Question Of The Week

VT Question of the Week: Which Rookie Will Have the Biggest Impact in 2015?

Brent: Eric Kendricks
We’ve all seen what Zimmer can do with rookie linebackers and although Kendricks might not be as athletic or ready for the NFL as his UCLA counterpart Anthony Barr was as a rookie, I think Zimmer will find a way to put Kendricks in positions to have an impact on the defense. Some would argue that Trae Waynes will mean more to the secondary, but I’m not convinced he starts in week 1 and if I’m a QB, I’m going to pick on the rookie CB a little knowing what kind of defender Xavier Rhodes has become. Waynes will be a fine addition to this defense in the long term, but I think Kendricks adjusts faster and will make notable plays that will contribute to this impact on the defense.

Adam: Eric Kendricks
I’m in the slight minority in that I love, love, love the Trae Waynes pick. With that being said, I never have super high expectations for rookie cornerbacks, and he will probably get picked on a lot seeing as Xavier Rhodes is the guy lining up across from him. So, I’m going to go with linebacker Eric Kendricks, who possesses the ability to cover athletic tight ends and even some slot receivers in the passing game. Not only that, but he should be an immediate upgrade to a run defense that struggled plenty in 2014. If Kendricks is as talented and pro-ready as I think he is, then he will be the key that unlocks a lot of fun new wrinkles in the Mike Zimmer defense. I don’t see any of our other rookies as being able to positively impact such a broad portion of our game plan as Kendricks will be able to from Day One.

Andy: Eric Kendricks
Whether he’s at the Mike, Will, Whatever, the 2014 Butkus Award winner will have the biggest impact of all of the Vikings rookies in 2015. 1) He’ll put an end to the revolving door of “potential” starters (Audie, Mauti, Hodges, etc) and 2) take the reigns from Chad Greenway as the next Leading Linebacker for the Minnesota Fightin’ Vikings. I could easily see him being a Captain and wearing the green dot in a few years, but in 2015 he’ll be a young tackling machine that this defense was looking for.

Carl: Eric Kendricks
Kendricks lacks ideal size and weight for the middle linebacker spot, but he is a sideline to sideline defender who loves to hit people. He is explosive, physical and is alway making something happen. Kendricks is quick to read and react with good football intelligence and outstanding leadership qualities. If the Vikings can keep Kendricks clean, he is a downhill playmaker that will rack-up a boat load of tackles against the run and pass. Move over Robert Blanton, your spot at the top of the Vikings tackle board will be short lived.

Brett: Eric Kendricks 
Kendricks seems the most likely to have a breakout rookie season of this year’s draft class. The UCLA stand-out is coming into a situation with the Vikings where there is currently no clear-cut, three down linebacker. Though there are questions about his size, Kendricks has the speed to play sideline-to-sideline in coverage, the sound tackling technique to bring people down in space and the football instincts and knowledge to effectively jump plays and plug gaps at the line. Reunited with his old teammate Anthony Barr, I expect the two to feed off one another and the energy in our linebacker group to be palpable. 

Lindsey: T.J. Clemmings
I think the obvious answer here will probably be Kendricks (who was my first choice), but I’m going to be different, stir the water a bit, and go with Clemmings. From the get-go, I really wanted Minnesota to address the offensive line issues in the Draft, and Rick Spielman did a great job with Clemmings. I know he probably will take a bit to develop, but I still expect him to make an impact during the season. He’s admittedly raw, with limited experience at O-Line, but it excites me to see what offensive line coach Jim Hueber said:

“I think he has a little bit of a defensive mentality. He’s not afraid to get after you, he can finish, he’s got athleticism. He has the things you would think a defensive end might have. He can move his feet, he’s strong with his hands and his upper body. He is going to be able to do the things they want him to do. He’s just going to need to keep working and progressing.”

Austin: Trae Waynes
Captain Munnerlyn joined the Vikings determined to solidify his place in the starting lineup last season, but lost the trust of the organization and fan base. He finished as the league’s 50th ranked cornerback (per Pro Football  Focus) and will most likely end up as Zimmer’s third option in 2015. With the guidance of Terrance Newman and coaching of Zimmer, rookie Trae Waynes will fully entrench himself opposite Xavier Rhodes. He’s raw, but Waynes has the physical tools to succeed as a press corner in Minnesota. I expect Waynes to win the job early on and provide a capable presence against some of the NFC North’s better wide receivers. I almost picked Kendricks here, but I feel the Vikings were relatively secure at linebacker last season – the struggles were mostly in the secondary. It’ll take time, but Waynes will help mask those deficiencies this year.


Guest of the Week

Paul Allen, KFAN: Trae Waynes
If Waynes is as good as I believe he’s going to be, as the Vikings believe he’s going to be, that’s going to give Mike Zimmer flexibility to do some things on defense he can only do when he has two outside corners—Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes—who are good enough to shut people down. Take a look at Seattle with Richard Sherman and Byron Maxell: when you can count on CBs like that, you can get really sneaky with the other nine guys. Waynes and Rhodes will be able to shut down receivers one-on-one, [allowing Zimmer] to utilize the other guys in ways [he couldn’t before].  


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Lindsey Young

Lindsey Young (Featured Columnist) is a graduate of University of Northwestern – St. Paul and is an avid Minnesota sports fan[atic]. It’s been argued females don’t know much about sports, but she begs to differ. Her work has been featured on Bleacher Report,, and Fox Sports North. In addition to her work with VT, Lindsey is a contributing writer for Canis Hoopus, runs a bi-monthly fan feature for and is a freelance writer for You can read her blog at Making the Call and follow her on Twitter.

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  1. Probably draft choices #1 #2 or #4, but could it be someone we wouldn’t have thought of? Maybe it won’t be obvious either. Like if a UDFA lights up special teams. Or that safety, or a UDFA WR. Can’t wait to see. Anyway, thanks for the article.

  2. TJ will start Guard from day one. Not only will he be a beast in the run game he will make Kalil a better player. Why he wasn’t picked in round1 or high 2 is a mystery.

    1. Kalil’s issues were largely due to injury. He had surgery on both of his knees this offseason. As a Minnesota sports fan I have a bad feeling every time when it comes to knee injuries. Adrian’s knees turned out to be great but who knows; we will have to see if this is a major problem or not. If he is not ready I fully expect the coaching staff to put in the next man, perhaps Clemmings.

      To answer the question I think Kendricks will have the biggest impact. I was secretly hoping the Vikings would take him at eleven.

      I think with a very improved linebacking core and secondary the Vikings have a chance to have a top defense that can put them into the playoffs year after year, with the help of Teddy of course.

  3. Where’s the love for Babs? A healthy Kendricks should start immediately and fill up the stat sheet in the middle of our defense. I do think one of those rookie olineman will surprise and take the LG job, but I think it could be any of the three draftpicks including Shepherd.

    1. I like Babs but think he will need a year on the practice squad to work on his technique. If he ever figures out the nuances of the Guard position in the NFL then he has a chance to be one of the best runblockers that this league has ever seen.

      1. Yeah, the Babs comment was a joke. He’ll need atleast a year on the Psquad. I don’t see him at guard, not many 6’9 dudes playing on the interior. He’s a really interesting tackle prospect to go along with Clemmings and Thompson. The latest on Kalil’s knee is telling me he isn’t likely to have a long career even if he does rebound from his poor play. It would be pretty sweet if Babs bucked the learning curve and did make the final 53, but it isnt very likely, especially now with three draft picks to compete with.

  4. “…the Vikings were relatively secure at linebacker last season…”

    Just figured I’d point out that in my view that’s one of the more wrongerest points about the Vikings I’ve seen on this web site. Barr was very good, with some expected rookie flaws, everyone else was mediocre to poor, with most mixing both of those qualities. It was arguably the most questionable (healthy–o-line was hurt) unit on the team.

    Kendricks is the obvious and probably right answer to the question. If both he and Waynes are not really ready (certainly could happen), Diggs is a good darkhorse candidate given his return abilities, his potential for explosive plays after the catch, and the relatively open competition for playing time at WR.

    Honestly though I don’t think this draft will have many first year contributors, and that’s cool, we picked up a lot of talent.

  5. Since our weakest areas last year were passing offense (28th) and rushing defense (25th), the most likely impact areas would be in the offensive line and defensive front seven.

    Although we picked up a lot of OL talent, we shouldn’t expect any rookie starters in that area this year, barring injury or continued bad play from Matt Kalil – and with supposed improved health, I expect him to raise his level of play significantly. Hopefully improved health all along the line and the development of 2nd year guard David Yankey will significantly improve the pass protection. And the expected learning curve development of Teddy Bridgewater, along with more time to become comfortable with Norv Turner’s offense, and the addition of Adrian Peterson to take some pressure off the passing game, should lead to a healthy boost in the passing offense.

    The linebackers and the sudden drop off in play from Brian Robison seemed to be the primary issues with run defense last year. Second year player Scot Crichton should be ready to at least provide regular rotational support to Robison and help the run defense at the line. Although Danielle Hunter is an outstanding athlete and known to be stout against the run, expecting him to contribute significantly this year would be asking a lot of a 3rd round pick.

    Eric Kendricks was listed as a late first round pick on most big boards and the Vikings were extremely lucky to have him drop to them at the the 45th pick (VT’s Ultimate Consensus Big Board had him at #28). He provides a significant upgrade of speed, coverage ability, and instincts at the 3-down Will position, and should noticeably improve linebacker play in run support.