Third Running Back
Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray will see the bulk of the playing time in the backfield in 2018. However, Jerick McKinnon wound up in San Francisco during free agency, leaving a hole in the running back depth chart. That spot is up for grabs as Mack Brown will compete with two undrafted free agents, Mike Boone from Cincinnati and Roc Thomas from Jacksonville State.
Brown has the NFL experience that the other guys lack. He has spent time with the Houston Texans, Washington Redskins, and Minnesota Vikings in his NFL career but hasn’t seen the field much. Boone is a very athletic but very small back. His ability to play in space and his speed with the ball will give him the ability to fill McKinnon’s role in the offense. He didn’t post incredible numbers at Cincinnati, so he will have to prove himself over the next month. Thomas is a former four-star recruit who initially signed with Auburn. After limited playing time, Thomas transferred to Jacksonville State and dominated. He finished his final collegiate season with 1,065 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. He also added 244 yards as a receiver. Thomas is another smaller guy with an abundance of talent. This battle will be fun to keep an eye on.
Say hello to Roc Thomas, #Vikings fans. An athletic player with excellent agility and lower body explosion (tested well in broad and vertical jumps). I think he plays way faster than he tested. Capable in the passing game, too. 3rd down change of pace RB. pic.twitter.com/JRjeLgPhev
— Daniel House (@DanielHouseNFL) April 30, 2018
Although not all defensive back positions are the same, the Vikings have a ton of players that can compete for a spot somewhere on the back end. Aside from the givens, several young players are competing for a role in Zimmer’s defense. Undrafted free agent Holton Hill drew a bunch of attention in minicamp and will be worth a long look going forward. Third-year safety Jayron Kearse has been a star on special teams, so he may have an edge over some of the other guys as he has carved out a role on punt and kick coverage. First-round pick Mike Hughes will look to compete with Mack Alexander and Terence Newman for the nickel corner spot, and Hughes can also compete with Marcus Sherels for the kick return and punt return roles. A sleeper to watch for in the defensive back room is second-year cornerback Horace Richardson. While listed as a corner, Richardson has the versatility to play some safety as well.
Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks are studs in both the running and passing game. However, Ben Gedeon was only seeing the field in running situations in 2017. Heading into his second season, Gedeon will enter camp as the third linebacker. With that being said, Eric Wilson has a chance to break out in camp and take over that job. Linebackers coach Adam Zimmer said Wilson is a great athlete and has worked with the starting defense at times in minicamp. Wilson is also entering his second season and was a key to the Vikings special teams in 2017. He made eight tackles and forced a fumble. The Vikings don’t play three linebackers at the same time much, but Gedeon and Wilson will fight for playing time in August.
Depth on the edge is increasingly valuable in the NFL. Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter will start from day one, but it is unknown who will spell them. Stephen Weatherly, Tashawn Bower, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Brian Robison, and Ade Aruna all have a chance to crack the opening day roster. Robison is the only one with any meaningful playing time under his belt, so he has a leg up. Aruna was selected in the sixth round of the 2018 draft but is most likely headed to the practice squad. One of Bower, Weatherly, and Odenigbo will be the odd man out heading into the regular season.
Third Wide Receiver
The third wide receiver spot is important, but it is not a battle this season. Although it seems as though Laquon Treadwell and Kendall Wright are fighting for that spot, that’s not necessarily the case. They offer very different skill sets and situational importance. Therefore, there is no set player in that role. Instead, situations and game flow will dictate who is on the field.
Laquon Treadwell made a couple nice grabs at Vikings minicamp today, but also had a false start and ran a wrong route, Zimmer said. (Here’s Treadwell catching a pass from Kyle Sloter during an early drill.) pic.twitter.com/Vao7U5ewTc
— Chad Graff (@ChadGraff) June 12, 2018