Minnesota Vikings Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State – Round 1
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has been inclined to push for cornerbacks in the first round of the draft, and he came away from the 2015 NFL Draft with a press-man corner who has size and speed in Trae Waynes. The 6-foot, 186-pounder also has the athleticism and agility to play off-man coverage. Waynes is a good tackler with some ball skills, and is a well-rounded corner who should emerge as a player in the NFL.

For Minnesota to compete in the NFC North, good corners are mandatory. The Vikings have to take on the NFL’s best quarterback in Aaron Rodgers and a top receiver in Lions’ future Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson. To get past Green Bay, Minnesota needs a strong secondary to limit the Packers’ prolific passing attack. With fast receivers like Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, the Vikings need multiple corners who can match up in man coverage against those veterans. Obviously, Detroit has a superb passing offense with Johnson and Golden Tate catching passes from Matthew Stafford. Plus, Chicago has a talented young receiving duo in Kevin White and Alshon Jeffery. Waynes and Xavier Rhodes gives Minnesota two big corners who can run with the speed and defend the size on those weapons.

Fortunately for the 11th-overall pick, the Vikings aren’t in a position where Waynes will be forced onto the field. They have two veterans in Terrence Newman and Captain Munnerlyn to play with Xavier Rhodes. Minnesota can bring Waynes along at his own pace and not force him into difficult situations that could rattle his confidence. In time, I believe that Waynes will be a good starter for the Vikings.

Most Likely To Bust

Danielle Hunter, DE, LSU – Round 3
Of the Vikings early-round picks, Hunter sticks out to me as having legitimate bust potential. There were a lot of teams that really disliked him in the 2015 NFL Draft. Sources from multiple teams had Hunter graded as a fifth-rounder and had serious doubts about him. One in the AFC said they did have him in the third round, but Minnesota taking Hunter in the third round still felt like a reach in speaking with multiple teams.

Hunter was a quality run-defender in 2014 with 73 tackles, but as a pass-rusher, he left a lot to be desired. Hunter (6-5, 252) is a fast, undersized edge defender who only recorded 1.5 sacks in his final season at LSU. He never had a college season that proved that he has real edge-rushing potential.

In Minnesota, Hunter could have a hard time earning playing time. Everson Griffen had 12 sacks last year and is the Vikings’ best rusher. They also have a talented young edge rusher in Anthony Barr to go across from Griffen. Veteran Brian Robison is ahead of Hunter as well, and just a year ago, the Vikings drafted a defensive end Scott Crichton in the third round. Hunter could have a difficult path to the field and might not make an impact in Minnesota.

Potential Boom Pick

Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA – Round 2
Kendricks was one of my favorite prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft. Teams didn’t like him as much as I did; they generally had him graded in the second round. To me though, Kendricks is a pure football player who is going to be a rock-solid defender in the middle of the Minnesota defense. The Vikings took Kendricks with the 45th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, and I think they came away with a boom prospect.

The 6-foot, 232-pounder Kendricks doesn’t have elite size or speed, but he always is around the ball. As a senior, Kendricks amassed 149 tackles with three interceptions and four sacks. In the previous two seasons, he had impressive tackle totals (105 in 2013 and 149 in 2012). Kendricks has instincts that put him in position with the quickness to defend the perimeter. He also showed the ability to play all three downs and was a real asset in pass coverage as a senior.

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has been very successful at developing defensive talent across his career. It wouldn’t be surprising if Kendricks wins the starting middle linebacker job as a rookie and forms a nice trio with Anthony Barr and Chad Greenway. In time, I think Kendricks could become a Pro Bowler and a linebacker who was severely undervalued in the draft.

Future Depth Player

Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland – Round 5
Many were projecting the Vikings to take a receiver in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, but the franchise didn’t address the need until the fifth round with Diggs. At Maryland, Diggs (6-0, 195) was a receiving and special teams weapon, but he never really lived up to the hype that came from his recruitment. He had injury issues, including a broken fibula that ended his 2013 season and a lacerated kidney that caused him to miss games in 2014. Diggs has the speed to be a play-maker in limited plays and a contributor on special teams, but he seems too brittle to be a starter in the NFL, even for a receiving-needy team like Minnesota. Diggs could be a decent backup and special teams player in the NFL.

Walt’s 2015 NFL Draft Grades:

11. Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State: A- Grade
It was either Trae Waynes or DeVante Parker, and either would’ve made a ton of sense. But whereas Parker was the No. 3 receiver, Waynes was the top cornerback on the board. With that in mind, doesn’t it seem like a huge steal that the Vikings were able to obtain the No. 1 corner in the draft with the 11th pick? This is a strong choice, as Waynes fills a need as a starter across from Xavier Rhodes. The Vikings had to find another corner to help them against all of the talented receivers on Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

45. Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA: A+ Grade
This is my favorite pick of the second round so far. Eric Kendricks is a first-round prospect. I had him going to Nos. 24 and 30 in various updates of my mock draft. He should’ve been the first inside linebacker off the board, so he’s an absolute steal in the middle of the second frame. He fills a huge need for Minnesota in the middle of its defense.

88. Danielle Hunter, DE/OLB, LSU: B+ Grade
Danielle Hunter’s draft stock was all over the place. Some had him as a second-round prospect. One team we spoke to scoffed at this, listing him as a fifth-round prospect. This range should be right for him. Hunter isn’t much of a football player right now, but he has the athleticism to develop into a strong starter. The good thing is that Hunter doesn’t have to play much right away. He’ll have time to eventually emerge as a key player down the road.

110. T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh: A Grade
T.J. Clemmings was never viewed as a first-round prospect. Teams we spoke to had him in the second or third round, and that’s before his injury came to light. However, there’s no denying that Clemmings provides fantastic value in the fourth frame. He’s a potential starting left tackle with plenty of upside. He might be able to take over for Matt Kalil if Kalil continues to struggle.

143. MyCole Pruitt, TE, Southern Illinois: B Grade
Kyle Rudolph has not been able to stay healthy, so it’s hardly a surprise that the Vikings addressed the tight end position in the 2015 NFL Draft. The highly athletic MyCole Pruitt fits the range as a fifth-round prospect, and he could eventually evolve into a starter.

146. Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland: B+ Grade
I like what the Vikings are doing with these mid-round picks. I had numerous readers yell at me for having Stefon Diggs too late in my mock draft, but I always thought the fourth round was the right spot for him. Diggs had injury issues in Maryland, but he could develop into a No. 2 wideout if he can stay healthy. He’ll also be able to contribute as a return specialist, if needed.

185. Tyrus Thompson, OT, Oklahoma: B Grade
Tyrus Thompson battled through injuries this past season and struggled at times as a result. He has the talent to be chosen at this spot, or perhaps even earlier, but he has some work-ethic concerns. If Thompson can get his act together, he could be a decent swing tackle for the Vikings down the road.

193. B.J. Dubose, DE, Louisville: C Grade
B.J. Dubose would’ve been a better fit as a five-technique, so maybe the Chargers and Vikings can swap picks? Dubose will serve as a run-stopping left end if he makes the roster, but I’m not so sure he will. The Vikings could’ve done better with this selection.

228. Austin Shepherd, OT, Alabama: B- Grade
Minnesota’s third tackle. I felt that Austin Shepherd had a chance to be drafted, and I had him as a sixth-round prospect at one point. The Vikings must have agreed on his value, but I’m not sure where he fits in with all the players at the position currently on the roster.

232. Edmond Robinson, LB, Newberry: B Grade
I had Edmond Robinson going a bit earlier than this, so he makes sense at this spot. As for the fit, I’d like it more if the Vikings didn’t already spend two selections on linebackers. It’ll be tough for Robinson to make the final roster.

2015 NFL Draft Team Grade: A . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

Minnesota Vikings Season Preview

Fantasy Football Rankings - May 23

2025 NFL Mock Draft - May 21

NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22

NFL Picks - Feb. 12