikings quarterback of the future if he landed here.

But if my math adds up, I believe he was drafted at No. 3 overall while the Vikings initially had the 14th pick … and didn't actually end up selecting until No. 23. I know I went to Arizona State, but those numbers make it seem far-fetched to expect Lance would have lasted until nearly the middle of the first round.

Remember that San Francisco traded a haul to move up to that spot, something the Vikings did not do, and likely weren't willing to do, either. It's a moot point to wonder if any of the top three quarterbacks drafted would have ended up in Minnesota … they were all going to be gone way before the Vikings were ever on the clock.

Hello! First, I want to say keep up the good work; you do an awesome job of fielding questions and sharing well-respected answers. My question is this: how feasible would it be for the Vikings and Packers to trade QBs … Kirk Cousins for Aaron Rodgers?

— Doug from Houston

Thanks, Doug! I appreciate the kind words, and the interesting scenario you laid out to wrap up this Mailbag.

But much like the Adrian Peterson example above, I'd put this as a near non-existent chance of happening.

Who knows what will end up happening between Rodgers and the Packers? But if they do end up parting ways, I can't see why they send him to the Vikings and then have to play him twice a year?? In fact, I'd venture to guess that Rodgers likely ends up with an AFC team if he is not in Green Bay, akin to Brett Favre's season with the Jets before arriving in Minnesota in 2009

We'll all be watching to see what happens with this situation heading into training camp, but the thought of Rodgers in Purple likely doesn't entice Green Bay.

And it's also unlikely from a Vikings perspective, too. Minnesota has invested considerably in Cousins, whether that is time and money (a pair of high-dollar contracts) or talent and scheme (as Minnesota has designed an offense that plays right to the quarterback's strengths).

Sorry, Doug, but this one isn't happening.