Minnesota Vikings Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State – Round 3
The Vikings let Jared Allen leave in free agency this offseason, and young veterans Everson Griffen and Brian Robison expected to pick up the slack in Allen’s stead. In the long term, the Vikings could have a strong rotation among their edge rushers with those two veterans and Scott Crichton. I think Crichton will eventually take over as the starter from Griffen, but Minnesota will still have a good rotation with the trio.

In three years at Oregon State, Crichton was a consistent pass-rusher. In 2013, he had 47 tackles with 19 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. Crichton was more disruptive than the numbers indicate. He had nine sacks in 2012 and six sacks as a freshman. The 6-foot-3, 273-pounder doesn’t have elite speed off the edge, but he has good moves and strength to get off blocks. Crichton also has a good motor and gets some sacks on effort.

Most teams projected Crichton to be a second-round pick, so Minnesota landing him in the third round was excellent value. Crichton will be able to develop for a year or two behind Robison and Griffen, but in time, Crichton could become a solid starter for the Vikings.

Most Likely To Bust

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville – Round 1
The Vikings were bold in moving back into the first round to take Bridgewater, especially since many quarterback-needy teams preferred other quarterbacks. WalterFootball.com knows one NFL quarterback guru who had Bridgewater behind four or five quarterbacks, including Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Derek Carr and Zach Mettenberger. Another team that is among the best in the league at evaluating quarterbacks told us that they felt that Bridgewater was a fourth-round talent. A number of teams told us they viewed Bridgewater as a second-rounder. They had him there before Bridgewater’s much discussed pro day and didn’t knock his draft grade for that performance.

Bridgewater (6-2, 214) has a plus skill set, but not a great one, according to numerous NFL evaluators. Bridgewater has a slightly above-average arm, but not an elite cannon. While he has some mobility on rollouts, he isn’t viewed as a real running threat. His best traits are his work ethic and film study, but teams were also concerned about his thin frame and holding up under the hits from pass-rushers.

It is very commonplace for first-round quarterbacks to end up being busts, and that could be the case with Bridgewater. Certainly, other teams believe that will be the outcome. Minnesota has some good talent around Bridgewater, which will definitely help him to pan out. The Vikings had a nice draft class in their early picks, but Bridgewater simply seems like the player with the biggest bust potential.

Potential Boom Pick

Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA – Round 1
Throughout the lead up to the 2014 NFL Draft, I repeatedly discussed Barr on the radio as being one of those draft prospects who gets nitpicked and overly critiqued in the months beforehand. In my final big board, I had Barr as the seventh-rated player in the draft, and that ranking was based on watching him wreck Pac-12 offenses over the last two seasons of college football.

The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Barr has excellent speed off the edge. He is a dynamite pursuit player who is improving in his strength. After playing linebacker for only two seasons, Barr has tons of upside to develop for the NFL. He broke out in 2012 as one of the nation’s leader in sacks. The junior collected 13 sacks, 83 tackles, 21.5 tackles for a loss, five passes batted and four forced fumbles. His sack total was the second largest in the nation behind only Georgia’s Jarvis Jones. In 2013, Barr totaled 65 tackles with 20 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, five forced fumbles and a pass batted.

Barr will start out his career as a Sam (strongside) linebacker in Mike Zimmer’s defense. Barr also could see time at defensive end and might grow into being an end during his NFL career. Barr has natural pass-rush ability, and it wouldn’t be surprising to this writer if he develops into a double-digit sack artist who is one of the top pass-rushers in the NFC and a Pro Bowl-caliber defender.

Future Depth Player

Jerick McKinnon, RB, Georgia Southern – Round 4
The 5-foot-9, 209-pound McKinnon won’t be taking the starting running back job from future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson, but McKinnon could be an excellent depth running back who is a good weapon to rotate into the game and keep Peterson fresh. McKinnon has excellent speed with a lightning-first step. As a running quarterback, he ran for 1,050 yards as a senior with 12 touchdowns in 2013. McKinnon had 125 yards on nine attempts against Florida to help lead Georgia Southern to a legendary upset.

McKinnon was very impressive as a runner at the Senior Bowl. He used his speed to rip off some long runs and has a real burst out of the backfield. McKinnon also is put together well with the strength to get yards after contact. He could be an excellent backup running back and contributor for the Minnesota offense.

Walt’s 2014 NFL Draft Grades:

8. Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA: B Grade

This is a pretty decent pick. The Vikings needed someone to replace Jared Allen, and Anthony Barr is the top pass-rusher available. Some even considered Barr to be superior to Khalil Mack. If you’re wondering about Barr’s fit in a 4-3 defense, Mike Zimmer’s scheme calls for a pass-rushing linebacker. Minnesota will use Barr like Von Miller. I don’t have as big of a problem for Minnesota passing on Johnny Manziel because he doesn’t really fit Norv Turner’s offense. The Vikings can get Derek Carr later.

32. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville: B Grade

Many of Teddy Bridgewater’s fan base on Twitter will praise this pick, but I’m not in love with it. It’s solid, but remember that there’s a reason nearly every single team in the NFL passed on him. Bridgewater doesn’t have any great traits. He doesn’t have any glaring negative ones either, but this all just means that he’s going to be an average starter at best, and I’m concerned about him playing outdoors over the next couple of years. Having said that, “average starter at best” is a big upgrade over what the Vikings have had at quarterback since Brett Favre.

72. Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State: A- Grade
With Anthony Barr and Scott Crichton on the team, the Vikings are definitely going to put much more pressure on the quarterback in 2014. It’s understandable that Minnesota is adding all of these pass-rushers, as it had to compensate for the loss of Jared Allen. This is nice value for Crichton, who could have easily gone in the middle of Round 2.

96. Jerick McKinnon, RB, Georgia Southern: C Grade
The Vikings had to find some depth behind Adrian Peterson after losing Toby Gerhart to Jacksonville. However, there were better running backs available than Jerick McKinnon, who doesn’t really have a natural position. I thought McKinnon would come off the board around Round 5, so this is a slight reach.

145. David Yankey, G/OT, Stanford: B+ Grade
David Yankey was once seen as a possible first-round prospect – one known analyst declared that he would be the first guard chosen in the draft – but the Stanford product fell because of poor play this past season. I still think the Vikings are getting good value here, and Yankey could potentially challenge to start at left guard.

182. Antone Exum, CB/S, Virginia Tech: A- Grade
I like this pick a lot. The Vikings are addressing a big need in their secondary. A sixth-round pick normally wouldn’t have a chance to start at any point, but Antone Exum would’ve been chosen earlier if it wasn’t for injury concerns.

184. Kendall James, CB, Maine: B Grade
I have no issues with the Vikings taking another defensive back. Their secondary has to be bolstered. Kendall James fits the range as a Round 5-6 prospect. Solid choice.

220. Shamar Stephen, DT, Connecticut: A Grade
I had Shamar Stephen going a couple of rounds earlier than this, so I like the value Minnesota is getting here. The team passed on Aaron Donald in the first round, but Stephen is talented and could be a contributor at some point in the near future.

223. Brandon Watts, OLB, Georgia Tech: C Grade
It’s odd that this is the first non-pass-rushing linebacker the Vikings have chosen. They could have waited on Brandon Watts, who wasn’t projected to be drafted.

225. Jabari Price, CB, North Carolina: C Grade
This is Minnesota’s third defensive back, so that should tell you how much of a perceived need this was for the team. I don’t like this pick as much as the other two, however, because I didn’t have Jabari Price as a draftable player.

2014 NFL Draft Team Grade: B+ . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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