Latest posts by Joe Broback (see all)
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Professional football is back, and preseason games are right around the corner. Well, the normal ones at least. The Minnesota Vikings are set to make another playoff run in 2019, but they have depth questions that must be answered. Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman addressed many of those needs in the draft. There are many rookies to watch, but there are five who I specifically have my eye on in the preseason. Let’s take a look at who they are, and how they win their jobs.
Others to watch: CB Kris Boyd, S Marcus Epps, TE Irv Smith Jr., DT Armon Watts
When you pay your quarterback as much as the Vikings did, you better hope the line can protect him. Injuries and inconsistencies have worked their way through the offensive line the last couple years, but Rick Spielman’s addressed that with the additions of Pat Elflein and now Bradbury.
Bradbury gives the Vikings flexibility to move Elflein to guard, and fans are excited to watch what he can do with this group. It’s not a matter of if he wins the starting job, it’s a matter of how good he can be with this group. The skill positions are loaded for this offense, but they will only go as far as their offensive line will take them.
Browning’s made a name for himself at both the high school and college levels, and is looking to do the same in the NFL. We all knew about the kid that threw 91 touchdowns in his senior year of high school, but we’re now getting to know Jake Browning the professional.
Kirk Cousins has the starting job locked up, and it’s looking like Kyle Sloter will be the backup. However, the third string spot is between Browning and Sean Mannion. Browning doesn’t have the strongest arm, but he’s proven to be accurate. That accuracy will help him win this position, and will make him fun to watch early on in the preseason.
Minnesota lost Latavius Murray in the offseason, and found themselves in need of a backup running back. There were many that liked Mike Boone to be that guy, and he had a good preseason last year. Minnesota also drafted Mattison, who has more upside than Boone.
Like Murray, Mattison runs with a purpose and isn’t fun to tackle. He relies on leg drive late in games to carry defenders with him to pick up extra yards. While Cook is the starter, he’s also struggled with injuries at times. If Mattison wins the backup spot, he’ll see the field to give Cook a break. He’s also great catching the ball out of the backfield too. So getting him in space with smaller defenders will be another great threat for the Vikings offense.
Everyone knows what Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs can do, but they’ll receive plenty of attention from defenses. Both can handle the pressure and will thrive, but it makes the third receiver important. Mitchell will compete for that spot, and is a dark horse to make the team as a seventh round pick for the Vikings.
Mitchell brings experience at slot and the outside to the Vikings offense. He’s got what it takes to break away from defenders on routes, and it a natural with the ball in his hands. The biggest concern is his size. Mitchell’s thin frame exposes him to injury from bigger players. While he can elude tacklers with his speed and quickness, it’s tough for him to handle physical defenders. If he can prove that it doesn’t affect him, he’ll be in the rotation for this Vikings offense.
Smith’s as reliable as they get coming out of college, and his four years as a starter for USC prove that. He has instincts that you can’t teach, and coaches love his technique. It’s just a matter of if he’s athletic enough to handle the NFL. Currently, he sits as the third string middle linebacker.
His game seems boring to the casual fan, but it’s efficient. Smith rarely gets out of position even though he’s not the quickest linebacker you’ll watch. His high football IQ will keep him on a roster, and help him find the football on any play. He won’t compete for Eric Kendricks starting spot, but he can be the backup and a valuable contributor on special teams too.