Sunday, June 25, 2017

Eric Kendricks

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Surmising the Starters
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

They’re in every front office; sprawling white boards checkered with placards and magnets. On these tags are player names, positions, and a smattering of notes, all meant to make sense of the jumble inside a general manager’s mind.

The job of an NFL franchise’s personnel department is no easy task; outside of scouting the future, they must develop the players within, slotting each into the correct position and role. Everyday tasks appear black-and-white, but most decisions made behind closed doors come amidst the gray.

Outside of a pure talent evaluation, there are the issues of locker room chemistry, salaries, tenure, and above all else, market value. The pressure to start a high-profile rookie, for example, may force the more talented, less exciting veteran out of a long-occupied place on the field.

RELATED: VIKINGS SHOULD CONSIDER ADDING COLIN KAEPERNICK

Fortunately, not all front offices function this way. The Minnesota Vikings—specifically, general manager Rick Spielman—operate in a more judicious manner. Rookies don’t automatically see the field in their first year, veterans are rarely released out of the blue, and the 22 available positions in the starting lineup are never “on lock.”

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Vikings OTAs: 7 Positions Up For Grabs

The Minnesota Vikings’ organized team activities, or OTAs, began Tuesday. OTAs are offseason training sessions run with the purpose of developing players; or, simply put, practices without tackling. There are no 1-on-1 drills, only team drills.

OTAs can be a good barometer of how the team’s roster is going to shape up come the regular season. Generally, the players who practice together play together. Certainly, there are exceptions.

Lets take a look at several key position battles that will unfold during the Vikings preseason.

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With their second pick in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings selected Michigan linebacker Ben Gedeon. The former Wolverine was a tackling machine last season, finishing the year with 106 tackles (15.5 for loss).

Like Kentrell Brothers before him, Gedeon projects as a middle linebacker with run-stuffing tendencies. Darren Wolfson reports Gedeon will “surely make an immediate impact on special teams,” which is something the Vikings seem to value in mid-round picks.

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image courtesy of Vikings.com

Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman is a restless man during the NFL Draft. When he’s not on the clock, he’s frantically making calls with other teams to improve Minnesota’s draft position. He has operated that way since he took over full reigns as general manager in 2012.

In his first three NFL Drafts, Spielman either moved Minnesota’s place in the draft or added a selection in the first round. He swooped an extra couple of picks from Cleveland in 2012 to move down one spot and was still able to get the guy he wanted in Matt Kalil. In 2013, Spielman selected three times in the first round, making trades with Seattle (before the draft) and New England to acquire picks that turned into Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson.

Spielman then pulled the trigger on a trade that moved the Vikings back into the last slot of the first round in 2014 to select Teddy Bridgewater.

“Slick Rick” didn’t make any such moves in the previous two drafts, but his track record indicates that type of maneuver is on his mind a week before the draft. It’s important to keep in mind that Spielman would likely need to give up the 48th overall pick and the 79th overall pick to move up into the bottom of the first. Depending on the prospects available, it might require more than that.

With all of this in mind, the question must be asked: If Spielman does pull the trigger on a trade into the first round, which prospects should he target?

The fundamental answer is easy: trade up for a guy with top-tier first round talent who has slipped through the cracks. Several candidates fit that bill in this year’s draft class.

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Xavier Rhodes Set to Host
Image courtesy of Sports International

Before he locked down receivers like Odell Beckham Jr. and DeAndre Hopkins, Xavier Rhodes was just another kid with a dream — he wanted to play in the NFL.

Today, Rhodes is one of the league’s top cornerbacks; a cog in Mike Zimmer’s fearsome Minnesota Vikings defense. Before the 2017 regular season begins, he’ll likely sign a lucrative contract extension, one that keeps his immeasurable talents in Minnesota for the long haul.

But something more important, more meaningful comes first — The Xavier Rhodes Football Camp. In its second year, the overnight camp is Xavier’s chance to give back to the youth of Minnesota and help them realize their dreams of playing high school, collegiate, and even professional football.

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