With NFL Draft over, what's next for Vikings?
MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Rick Spielman, Mike Zimmer and the Minnesota Vikings will have an interesting few months leading up to training camp and the NFL preseason.
Spielman was a trading machine last Friday, dealing his third round draft pick four times to accumulate picks in the NFL Draft before selecting Boise State running back Alexander Mattison. The Vikings ended up with 12 total draft picks.
It marks the third time in the last five seasons that the Vikings have drafted at least 10 players. They had 11 draft picks in 2017, and 10 in 2015.
So what’s next? All 12 Vikings’ current draft choices, as well as undrafted free agents, start rookie minicamp on Friday at TCO Performance Center. Spielman and company will have to figure out how this team comes together in time for Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons.
Can Irv Smith Jr. and Kyle Rudolph co-exist at tight end?
The speculation started once the Vikings announced their second round draft choice. They were adding tight end Irv Smith Jr. out of Alabama. So what does it mean for Kyle Rudolph’s future in Minnesota? Nothing, if you ask the Vikings. They say the two can co-exist in an offense that will be run by Kevin Stefanski, and inspired by Gary Kubiak. It should feature sets that include multiple wide receivers and tight ends.
Smith caught 44 passes for more than 700 yards and seven touchdowns last season as the Crimson Tide finished the national runners-up to Clemson. Rudolph is entering the final year of his current contract after catching 64 passes for more than 600 yards and four touchdowns last year. He’s said multiple times he’s willing to restructure his contract to help the Vikings’ salary cap situation, and he feels he's in the prime of his career.
Will Jake Browning compete for the No. 2 QB spot?
The Vikings might have an interesting decision to make when it comes to the quarterback behind Kirk Cousins. Kyle Sloter was on the roster last season, but didn’t take a single regular season snap. Sean Mannion signed with the Vikings in free agency after being the back-up to Jared Goff with the L.A. Rams last year, but he completed just two passes for 23 yards. Last year’s back-up, Trevor Siemian, signed with the Jets in free agency.
The Vikings signed Washington quarterback Jake Browning as an undrafted free agent. Browning finished his Washington career with 39 wins and completed nearly 65 percent of his passes last year for more than 3,100 yards and 16 touchdowns in 14 starts. He came to Washington in 2014 as one of the highest-rated quarterbacks in the country.
Can Laquon Treadwell win the No. 3 WR spot?
One thing became clear after the NFL Draft and with some news earlier this week: Laquon Treadwell has some work to do if he’s going to make the 53-man roster. The Vikings declined the fifth-year option on his contract earlier this week, meaning he becomes a free agent after the 2019 season. He’s actually coming off career-highs in catches (35) and yards (302), but still has a ways to go in being a consistently reliable third option for Cousins.
His time may be running out, with the Vikings using two of their four seventh round draft picks on wide receivers. They drafted Dillon Mitchell out of Oregon and Olabisi Johnson out of Colorado State. Mitchell is a speedster who ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. He set Oregon records last year with 75 catches for 1,184 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging more than 15 yards per catch. Johnson caught 54 passes for 796 yards and four touchdowns in 11 starts last season.
What will offensive line look like?
The Vikings offensive line will have a vastly different look in 2019 after the team ranked No. 30 in rushing, and Cousins got sacked 40 times last season. Nick Easton didn’t play at all last year after back and neck surgery, and left for the New Orleans Saints in free agency. Mike Remmers landed with the Giants after being released by the Vikings.
Minnesota added Josh Kline in free agency, then drafted the top center in the country in Garrett Bradbury of N.C. State. They also drafted Oklahoma’s Dru Samia, a guard on the top offense in college football. Between Pat Elflein, Kline, Bradbury, Samia, Brian O’Neill, Riley Reiff, Brett Jones, Rashod Hill and Danny Isidora, the Vikings will have options up front.
Can Armon Watts make impact on defensive line?
The Vikings have some uncertainty on the defensive line entering the season, with Sheldon Richardson gone in free agency and Everson Griffen back after battling some mental health issues last season. They drafted Armon Watts out of Arkansas with one of their three sixth-round picks. He made the most of his senior season with the Razorbacks, getting 49 tackles, 8.5 for a loss and seven sacks in 12 games, including 11 starts.
He’s one of six defensive tackles on the roster, including Jalyn Holmes, Jaleel Johnson, Linval Joseph, Shamar Stephen and Tito Odenigbo.
Will long snapper Austin Cutting get a chance?
Spielman made an interesting choice with his final pick of the draft. He took Air Force long snapper Austin Cutting. He could provide competition for current long snapper Kevin McDermott, if he actually gets a chance to compete.
That might be out of his control. Being at an institution that’s part of the Armed Forces, he’s required to enlist in the Air Force once he completes graduation. He played in 23 games the last two seasons for Air Force, but his duty to serve his country comes before any NFL career.
The Vikings will enter rookie minicamp Friday with eight of their 12 draft picks signed to contracts. The four yet to sign include Bradbury, Watts, Cutting and cornerback Kris Boyd.