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Article: Vikings Second Year Player Progression

sharrif floyd cordarrelle patterson xavier rhodes gerald hodges jeff locke
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#1 Aj Mansour

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 05:35 AM

It’s an imperfect science, predicting player progression throughout a career. The variables are too great. Some come into the league guns a blazing and take it by storm (Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III). Others come in under different circumstances, they find some time to learn on the sidelines and then when the iron is hot, they strike (Aaron Rodgers).Still others nobody could have predicted. They landed in the right system, matured at the right time and spread their wings when opportunity came knocking (Tom Brady). These variables are exactly what makes it so interesting to track the progression of players in the NFL.

Today, let’ take a look at a group of Minnesota Vikings second-year players to see how they are tracking, break them down and pick one to flourish and one to flop.

The 2013 NFL Draft was top heavy for the Minnesota Vikings. With Rick Spielman’s newfound aggression on draft day, the Vikings walked away from day one with three first round players (Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson). Day two was quiet as the Vikings had no picks after day one moves and day three rounded out with six more players hoping to provide depth to a team in transition (Gerald Hodges, Jeff Locke, Jeff Baca, Michael Mauti, Travis Bond and Everett Dawkins).

DT Sharrif Floyd – 1st Round (23rd overall)
Originally thought to have been a top five guy, Floyd fell to the Vikings late in the first and Rick Spielman pulled the trigger at 23. Reports of short arms and a pudgy core were found to be true and worked against Sharrif in his first year with the team. Splitting time and playing behind veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams, Sharrif had time to learn but was unable to get much on the field experience.

Heading into year two, Floyd is looking to change his level of impact. With Williams elsewhere, Floyd will be the Vikings starter at defensive tackle. With a number change, a diet change and an attitude change, Sharrif is dead set on impressing the new coaching staff with a big second-season. Many people are looking for Sharrif to fill the role of Geno Atkins in Zimmer’s previous defenses and he’s hoping to do the same. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill, but with a solid performance in the second preseason game Floyd is showing steps of improvement.

Pacing: BEHIND Schedule

CB Xavier Rhodes – 1st Round (25th Overall) ** ONE TO FLOP **
It pains me to give Xavier the One to Flop designation but to date, the young cornerback has not lived up to the expectations that were placed upon him early. Blessed with all the physical attributes you would like in a cornerback Xavier is tall, fast and physical. In a division where you will see big receivers like Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall and Jordy Nelson on a regular basis, a player like Rhodes is a must. The Vikings struck out with Chris Cook and already it’s taking a little too long for Xavier to get up to speed as well.

With the cornerback competition strictly limited to the side opposite of Rhodes, there hasn’t been much attention paid to him this preseason. In that same breath though, Xavier hasn’t done a whole lot to make his presence felt either. His one “flash” play of Training Camp came in the team’s Saturday night practice when he made a spectacular diving interception. But as Coach Zimmer reminded him after the play, he was in fact horribly beat and made a wonderful play on an under thrown ball to come down with the interception.

Like many of you, I hope that I am dead wrong and Rhodes comes out to play this season. But from what I’ve seen so far this year, there’s still that little something missing that will help Rhodes take his physical abilities and really use them to his full advantage going forward.

Pacing: BEHIND Schedule

WR Cordarrelle Patterson – 1st Round (29th Overall) ** ONE TO FLOURISH **
It’s no surprise here, but wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson gets the nod for my One to Flourish second year player, after all he was NFL.com’s #1 player on their 2014 “Making the Leap” list.

Patterson is in the midst of a transition from rookie role-playing wide receiver to becoming the Minnesota Vikings true number one wide out. With a slow start to the year in 2013, Patterson finished with 469 receiving yards, 158 rushing yards and 1,393 yards tallying 9 total touchdowns. Of his 45 catches and 4 receiving TDs, 24 catches and 3 TDs came in the final six games for Cordarrelle last season. He started to figure it out and the offensive coordinators started to realize they should get the ball into his hands any way they can.That’s not a mistake that Norv turner is about to make.

When he was hired as offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings, the very first thing he did was install 10 plays into his playbook strictly purposed to get the ball in the hands of #84. With the ability to line up wide, come out of the slot or line up in the backfield, Patterson is an “x factor” that needs to be recognized. When you’ve got veteran wide receivers like Greg Jennings calling Patterson a “souped up Percy Harvin” and claiming that some day they’re going to tell their kids they played with Cordarrelle Patterson, “there appears to be gold in them thar hills!”

Pacing: AHEAD of schedule

LB Gerald Hodges – 4th Round (120th Overall)
Coming out of college, Hodges was thought to be the second best linebacker coming out of Penn State (Michael Mauti). Appearing in 11 games his rookie season, Hodges saw time primarily with the special teams unit as the Vikings roster didn’t have much room for a slow to come rookie who was still adjusting to the NFL. Another early season plummet down the depth charts early in 2014 showed that Hodges may very well be falling into the same trap again this season. But then he splashed.

Preseason game number one against the Raiders saw Hodges come out of his shell a little bit. He’s never been a quick to come guy when new defenses are being installed, but when he gets between the white lines on game day and can react, his football acumen shines through. Currently sitting as the second string linebacker on the strong side, Hodges has an opportunity to see time this year as rookie Anthony Barr continues to fight through growing pains of his own.

Pacing: RIGHT ON Schedule

P Jeff Locke – 5th Round (155th Overall)
Locke was a surprise draft pick in 2013 with Chris Kluwe still on roster. While he was the consensus top punter in the draft, a fifth round value for a punter seems to be a little high. Locke had a bit of a rude awakening to the NFL as his rookie season was not as successful as the team had hoped. Locke has 3-of-10 punts stick inside the twenty this season and needs to see that number improve. For punters, the learning curve to the NFL level should not be as steep, heading into year number two there is still a good deal of room to grow.

Pacing: BEHIND Schedule

G Jeff Baca – 6th Round (196th Overall)
With line flexibility Baca came in to the Vikings with a good amount of value at the 6th round. Appearing in four games last year, only as a spot fill in, Jeff showed promise as a player that could push the inexperienced Fusco for playing time in 2014. But apparently the old coaching staff thought a little more of Baca than the new coaching staff and Jeff has seen his reps drop in 2014. Now third on the depth chart behind Fusco and Ducasse, Baca has another rookie in David Yankey to worry about fighting off for playing time. Early on it appears as if he is losing that battle.

Pacing: BEHIND Schedule

LB Michael Mauti – 7th Round (213th Overall)
Coming out of college Michael Mauti was thought to be one of the more NFL ready linebackers in the 2013 draft class. However, three ACL surgeries over the span of his college career added some big red flags into the conversation and pushed Mauti down in the draft. The new coaching staff tested Mauti in the middle during training camp this year but quickly moved him back to the weak side where he is currently backing up veteran LB Chad Greenway. While the instincts are still there, the biggest knock against Mauti now is his speed. He knows where he needs to be, he just isn’t able to get there as quickly as he used to.

Pacing: RIGHT ON Schedule

G Travis Bond – 7th Round (214th Overall)
No longer with team…

DT Everett Dawkins – 7th Round (229th Overall)
No longer with team...

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#2 Jeff

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 07:48 AM

I seem to remember seeing Shariff show up in a couple of plays on Saturday, hopefully that trend continues moving forward. He's got a long lineage of Vikings DTs to live up to: Kevin Williams, John Randle, Keith Millard, Allan Paige, ect.

#3 mike wants wins

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 08:31 AM

Rhodes' play has been very disappointing. He seems like another guy that cannot figure out what to do when the ball is in the air.

I am cautiously optimistic about Floyd. Love Patterson. Locke will be gone after this year.

What I just typed is probably an opinion, not a fact. I mean, I'm usually right, so you should maybe assume it is or will be a fact soon, but that's up to you.


#4 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 10:09 AM

Great breakdown. I'm just getting up to speed on the NFL again (lapsed fan over the past 3-4 years) and stuff like this is great to help me catch up on the Vikings roster.


#5 Seth Stohs

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 11:40 AM

Have to think the Rhodes, Floyd and Patterson will all get thrown into it headfirst this year to find out. We should definitely have enough of a sample size on all three by the end of the year. 


#6 kasu327

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 12:41 PM

Regarding Rhodes, I think it is really hard to judge his last season considering the horrible defensive scheme they were running. The bastardized version of cover 2 and cover 4(?) defense they were playing would have made Deion Sanders and Rod Woodson look bad. Rhodes looked lost, but so did every other player on the defense. 

 

Hopefully he is really taking in how important it is to be in the correct position in Zimmer's defense. He is athletic and physical enough to be an elite CB and Zimmer has a good enough defensive scheme that if they can get both of those things to work together Rhodes could be elite. 


#7 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 05:41 PM

I like Spielman's idea of grabbing multiple first rounders, and I don't mind losing some middle round picks to grab them, but you have to hit big with them when you do.  I thought that the 2013 draft was approached more from a rebuilding standpoint (why else grab Floyd knowing he wouldn't start, or trade up for raw talent in Patterson?).

 

That said, you have to hit with those picks. 




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