Photo Courtesy of Vikings.com

Photo Courtesy of Vikings.com

The Vikings claimed Shaun Prater off waivers on October 22, 2013 from the Philadelphia Eagles. Prater was originally drafted in the fifth round with pick 156 in 2012 by the Cincinnati Bengals. A knee injury derailed his rookie season and forced him on injured reserve for almost the entire year.

Geoff Hobson, the editor for Bengals.com wrote this about Prater last March.

He dabbles in UFC-type workouts and harbors thoughts of a post-career stint in the ring. If he doesn’t become a secret agent first.

He beat his twin brother Shane into the world by 20 seconds and they came kicking into sports as little kids when they saw martial arts legend Bruce Lee take down the bad guys in the movie “Enter The Dragon.” Their father, a 19th-round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians back in Bruce Lee’s 70′s, would come down stairs and stop the twins from leaping on couches and kicking over lamps.

I’d love to go work for the FBI,” Prater says. “Both of us want to do something dangerous, exciting. A secret agent. The Navy. Or SWAT. We’re people that love to take risks. Makes us feel alive instead of working 9 to 5 at a desk.”

Sounds like a Marvin Lewis/Mike Zimmer kind of corner that can dole out the punishment while also being smart enough to not get himself killed. He’s got the qualities of a nickle corner, but the coaches think he can play all over.

Prater fits easily into the Lewis/Zimmer mold. A lot of production (seven picks, two for TDs in his college career and four forced fumbles in his senior year) in a big conference during a lot of snaps (35 starts), and a willingness to hit (171 career tackles) for a defense that played a lot of different coverages.

They play a lot of quarters coverage, which we like to play.” Lewis said when the Bengals drafted Prater. “He has a couple of things that will be able to transfer well. We feel good about how well he played on special teams overall, and as an outside gunner in particular. He will be able to compete for all those spots here.”

Vikings GM Rick Spielman is always looking to add more talent to the roster, and Prater is hoping he doesn’t get lost on the depth chart with the anticipated off-season cornerback acquisitions.

In 2013, Prater worked his way up the depth chart to start the final three games of the season for the Vikings. If Mike Zimmer liked what he saw from Prater during his college career with the Iowa Hawkeyes, he will surely like what Prater put on tape with the Vikings against the Eagles, Bengals and Lions to close out the year.

I watched the final three games again this weekend, and I was shocked that those three teams really didn’t try to pick on Prater very often.

Against the Eagles, Prater played right corner the entire game as Marcus Sherels held down the left spot. The Eagles tried to go deep 4 or 5 times on Prater, and Prater responded well by picking off a pass and being in good enough position to disrupt and watch the other attempts fall incomplete. Other than the deep throws and a few short underneath throws to Riley Cooper, the Eagles chose mainly to target Marcus Sherels and Robert Blanton a bit more. Of the 30 completions Eagles’ QB Nick Foles connected on verses the Vikings, only three were against Prater.

In Cincinnati, Prater and Sherels started the game, but Chris Cook rotated in and out with Prater. After watching the Bengals game, there is no question in my mind Prater was our best corner on the field. Prater played 29 snaps on defense and Cook took 45 snaps. Prater gave up one TD pass to Mohamed Sanu on a 7 yard perfectly thrown back shoulder pass in the corner of the end zone. Prater was only thrown at a total of four times. The other three attempts fell incomplete. One was a deep shot to AJ Green in the end zone that was well covered. Another impressive effort came when the Bengals were in the red zone, as the Vikings were in man coverage, Prater stuck with his man as he crossed the entire length of the end zone. His coverage was tight enough to disrupt the play on the other side of the field. Chris Cook on the other hand, playing the same team, same position on the same day,  gave up 7 completions, two of those for TDs and only accounting for two incomplete passes.

In the final game against the Lions, Prater played most of the game on the right side while Cook took most of the snaps on the left. Calvin Johnson didn’t play, and Stafford only challenged Prater four times. Prater gave up a couple completions, one on a quick out route for 11 yards and another on a slant for 12 yards. Prater did a nice job covering the two deep throws down field that fell incomplete.

During the final three games, Prater was thrown at 18 times. Snagged  1 INT, yeilded 1 TD with a grand total of only 6 completed passes.

Even though Prater was playing off the receivers a few yards, I was impressed with his initial hit and his ability to turn and run. However, it was his recovery speed and use of his hands getting back in position to defend the pass that jumped out in those games.

I like his physical nature and his willingness to play the run while always looking to strip and punch the ball out any chance he gets (must be the Bruce Lee influence). Prater is an aggressive defender that should find a role on special teams as well as compete for more playing time on defense under new head coach Mike Zimmer.

The Vikings are a cornerback starved team, and they will certainly be looking to add more talent in the coming days, but for now, Prater looks poised to challenge Josh Robinson and Marcus Sherels for more playing time in 2014.