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Roster Evaluation: CB Shaun Prater

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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 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.

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Carl Knowles

Carl Knowles (Contributor) is a former member of the Professional Bowler Association and an avid lifelong Vikings fan. When he is not bowling you can find him on websites and forum pages sharing his creative insight and enthusiasm for the Minnesota Vikings any chance he gets. Carl was a Phoenix Institute of Technology and Purdue University standout who currently enjoys the challenge of being a graphic director in the printing business. You can follow him on twitter @carlknowles_vt.

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  1. Prater is the most under-rated best kept secret on the Vikings’ roster… the cat is out of the bag now.

  2. Its nice to see that the Vikes actually got someone off waivers that can contribute.

  3. First Time Poster! I really liked Prater those last few games, glad to see others are noticing as well. NORSEMAN66 I completely agree about finally getting someone that can contribute, its a nice change.

      1. Thanks BJOHNNY, not going to lie, I followed the works of Arif over here…it may take 3 days to read but are they ever insightful. Also appreciating the writings of the other VT staffers. Been my go to site for all of the Free Agency News. Heard we signed Larry Dean btw, meh?

  4. So let’s see…. that one interception in the last three games is exactly one more than Chris Cook tallied in 4 years, is that correct? And that one TD is about, oh… 20 less than Cook. Welcome Prater, not so much Chris Cook.

    1. You are right Coach. That more production in 3 games than Cook has done in 4 years. Do not think Cook will be brought back especially after he tweeted about him and Zimmer’s meeting.

      1. Yeah, that didn’t appear to move him up on Zimmer’s list. The tweet may have seemed semi-innocent, but that’s relative to what the conversation actually was, perhaps along the lines of “you need to get off social media, get into the weight room, and let your play do your talking.” So if the first thing he does is tweet, well… that’s how coaches get pissed off.

  5. Carl, do you know how long his contract is for? Just seeing if that would be someone they would want to give an extension to. That is a very good article by the way.

  6. He will be unrestricted in 2016. The Vikings grabbed him off waivers, so his contract is probably his 4yr rookie deal?

    1. Correct, they would have assumed the contract he was under. The Eagles picked up his rookie deal off waivers from the Bengals, so we are actually the third team to assume that contract.

  7. Anyway, someone in the front office needs a gold star put on his office door for picking up Prater.
    And, Zimmer probably played a big part in drafting him, how cool is that!

  8. I watched a lot of Praters games as a Hawkeye and always thought he would make it in the NFL. So glad to see him get a real shot. Great job Carl!

  9. good watchin’, writin’ and analyzin’, carl. got a subtitle for ya, “Chris Cook Blows Chunks”

  10. Vikes have had some terrible luck finding two solid starting corners their entire existence….and the depth these past few years has been pathetic. Glad to see the Iowa boy signed to a 4 yr deal, I think (and obviously so do the Vikes) that he’ll offer a great ability to play the nickel or dime, or even spot start….without a huge dropoff.

  11. Oh God…EG 5 years 42M, Michael Bennett, 4 years 28M…Very smart move Vikings. A lot of us here clapped their hands and congratulated how smart the Vikes were. What a shame. I am really annoyed by all the moves we have now.

    1. One thing people really need to start paying attention to is the tax situation in the state these guys are signing deals. Minnesota is not a particularly friendly state to the wealthy. Agents are paid to know this. Washington has no state income tax, so the the difference in those deals is not as simple as it looks on the surface. I do think the Vikings overpaid Griffen, but if he does what they think he will be able too as a starter in Zimmer’s scheme, that is going to end up being a fair deal. The risk is more in the fact that they paid him based on his potential than previous production, but sometimes you need to role the dice and do that. Between the middle to high range income tax and the whole playing at a college stadium for the next couple seasons, we may have to pay guys a little more to get them to come or stay here.

      1. That’s right Dan. Not going to be an easy sell….”Cold winters, high taxes, and a 5 win team”.
        Where do I sign!

  12. Thanks guys.
    Last season was tough to handle… But re-watching the Eagles and Lions game this weekend was very enjoyable.

    Winning feels great!

  13. Anybody know what happened to the LB the Vikes had in for a visit? Did it even occur?

    1. Jameel McClain will visit Bills Wednesday. My guess is signing Brinkley soured his visit here a bit. Not heard any news on how the visit went?

      I don’t know that much about McClain? Is he a run stuffer like Brinkley? I think the Vikings should be in the market for a young 3 down linebacker.

      Greenway is past his prime, and I am beginning to question the Penn State guys. I know they were only rookies, but I expected to see them contribute more thanthey did last season.

      1. carl, our coaches last year might have held back the rook LBs, as the coaches seemed loyal to vets getting playing time, like what happened to CP84

        1. Yes, they did hold Floyd and Rhodes back some early too… I agree with you on that point.

  14. Damn! Looks like Asamoah will sign with the Falcons. I was hoping we would sign him.

      1. The same thing I wrote regarding Bennet’s deal applies here as Florida is another state with no income tax. It’s that much better a deal than Griffen’s just based on that.

    1. Will the Buc’s get spanked by the NFL? Not supposed to have contracts until 4pm eastern today.

  15. I like these 7 corners in the draft probably a little more than what Arif does,but drafting one of these plus adding Nolan Carroll in FA is tjhe cheap route.

    Darqueze Dennard
    Justin Gilbert
    Kyle Fuller
    Lamarcus Joyner
    marcus Roberson
    Stanley Jean baptiste
    EJ Gaines

    This draft class has some talent at Corner I like.

    I think spending free agent money on a DT should be next #1 on list.

  16. Okay VT’ers. Vikes have about $23 mil or so left in cap money. What do they do? Spend it on middle or low end FAs, go for 1 big FA signing? or just do really nothing?

  17. The Vikings will have money to go shopping today, if they so choose. General Manager Rick Spielman suggested that the Vikings would wait for the first wave of free agency to pass, because the first wave of players generally gets overpaid by market standards.

    Overpaying players wouldn’t hurt in 2014, necessarily, given how much extra room there is under the cap. But being saddled with bad contracts in future years can hinder a team that likely will need to give raises to players like Cordarrelle Patterson and Harrison Smith.

    this was from: