As you frantically research the Vikings’ options in the second round and beyond at this year’s NFL draft — Andrew Krammer gives you a good start with 10 players still available entering Day 2 — it’s also important to keep some perspective and realize a lot of these players won’t be immediate contributors (if they contribute at all).
You could argue the player the Vikings get at No. 48 overall should be able to help right away. Beyond that? It’s hit-or-miss.
Of at least equal importance (and likely more importance) will be the continued development of the players who were picked a year ago — a 2016 draft class that barely gave the Vikings anything on offense or defense and was exceedingly quiet when compared to previous Vikings draft classes and the rest of the NFL as a whole.
Vikings rookies in 2016 played just 301 combined offensive and defensive snaps. That was the lowest total in the NFL and was uncharacteristic for the Vikings. Between 2012 and 2015, Vikings rookies had averaged more than 2,500 offensive and defensive snaps per season.
The lack of production from last year’s rookies showed up in a lack of depth in some cases and contributed, at least in part, to the team’s fall from a 5-0 start to an 8-8 finish. Getting virtually nothing from first-round wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (one catch) and fourth-round offensive lineman Willie Beavers (didn’t make the 53-man roster out of camp and played just 11 snaps all year for a team that desperately needed O-line help) was particularly damaging.
Second-round pick Mackensie Alexander was caught more in a numbers game than anything, stuck behind experienced defensive backs. Among the rest of the picks — Kentrell Brothers, Moritz Boehringer, David Morgan, Stephen Weatherly and Jayron Kearse — there were some special teams contributions, but that’s about it. The Vikings didn’t need to rush those players last year because they have a lot of productive recent picks still on the roster.
This year, thanks to the departures of several free agents and other factors, there is somewhere between opportunity and flat-out need for a lot of those guys. Treadwell could give the Vikings a big target to go with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Without his emergence or a dip into free agency, there are big questions at that position. Alexander could fill departed corner Captain Munnerlyn’s role in the slot. Beavers could provide much-needed depth. Brothers could get more playing time with the retirement of Chad Greenway. Morgan could fill the role departed TE Rhett Ellison held.
If the 2016 class continues to stall, though, the Vikings’ depth will be seriously challenged. And it will put even more pressure on the players about to be chosen Friday and Saturday.