The Vikings made a big splash in April when they wound up with three first-round draft picks, filling major holes on their defensive line as well as in their secondary and receiving corps. So just what kind of impact can those three heralded rookies make in 2013? We asked their position coaches for a breakdown.
SHARRIF FLOYD, DEFENSIVE TACKLE
Drafted: 23rd overall out of Florida
Predraft attraction: Physically, Floyd was explosive off the snap, ran well, had eye-catching flexibility and was physical. On his predraft visit to Winter Park, however, he won over the coaching staff with the drive and humility he retained through a rough childhood in Philadelphia. Said defensive line coach Brendan Daly: “When he left us, I said to myself either this kid is the best con artist I’ve ever been around. Or he’s a really squared away, sharp guy.”
Big adjustment: The speed and physicality of regular-season action will be a great test to Floyd’s reaction times. He also will have to learn initially in the shadow of Kevin Williams.
Most eye-catching trait: Floyd’s feel for the game and ability to self-correct. “You saw it when you watched him on tape,” Daly said. “But we saw it more so when we watched film with him. Incredibly high football IQ. When we asked him to go through his college plays and explain what the calls were and what he was doing and how he was being coached, it was so very impressive. You saw that he not only had a knowledge of football, but there was an also immediate sense of his passion for the game because of how well he grasped everything.”
XAVIER RHODES, CORNERBACK
Drafted: 25th out of Florida State
Predraft attraction: The Vikings saw Rhodes’ size (6-1, 215 pounds) and aggressiveness, reminded themselves they play in a division that includes powerhouse receivers Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall and hoped the young cornerback would fall into their lap.
Big adjustment: Rhodes was a college standout thanks to his dominance in press-man coverage. Within the Vikings defense, he has so many additional techniques to learn while absorbing new zone packages and blitz principles. Said secondary coach Joe Woods: “In college, it was basically, ‘You’ve got that guy. Don’t let him catch the ball.’ … Here now it’s a learning experience, because we’re teaching him so many things he hasn’t been exposed to.”
Most eye-catching trait: “It’s the size,” Woods said. “He’s a big corner who has little-man characteristics — meaning he has very good lateral movement and initial quickness. … He is very explosive. And some of the jams we’ve seen throughout OTAs and training camp, man, I have never seen it. He’s knocking guys sideways. Receivers. Tight ends. Incredible. When you have a guy who can be that physical at the line of scrimmage, it’s an advantage.”
CORDARRELLE PATTERSON, WR/KR
Drafted: 29th out of Tennessee
Predraft attraction: There wasn’t much not to like about Patterson’s one season at Tennessee. He set the school record for all-purpose yards (1,858) as a speedy, big (6-2, 220), multidimensional playmaker. “Great football skills,” Vikings receivers coach George Stewart said. “He’s a great athlete. That’s God-given. He’s going to make a lot of great plays because of that and what I think is his greatest attribute: great vision.”
Big adjustment: Patterson is a raw, developing route runner. But he’ll also have to adjust to the NFL’s more complex coverages. “That’s the case for most college kids,” Stewart said.
Most eye-catching trait: It doesn’t take long to notice that Patterson is moving a lot faster and quicker than most guys his size. He has some Percy Harvin in him, but he’s also 35 pounds heavier and about 4 inches taller than Harvin. Patterson will make an immediate impact on kickoff returns and is expected to ease his way in as a receiver. Still, the Vikings will find a way to get him the ball, a la the bubble screens that Harvin used to run so well. “Cordarrelle will be a major contributor this year,” Stewart said.