In today’s newspaper, I had a story about the Vikings’ rookie class, which has made contributions throughout the season, with eight rookies starting at least one game, including a team-record six against the Cardinals.
For the story, I reached out to Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller, one of my favorite writers to follow every spring as the draft nears.
I only quoted Miller once in the story, but he shared much more insight on the draft class, which he feels could yield four or five starters as early as next season. Here are his thoughts on several notable Vikings rookies:
Cornerback Trae Waynes: “What a weird year. Having barely seen Waynes in coverage, it’s really tough to evaluate his play, but the fact that he’s not seeing a lot of reps at cornerback also says a lot by itself. The Cardinals targeted him and he struggled, but he continues to show up as a good tackler and a good athlete. I think cornerback is the hardest defensive position to transition from the pros to college, so don’t let people call him a bust, but he has to spend all offseason working on technique and timing.”
Linebacker Eric Kendricks: “Kendricks has really struggled in pass coverage, and that’s not something I expected. He’s good against the run (really good against Arizona) and makes plays on the ball with solo tackles, but he’s also missed tackles that I saw him make weekly at UCLA. There’s no reason to be alarmed by his play, but he is capable of better than what we’ve seen this year. I thought he’d be more of a positive impact early on.”
Defensive end Danielle Hunter: “Hunter has been the Defensive Rookie of the Year for the Vikings. He’s been great in sub-package pass-rushing roles and you can definitely see him developing weekly. I think he’s the man to replace Brian Robison in the future. He’s long, quick and he’s starting to get his timing down, too. He has double-digit sack potential as a starter.”
Offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings: “Clemmings has been really disappointing, and I understand he’s transitioning to a new position, but still… not good. I liked him pre-draft after seeing an athlete at the Senior Bowl, but he lacks the power to play right tackle in the NFL right now. He’s a step behind reacting to the pass rush, as well. This has been a trial-by-fire kind of season for him. I think he can build on it with improved strength.”
Tight end MyCole Pruitt: “We haven’t seen much of Pruitt, but he’s looked good when on the field. I like his athleticism as a complement to Rudolph and wish he’d get involved more as a safety valve over the middle.”
Wide receiver Stefon Diggs: “Diggs has really surpassed my expectations. He’s explosive, versatile and a piece the Vikings can build around. He looks like a very good No. 2 receiver opposite a bigger wide-out in the future. This was a home-run draft pick [in the fifth round], though.”