The Minnesota Vikings will need both their 2016 and 2017 draft classes contribute early. Who on their roster should start to help bolster the offense and defense?
At the age of 22, Danielle Hunter has 18.5, 63 tackles and 2 forced fumbles. Hunter has primarily been a backup, but his presence has been felt. Brian Robison played well in 2016 with 7.5 sacks, but the athleticism that Hunter will bring can allow the Vikings to be more flexible on the defensive side. Hunter still needs to improve his pass rush moves, but can have another double-digit sack season if he gets the start.
Waynes has a big third year the Vikings, as his play has been widely criticized. He has mostly rotated snaps with Terence Newman who turns 39 this year. Spot playing is difficult for corners, and has probably hurt Waynes development. Waynes has made a few big plays in his two years; interception against the Seattle Seahawks in 2015 and a late game interception in week 2 against the Green Bay Packers. Waynes technique is still a major concern and a big reason why he didn’t see more snaps this season. His straight-line speed allows him to not get beat deep, but he loses technique often which leads to unnecessary penalties. If Waynes can improve his technique, it will not only mask his own deficiencies but will be a huge boost to a shallow Vikings secondary.
Laquon Treadwell had arguably the worst rookie season for a first-round wide receiver. Treadwell had one catch for 15 yards, and it won’t take much production to improve on his first year. Since OTA’s has started Treadwell has looked faster and much more confident in attacking the football. Treadwell can become one of the Vikings outside receivers, and use his big frame to get position on corners. The Vikings want to re-establish the run this season and Treadwells physicality will make him a weapon both in pass and run plays. He will still need to polish his route running and release moves, as his athletic profile has never allowed him to create much separation.
The Minnesota went from being the 4th rushing attack to the 32nd in 2016. Head Coach Mike Zimmer has stated he wants the Vikings to be able to run the ball well again, and Cook can re-ignite them. Cook displayed quickness around the edges in college and can contribute early in the passing game. Cook’s deficiencies lie in his inability to make guys miss at the point of attack. At Florida State, Cook would go down easy or not fight for extra yards. Latavius Murray is better between the tackles, but Cook could add a bit more physicality to increase his contribution. Running out of the shotgun is not something the Vikings have done in recent years but Cook has no problem running out of the Gun. If the Vikings were hoping to have a back without fumble issues Dalvin Cook is not that back. Cook had 13 career fumbles with four in 2016, Cook will need to work on ball security this offseason or he could become a liability in crucial spots. He has the talent to be the Vikings feature back, even if the Vikings implore a running back by committee approach.