NFC North Rookie Preview: Minnesota Vikings (Defense)

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With the 2015 NFL season less than 3 months away, it’s time to start thinking about the competition in the NFC North. According to most draft publications, the other three teams in the division had solid drafts so there will be an influx of new play-makers for Bears fans to root against. I’ve already covered the rookies for the Packers, Lions, and the Vikings offense, so today I am finishing up with the Vikings defensive rookies.

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Minnesota Vikings Rookies (Defense):

#26 CB Trae Waynes (Michigan St, 1st round)

Waynes has the size, speed, and skill to be an effective NFL corner right away. He’s been coached well in college and has all the tools to be a great corner, but like most rookies at the position he will probably struggle early. Waynes reminds me a lot of Kyle Fuller, the Bears 1st round pick last year, and I project a similar rookie year with a combination of great plays and glaring mistakes. Waynes got away with a very physical style of play in college, which won’t be tolerated at the NFL level and could result in a lot of early penalties. It could lead to some time on the bench for Waynes, but he has much more talent than his primary competition, Terrance Newman, that I think Waynes will be locked in as the Vikings #2 CB by the second half of the season.

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#54 LB Eric Kendicks (UCLA, 2nd round)

This was my least favorite pick in the draft. Not for the Vikings, but for the Bears. Kendricks was one of my favorite players overall and I had him going to the Bears in the 2nd round in just about every mock draft I did. The fact that he was available and the Bears passed on him still hurts. Regardless, Kendricks is a Viking now and the Bears will have to deal with him the next few seasons. The Vikings had a gaping hole at MLB the last few seasons, but filled it with one of the best tacklers and most instinctive players in the 2015 draft. I’d be shocked if Kendricks isn’t the Vikings starting MLB by week 1 of the 2015 season.

Kendricks is a little undersized (6’0 | 232), but his elite instincts and sound fundamentals should make up for any physical limitations. He has enough speed to be a sideline-to-sideline run stopper, great timing on blitzes, good enough zone coverage skills, diagnoses plays quickly and doesn’t miss tackles. It’s fitting that Kendricks will be wearing #54 because he could be the best MLB in the North since Brian Urlacher.

#99 DE Danielle Hunter (LSU, 3rd round)

Hunter had disappointing production during his 2 years at LSU with only 4.5 sacks, but he has the size (6’5 | 252] and athletic ability (4.58 40-time, 25 bench reps) to be a force off the edge. He’s very raw as a football player, but showed the ability to set the edge vs the run at least. Worst case he should be a solid run stopper at DE, but the potential is there to eventually develop into a solid pass rusher as well. Luckily for the Vikings, they have good depth at the position with Brian Robison, Everson Griffen and Scott Crighton ahead of Hunter on the depth chart. Hunter probably won’t get many snaps this season, but should develop into a solid player with the potential for more by the end of his rookie deal.