A few days ago, Ben Goessling of ESPN.com did a piece about how many members of the Minnesota Vikings' rookie class could potentially start for the team this season. His article makes the case for three rookies to be on the field against San Francisco in Week One, with those three being cornerback Trae Waynes, linebacker Eric Kendricks, and offensive lineman T.J. Clemmings.
At this point, I think the only one of those three that's a lead-pipe cinch to start in Week One is Kendricks, who appears to have the middle linebacker spot locked down and has also been seeing quite a bit of time in the Vikings' nickel packages. He should step in and fill what might have been the biggest hole on the Vikings' defense from last season.
As far as the other two that Goessling list, I'm not completely sure. As he notes in his piece, Zimmer has a particular way that he likes his cornerbacks to play. The team brought in one player this offseason in Terence Newman that's already familiar with exactly how that is, and the early camps and activities have his teammates raving thus far. Waynes was the most highly-regarded corner in this year's draft class for a reason, but he was also thought to be a bit raw. The team has also been using him both outside and in the slot in workouts so far. Can Waynes get up to speed quickly enough to be starting across from Xavier Rhodes on that first Monday night at Levi's Stadium? That's going to be one of the more intriguing stories of Training Camp.
One of the other stories with a bunch of intrigue involves what's turning into a free-for-all at the right guard position. With Brandon Fusco making the switch to left guard, there is no shortage of offensive linemen that will make a claim for the spot, and a couple of rookies are among them. We've mentioned Clemmings, who was running with the first team at right guard during the early stages of camps. However, in the later stages he was replaced by another rookie hopeful, that being sixth-round pick Tyrus Thompson. Throw in veteran Joe Berger, who stepped in after Fusco's injury last year, and second-year man David Yankey, and that's four (likely) quality players that will be competing for one opening on the offensive line. They will also be competing for backup spots and, possibly, even the right to stay on the roster.
I don't think any of the Vikings' other picks have a chance of cracking the starting lineup, unless you want to count Stefon Diggs possibly taking over return duties on punts or kickoffs (or both). So, how many of the Vikings' rookies will start in Week One?
Right now, with a month before Training Camp opens in Mankato, I personally think I'm going to put the number at two. Kendricks, as I said, appears to be a lock (barring injury, obviously), and I think that a rookie will end up winning the right guard battle. . .right now, my money is on Clemmings, but there's no reason to count Thompson out yet. As far as Waynes. . .I think he'll find himself starting sooner rather than later, but it might take him a little longer to adjust to the "Zimmer way" at cornerback. It wouldn't surprise me to see him join the starting lineup after the early bye in Week Five.
What do you folks think? How many rookies do you think will crack the starting lineup at the start of the 2015 season?