Up and coming cornerback Holton Hill is suspended for half the regular season, and first round pick Mike Hughes is still recovering from a torn ACL. It’s not ideal, but the Vikings are built to weather this storm.
Hill and Hughes are both talented players, but they’re still backups at this point in their careers. Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Mackenzie Alexander are Minnesota’s starting corners, and they can definitely hold down the fort with the young guns out. But this is the NFL, and injuries are bound to happen. No one wants to jinx it, but it’s important to have a plan B. Fortunately, the Vikings have several options if the injury bug strikes.
There are three backup corners that come to mind beyond Hill and Hughes. Ironically, two of the three were teammates with Hill back in Texas:
- Kris Boyd (University of Texas)
Another tool for Zim to work with.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) April 27, 2019
A seventh-round pick who reportedly played well during OTAs, Boyd is the frontrunner for a roster spot as training camp begins. Don’t be fooled by how late he was drafted… Boyd’s college teammate Holton Hill went undrafted and still performed well. Coach Zimmer has an affinity for corners, and he’ll aim for a smooth transition with the 22 year-old Boyd.
- Duke Thomas (University of Texas)
Minnesota’s third Texas product is rookie Duke Thomas. Having not been drafted, Thomas has a lot to prove, but a little time at training camp can go a long way. His relationships with both Hill and Boyd should help him transition to the NFL. Having come from the same school as Hill, Vikings fans can only hope he’s as talented.
- Craig James (Southern Illinois University)
James played for the Vikings during the 2018 preseason as a rookie, and he’ll look for a bigger role in year two. It’s hard to predict how things will shake out, but James knows Zimmer’s system, and he’ll create good competition for the rookies. James could also really boost his stock if he finds a role on special teams.
When faced with a shortage of corners in the past, Zimmer hasn’t been afraid to shake things up a bit. Back in 2015, Zim shifted a safety to the corner position, and he may opt to do it again in a pinch. It wouldn’t be ideal, but Jayron Kearse or Marcus Epps could play corner as a last resort.
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) September 23, 2016
The other option is to bring in an outsider, whether that be through free agency or a trade. There aren’t many great prospects available right now, but GM Rick Spielman worked out three veterans in the past week:
- Dexter McDonald
The former Oakland Raider is perhaps the most intriguing of the free agent options. McDonald has had some injury issues throughout his three-year career, but he’s an athletic freak still trying to stick in the NFL. Before the 2015 draft, McDonald wowed scouts by vertical-jumping higher than the measuring device, and he’s now hoping to jump onto Minnesota’s roster.
- Orlando Scandrick
At 32 years old, Scandrick has plenty of NFL experience. That said, he’s had several significant injuries during his career, including ACL and MCL tears. Scandrick was also suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs back in 2014. Since then, he’s spent time with the Cowboys, Redskins, and Chiefs. Perhaps the Vikings would consider him based on his experience, but it seems risky given his injury history and age.
- Morris Claiborne
📺: ESPN pic.twitter.com/Gc9TwUiWVE
— NFL (@NFL) September 10, 2018
As a former first-round pick, Claiborne is another intriguing option. After being drafted by the Cowboys in 2012, Claiborne spent time competing against Orlando Scandrick in Dallas while battling the injury bug. One of the biggest knocks on him was his horrible score on the Wonderlic test, which is a cognitive ability test given to NFL prospects before the draft. Claiborne had the worst score in twelve years with a 4/50, so it will be interesting to see if Zimmer would consider bringing him to his complex system.
Lastly, Spielman could also try to get Captain Munnerlyn back from Carolina. Captain was excellent as a Minnesota Viking, but it could be costly to get him back in purple. Trades and free agents are always risky, but you never know what Slick Rick has up his sleeve.