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PFWA All-Rookie Team Includes Three Minnesota Vikings

General manager Rick Spielman’s reign at the head of the Vikings’ draft room began in 2012, when he famously selected Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder with the 12th pick in the first round. Though that decision was an ultimate failure, Spielman has been largely successful in acquiring college talent. Three of his latest draft picks — Eric Kendricks, Danielle Hunter, and Stefon Diggs — were named to the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) All-Rookie Team on Tuesday morning.

Spielman’s rookie classes have produced eight players on the annual list. Kendricks, Hunter, and Diggs became the first trio to make the team since Matt Kalil, Harrison Smith, and Blair Walsh did so in 2012. In 2013, Cordarrelle Patterson was added to the roster as a kick returner. The following year, Teddy Bridgewater was honored for his solid rookie campaign as the Vikings’ starting quarterback.

Before the 2015 season began, ESPN’s Ben Goessling reported that 39 of the team’s 53 players had “seen all of their NFL snaps for the Vikings.” The continuity illustrates Spielman’s reliance on the draft and conservative approach in free agency. If the Vikings are going to build a roster, they’re going to do it from within Winter Park.

Kendricks, a second-round selection (45th-overall) last year, started 11 of 14 games for the Vikings and was the first rookie to lead the team in tackles in over 50 years. He finished the season with 105 total tackles (80 solo), 11 tackles for loss, four sacks and two passes defensed, per the team’s official website. His season ended on a high note in the playoffs, as he was one of the team’s most active defenders against the Seattle Seahawks. Next year, expect Kendricks to play an even bigger role, either in the middle of the defense or as Chad Greenway’s replacement at weak-side linebacker.

Like Kendricks, Hunter should contribute more in 2016. Despite playing in a rotational role behind Brian Robison and Everson Griffen, the third-round draft pick (88th-overall) notched six sacks this season. The coaching staff in Minnesota made the most of Hunter’s exceptional athleticism, unleashing him on passing downs. He was the league’s youngest player in 2015, meaning we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg from Hunter.

And finally, Minnesota’s fifth-round pick, wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Although he was the 146th-overall selection, Diggs finished second among rookies with 720 yards and led the Vikings with 52 receptions. His emergence was even more surprising because he was inactive for the team’s first three games of the season. But when he was active, Diggs exploded, stringing together back-to-back 100-yard performances in Week 6 and Week 7. In Diggs, the Vikings have found a cornerstone on offense, one who’s motivated to improve this offseason.

With an average age of just 26.37 years, the Vikings are one of the youngest teams in the NFL. Usually, the league’s most youthful teams aren’t always the most successful, but in Minnesota, Rick Spielman’s found a formula that works.

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Austin Belisle

Austin Belisle is the West Coast's biggest Vikings fan, a football diehard cheering on the purple and yellow from sunny California. After graduating from San Jose State University in 2014, he began working full-time in corporate marketing and blogging on various sports websites. Austin's passion for the Vikings led him to Vikings Territory, where he hopes to share his lifelong enthusiasm for the team with readers on a daily basis. You can follow him on Twitter @austincbelisle

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25 Comments

  1. I really like Kendricks a lot – he and Barr should be quite a pair of LB’s. Can we draft one more of those this year? And Hunter looks good, too, though well have to see how he does now that people know about him – good book end with Griffen or Robison. I am still hesitant on Diggs, maybe from the recent experience of Patterson.

    1. Dang coach I agree with everything you said. Even being uneasy with Diggs.
      As for adding another LB I agree (it was one of my favorite positions to play). Two I wouldn’t mind seeing are Jaylon Smith from Notre Dame because of his incredible talent, or Scooby Wright from Arizona. How can’t you draft a guy named Scooby.

      1. Sounds like a dog to me. Yeah, sorry, Skol, that had to be tough for you to agree with me. Let me help with that by saying I want that LB ONLY after we draft at least one OL. I’m not schooled on what’s available in this year’s draft at that position, but I know we sure need help there.

        1. I agree again; I’d like a LG ideally to move Fusco back to right. Unfortunately there isn’t much talent at G this year in the draft. Tackle SHOULD be fixed when Loadholt returns but if one of the top guys falls (likely the guy from Michigan State) I wouldn’t be opposed to drafting for insurance behind Kalil and Loadholt.
          I feel like Rick will move up or down.

          1. I could live with Berger at LG, Sullivan at C, either Fusco or Harris at RG and Loadholt (or Clemmings, or even Harris) at RT, and I like the young depth we’ve got across the board, but I just don’t really believe any more that Matt Kalil will get any better. I think drafting a young LT to challenge Kalil in 2016 or outright replace if we let him Kalil walk away after 2016 should be one of our highest priorities, just behind getting some new WR talent. I think we probably have the bodies to fill out the other four spots on the line, but unless Bykowski, Clemmings or Shepherd strike Zimmer, Turner and Sparano as potential LT’s of the future, we need to go out and get one if there are any doubts about Kalil.

            1. I like berger as a Backup because he’s good. If you look around the NFL, I believe 3/4 of the teams lost an OL for the season and Berger could play any position, he’s the perfect backup.
              Fusco and Harris showed 2 things this season, both can start. But they should only start at RG as neither works very well as a LG. So we need a LG and we’d be pretty solid inside.
              Now for the tackle position. I still believe in Kalil, idk why sometimes; it could be the stubborn German side of me refusing to give up on the guy I’ve defended so long. As for Loadholt I am just tired of him. He’s been mediocre for years, is highly paid, and unreliable. I wouldn’t be opposed to drafting a swing tackle in the first who could replace either of them if (when) they struggle.

              1. To be fair, Berger can play any of the interior line positions. I’ve never heard of him playing tackle. Nor have I heard of Harris being tried out at LG. We can agree to disagree about Kalil but I totally disagree about Loadholt. Before the injuries of the last two years, he had developed into the best run blocking tackle in the league and one of the better all-around right tackles. The big question with both him and Sullivan, even more than their contracts, is their health.

                1. They had to have tried Harris at LG at some point last year in practice. The way Fusco struggled I guarantee they tried Harris there at some point.

                  As for Loadholt yeah I said hes the best run blocking RT but his pass blocking was so bad. He got burned a minimum of 2 times a game, and that’s versus the worst DE in the NFL. I just see him as too much of a liability. If he wasn’t so big I’d say slide him to guard.

          2. I read some article on Viking free agent predictions that sees the Vikes not bringing Loadholt back. That would surprise me. Or, maybe it shouldn’t be such a surprise. The argument was mostly based on being injury prone. Maybe Zim feels a coaching change there will help someone like Cummings. I sure hope an answer is found for that unit. Our offensive woes were pretty much wrapped up in that aspect of the team.

            1. I wouldn’t be totally opposed to dumping Loadholt IF we have a plan for a suitable replacement. Loadholt is probably the best run blocker in the NFL, unfortunately he can’t pass block a UDFA rookie.
              Plus Loadholt is getting old especially for a 6’8″ monster.

            2. There’s a lot of speculation that both Loadholt & Sullivan won’t be returning primarily because of their injuries.Loadholt is a big guy and recovering from an achilles is not easy,particularly for a man of his size.Sully had 2 back procedures,and once again difficult for a lineman to recover from.As with most things we read this time of year,it’s all just speculative & conjecture,but if that were to happen we’d have 2 starting jobs for sale.
              I agree mostly with what Skol12 says,and I am also one who believes (hopes) that Kalil can be resurrected to the great heights of his rookie year (and I’m not part German, Skol,but have been described as stubborn on occasion 😉 )
              I’d like to see a solution that involves both drafting & FA.
              First scenario would be sign Kelechi Osemele and draft a centre in rd 2/3 (Nick Martin,Max Tuerk,Ryan Kelly)
              Osemele can play both LG & LT.
              This would give us Kalil/Osemele/rookie/Fusco/Harris or Clemmings with Berger as a backup.
              Second scenario would be sign Stefan Wisniewski and draft a guard in rd 2/3 (Cody Whitehair,Joshua Garnett,Denver Kirkland)
              This would give us Kalil/rookie/Wisniewski/Fusco/Harris or Clemmings with Berger as backup.
              Hope this isn’t too much to digest 🙂

              1. Alright, if neither Sullivan nor Loadholt returns…

                Center and LG – Berger vs. Easton vs. Kerin vs. Fusco

                RG and RT – A re-signed Harris vs. Fusco vs. Clemmings vs. Shepherd

                LT – Still a problem that should be addressed in the first or second round unless the staff think that Bykowski, Shepherd or Sirles can push Kalil.

    2. Diggs will be fine coach,the kid was well coached in college and can actually run routes,something that Patterson couldn’t do when drafted and doesn’t seem too keen on learning.They’re chalk & cheese,one kid wants to work hard and be the best he can while the other is a wannabe diva.

      1. I’m more inclined to focus the draft on the offense, with the exception of nose tackle. I’d like to see Edmond Robinson and Audie Cole get a shot at pushing or replacing Chad Greenway at weakside linebacker, depending on if the latter is allowed to come back, of course.

      2. You’re most likely right, aussie, but I can’t help but recall how high we all were on Patterson after year one, probably higher on him than on Diggs now. It’s a good point you make they seem to have two very different heads. I’m more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for now, just hope Diggs has a good off-season while Patterson spends his in lala land..

  2. Congratulations to the Vikings on the three successful picks- Marcus Peters could have made it four

    1. I was torn during the draft between Peters and Waynes. Peters was (and is) better but had a lot of baggage. Something Zimmer and Speilman don’t want around.
      I figured if Peters could stay clean and in control he’d be the better pro, and to this point that’s true. Let’s see if it still is three years down the road. Remember this is the guy who attacked his coach.

      1. I liked Peters better than Waynes and actually mocked him to the Vikings in my draft.Think the “baggage’ thing was blown out of proportion,and I did a lot of research on that.

        1. I’m loving the fact that after a horrible preseason caused all of the Nervous Nellies to start pronouncing Waynes a bust (this group does not include either aussie61 or Arif Hasan, who had their doubts from the beginning and weren’t just reacting as if their meds had worn off), he turned around and played quite well when he got on the field during the actual season. I think he’s an odds-on favorite to start next season and do just fine.

          1. Im not sure why everybody worried, CB is the slowest position to transition from college to pro. Look at Rhodes from year 1-2 and even 3. He could very well be a bust but we won’t know for 2 more years at the soonest.

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