Minnesota Vikings Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell
June 12, 2013

Solid Starter

Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State – Round 1
The Vikings used three first-round picks in the 2013 NFL Draft on players who were all thought to be likely top-20 picks. Considering Minnesota’s three first-rounders all came in the 20s, general manager Rick Spielman landed some great value picks. One of those values was Rhodes, who for the majority of the lead up to the draft was considered to be the second-rated cornerback. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder has good speed to go along with his great height, length and strength.

Rhodes totaled 39 tackles, seven passes broken up and three interceptions last year, but teams mostly avoided him. He held his own against Clemson – his biggest test of the season – and kept its passing threats from making any big plays against him. Rhodes had 43 tackles with an interception and four passes broken up in 2011. The sophomore finished the season by shutting down Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd before leaving the game with a knee injury. Rhodes recorded 58 tackles, four interceptions and 12 passes broken up in 2010, plus was named the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Rhodes is best in press-man coverage but does well in zone, too. All that makes him a perfect fit for the Vikings’ defensive scheme. I think he landed in a perfect situation. Rhodes gives Minnesota a big corner to match up against Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall and Jordy Nelson. I thought Rhodes played better in the first half of the 2012 compared to the back half. Some sources around the FSU program suggested to me that it seemed like Rhodes was maybe taking some plays off to protect himself from injury before the 2013 NFL Draft.

Slacking off won’t be tolerated with head coach Leslie Frazier and linebackers/assistant head coach Mike Singletary. Frazier, a former NFL defensive back, will be good for Rhodes and Singletary will provide plenty of motivation. Rhodes could be the most likely of Minnesota’s three first-rounders to pan out. I think he’ll be a good, solid starter for many seasons to come and help the Vikings compete in the NFC North.

Most Likely To Bust

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee – Round 1
The Vikings needed an explosive play-making receiver since they traded Percy Harvin to the Seahawks. After Tavon Austin, Patterson was the next best receiver who projects to being a big-play threat in the NFL. It only took one season of big-time college football for Patterson to show that he was a first-round talent for the NFL.

Sources told WalterFootball.com before last season that Tennessee had a great third receiver behind Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers. That receiver was Patterson, and after Rogers was kicked off the team, Patterson took his place as the starting X (split end) receiver. The junior college product showed off his elite speed and explosiveness when he opened the year by beating North Carolina State cornerback David Amerson for a 41-yard score on a go route straight down the field. Patterson also took a carry for a 67-yard touchdown later in first quarter. Patterson snagged 46 receptions for 778 yards and five touchdowns in 2012. He ran the ball for 308 yards and three scores, too.

While Patterson provided some big plays the Volunteers, he also would disappear for stretches and showed underdeveloped route-running. His hands were a problem as he dropped a lot of passes. There were also questions off the field regarding his focus, maturity and work ethic.

Patterson looks like a real boom-or-bust pick. He has the physical talent to be an impact player in the NFL, but there are major questions on if he can put it all together. Some teams were concerned about the off-the-field problems along with how raw a receiver Patterson is. They wondered if he will be able to learn the route tree and improve his hands.

Patterson has big-time ability, but he needs to give relentless effort to improve for the NFL and get better in his all-around technique as a receiver. There have been many other players in the past who couldn’t overcome these issues and ended being busts. Thus, Patterson is my selection as the player who is most likely to go bust for Minnesota.

Potential Boom Pick

Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida – Round 1
Floyd’s fall – and how far down – was one of the biggest surprises of the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. For the majority of the lead up to the draft, he was expected to be selected by the Oakland Raiders with the third-overall pick. The Raiders and others passed on Floyd as he fell all the way to the 23rd-overall pick. Minnesota had a big need for a defensive tackle and was able to land a potential stud three-technique tackle. Floyd is a perfect fit in the Vikings’ scheme and is the heir apparent to aging veteran Kevin Williams.

Floyd was the top three-technique defensive tackle in the 2013 NFL Draft and is extremely fast at the point of attack. He fires his gap and quickly gets penetration into the backfield. Once Floyd gains leverage, he is tough to stop, since he has the strength to shed blocks and maintain his balance with blockers pushing on him. Floyd consistently blew up runs in the backfield in 2012and put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. It wouldn’t be surprising if his sack numbers increase dramatically in the NFL.

The 6-foot-3, 297-pound Floyd played really well for the Gators in last year and was a disruptive force. He recorded 46 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, one forced fumble and three sacks. Floyd made big improvements each season during his three years at Florida and was dominating at the end of his final season.

Minnesota was a great landing spot for Floyd. Frazier and Singletary are going to provide some great mentors for him. With veterans like Williams and Jared Allen still playing good football, Floyd won’t be under pressure to be the lead lineman early on. He can learn a lot from those two veterans on how to be a pro and beat NFL offensive linemen.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Floyd is a boom pick for the Vikings following some developmental time and good coaching. He is only 20 years old and has a ton of untapped upside. Floyd definitely has the talent to become a pro bowler, and years from now, a lot of teams could look very foolish for passing on him and letting him fall into Minnesota’s lap.

Future Depth Player

Michael Mauti, ILB, Penn State – Round 7
If Mauti didn’t have repeated knee injuries, he would have been a second-day pick. He was a good player over his career at Penn State and was a tremendous leader for a program in turmoil. Unfortunately, his career was also derailed by three knee injuries that required surgery including two ACL tears. Mauti tore his right ACL in 2009 and his left ACL in 2011. He was fortunate to be drafted given such an extensive injury history.

Mauti finished 2012 with 97 tackles, four tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, three interceptions and three forced fumbles. The senior also had a 99-yard interception return against Illinois. Mauti (6-2, 243) is a pure football player. He has great instincts and always found a way to make a positive impact.

If Mauti can stay healthy, he should at least develop into a good backup and special teams player. Perhaps he will finally have some luck goes his direction with avoiding injuries. If that happens, it isn’t out of the question for Mauti to become a starter.

2013 NFL Draft Individual Grades:

23. Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida: A+ Grade
Wow, I forgot Sharrif Floyd was available. I feel like some of the other teams like the Bears, Giants and Cowboys did as well. This is the best pick in the 2013 NFL Draft thus far. Floyd is a stud interior pass-rusher who could have easily gone No. 3 to the Raiders. But as we see every year, great prospects fall because dumb teams are picking at the top of the draft.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

25. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State: B Grade
Xavier Rhodes was mocked as early as No. 12 throughout this process, so he definitely provides good value at No. 25. However, the Vikings run the type of defense that allows teams to pass on corners in the first round. Minnesota probably should have filled other needs like receiver. That said, this is still a solid selection because Rhodes could be considered the best player available.

29. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee: B- Grade
The 29th and 52nd choices are swapped between Minnesota and New England, so the Vikings are essentially giving up third- and fourth-rounders for this choice. They better make it count, so why not go for the home run with Cordarrelle Patterson? Minnesota desperately needed receiving help after losing Percy Harvin. Patterson is raw – which is why he dropped to No. 29 – but he has so much potential. The problem is that the Vikings don’t have a quarterback to get him the football.

120. Gerald Hodges, OLB, Penn State: B Grade
The Vikings haven’t picked in nearly 100 selections, but they continue to draft well. Gerald Hodges fits the range and definitely fills a need, as Minnesota’s linebacking corps needs major retooling.

155. Jeff Locke, P, UCLA: D Grade
I’m not a fan of drafting a punter in the first five rounds, especially when a punter isn’t needed. Maybe the Vikings have grown tired of Chris Kluwe’s Twitter antics, but it’s still not a reason to take a punter at this point. It’s like drafting a kicker in the 11th round of your fantasy league.

196. Jeff Baca, G, UCLA: B Grade
Pegged as a sixth-round prospect, Jeff Baca should compete for a starting guard job eventually. The position is very weak for Minnesota, so Baca could be an upgrade.

213. Michael Mauti, ILB, Penn State: A Grade
Maybe I’m biased as a Penn State alumnus, but I love Michael Mauti. He’s an instinctive linebacker with tremendous leadership ability; he kept the team together in the wake of the sex scandal. He would have been a second-day pick had he not torn his ACL. It wouldn’t surprise me if Mauti eventually emerged as the starter.

214. Travis Bond, G, North Carolina: B Grade
Another guard? Well, Minnesota needed two of them. Travis Bond makes sense in the seventh round.

229. Everett Dawkins, DT, Florida State: A Grade
Kevin Williams will likely be gone next year, so another defensive tackle makes sense. Everett Dawkins was considered a mid-round prospect, so he’s a bit of a steal here.

2013 NFL Draft Team Grade: A- . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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