The Vikings just drafted some players. Their offseason workouts will pick up their intensity in a couple of weeks. And believe it or not, the preseason opener is only three months away. So today seemed like a good day to answer some reader questions with a mailbag blog. Let’s get right to it.
Gabe, aka @gibbargabbar, asks which draft pick, besides Laquon Treadwell, will make the biggest impact as a rookie.
As I wrote a couple of days after the draft, after picking Treadwell in the first round, the Vikings kept one eye on the future during the rest of the draft. Treadwell is the only pick with a clear path to regular playing time and I expect him to be the starting split end right away. Their other seven selections might only see the field on special teams. But of that group, I think tight end David Morgan II, a sixth-round pick, has the best chance of playing. The Vikings raved about his blocking and he figures to compete with Rhett Ellison, who is coming off a major knee injury and is only on a one-year contract, for the blocking tight end role that got Ellison on the field for nearly 50 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in 2015. They will probably use two-TE sets less in 2016, but it’s still an important role.
@KaleHermanson wonders how the selection of corner Mackensie Alexander in Round Two will affect 2015 top pick Trae Waynes.
The addition of Alexander will have more of an effect on slot specialist Captain Munnerlyn, though there is a chance that Alexander will be a better player than Waynes over the long term and that coach Mike Zimmer will opt to use him over Waynes as a starter in the base defense despite the fact that he is only 5-foot-10. But in 2016, Alexander figures to push Munnerlyn for playing time in the nickel package. And if he has a strong rookie year, he could make Munnerlyn, who is in the final year of his contract, expendable.
The infamous and anonymous fan known as Judd Zulgad’s Hoodie, aka @JZHoodie, demands my “way too early best guess starting OL.”
I agree that in early May it is way too early to pick a starting lineup for the offensive line, but I’ll take a crack at it for you. As of right now, the only two starters who appear to be set in stone are left tackle Matt Kalil and left guard Alex Boone. At center, John Sullivan believes his back is no longer an issue, and if that is true, I would give him the nod over Joe Berger. At right guard, Brandon Fusco is probably a slight favorite over Mike Harris, but that is going to be one heck of a battle. Ditto for the right tackle spot, where I think newcomer Andre Smith has the edge over Phil Loadholt. I’d guess that at least one of the guys I just named doesn’t even make the team.
@TheReidLinwoods wants to know if Treadwell will play in the slot.
I’m sure there will be times when the Vikings opt to slide Treadwell into the slot in the hopes that he can use his 6-foot-2 frame to create a mismatch against a smaller nickelback. We could see that occasionally in the red zone. But the Vikings coveted Treadwell as a physical possession receiver to play split end, something this offense has lacked in a while. I would guess that he will play the vast majority of his snaps at one of the two outside spots.
Chris, aka @chrisa833, wonders how many receivers make the team.
Right now, the three locks are Treadwell, Stefon Diggs and veteran Jarius Wright. I also would project Adam Thielen and Cordarrelle Patterson to make the team based on what they bring to the table on special teams. The Vikings will probably carry six wide receivers, which means that Charles Johnson, who was mostly invisible last season, will have to beat out Moritz Boehringer, the sixth-round pick from Germany, and perhaps someone like Isaac Fruechte or speedy Terrell Sinkfield to remain with the Vikings. I’m not counting Johnson out, though, after he kept his NFL dream alive despite a knee injury as a rookie and being exiled to Cleveland. As for Boehringer, he is practice-squad eligible, but another team could try to snatch him.
@jrm531 wants to know what I think about the job GM Rick Spielman has done now that I’m in my third season here.
I’m sure the vocal minority who loves to rip Rick will call me a homer for what I’m about to type, but I really do believe that he has done an excellent job since I arrived in 2014. The Zimmer hire has proved to be a home run. Spielman was able to draft a promising young quarterback that year, too, and it was savvy of him to draft Anthony Barr first instead of reaching for a QB in the top 10. I actually voted for Spielman for the PFWA’s Executive of the Year award that year. Other successful draft picks since 2014 include Jerick McKinnon, Diggs, Eric Kendricks, Danielle Hunter and, presumably, Treadwell. Spielman has been patient in free agency, but his two biggest moves, re-signing defensive end Everson Griffen and adding nose tackle Linval Joseph, have paid off big-time. Heading into 2016, the Vikings seem poised to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Spielman has had a lot to do with that, especially when you considered that he chose to hire Zimmer.