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Ten Minnesota Vikings Who Need to Step Up in 2017 | #10 Pat Elflein

#10 | Pat Elflein

The Vikings moved up in round 3 in the 2017 NFL Draft to land the talented and versatile interior lineman from Ohio St.  Elflein is a tough, physical blocker who can play center or guard.  It’s not real fair to put a rookie on this list, but with how bad the Vikings’ line was a season ago, the team needs him to contribute sooner than later.

Why Elflein’s Performance is so Important

The Vikings offensive line wasn’t overly talented when the 2016 season began, but then injuries hit like the plague. By mid season they were signing pretty much any guy they could off the street.  The team couldn’t get any push or open up any holes in the run game.  Pass protection was an absolute joke, and it’s a true miracle that QB Sam Bradford wasn’t seriously injured from all the shots he took.  If Elflein can come in and either lock down the starting center or right guard spot, that would be a major improvement over what was on the field a year ago.  Elfein’s nasty style of play is very much needed on this puppy dog offensive line.  He can open up lanes in the running game, which would make the offense much more balanced.  It would allow the Vikings to sustain drives and keep the defense off the field and fresher as the game progresses.

Best Case
Elflein wins a starting spot.  He is as advertised, and his physical blocking style improves the Vikings running game, and also gives more time to Sam Bradford in the pocket.  The offense benefits as a whole, and becomes a top 15 unit in the league.

Worst Case
Elflein struggles in his adjustment to the NFL game.  He doesn’t earn a starting spot, which leaves Nick Eason at center and Joe Berger at guard.  The offensive line is again sub par, and the Vikings offense has trouble running the ball, as well as keeping Sam Bradford clean in the pocket.

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Minnesota Vikings Training Camp Battles To Watch

Holy hell training camp has arrived, which means the battle for spots on the final 53 have officially begun. This year is no different than usual and might even be more heated at certain positions than years past. Below we break down some of the more entertaining battles we’ll see in Mankato in the coming weeks.

Battle of the Boot

Kai Forbath Vs. Marshall Koehn

This is one of the most wide open battles in Vikings camp this year.  The team really owes nothing to incumbent kicker King Kai Forbath.  He was signed as a street free agent a season ago after the team cut Blair Walsh.  He was perfect on his field goals, but missed 3 extra points.  Marshall Koehn was signed in January by the team.  He spent last year with the Miami Dolphins before getting cut at the end of camp.  Koehn’s got a big leg and can match Forbath for distance, but clearly is lacking in the experience department.  It wouldn’t be shocking to see this battle go on through camp and into the preseason with both of these guys getting reps in games.  If it’s close, Koehn could get the nod, as he’d be a cheaper option for the team.

Battle of The Backups

Case Keenum Vs. Taylor Heinicke

The Vikings are set at QB with Sam Bradford as the starter, and Teddy continuing to recover from his horrifying knee injury.  The intrigue will be at the backup spot.  Keenum definitely has the edge in the experience department, having played in 26 games and performing quite well at times.  But other times, he’s been a turnover machine, showing some downright terrible decision making.  Heinicke has flashed plenty of ability in preseason games for the Vikings, but blew a golden opportunity a  year ago, by kicking out a basement window and severing a tendon in his foot. That decision cost him the majority of the season and a chance to be the Vikings starting quarterback after Teddy went down.  It’s clear Keenum has the edge, but if Heinicke performs well in camp and into the preseason, the Vikings will have a tough decision on their hands.

Battle of the Ball Catchers

Rodney Adams Vs. Stacy Cole Vs. Mortiz Bohringer Vs. Jarius Wright Vs. Michael Floyd

The Vikings top 3 wide receivers are basically set.  Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen should be the starters, with last year’s first round pick, Laquon Treadwell getting every opportunity to win the no.3  job.  The question comes in at who will be the 4th and 5th options.  The Vikings used a couple late round picks on some pass catchers in this year’s draft.  Rodney Adams and Stacey Cole are both 6’1, and what they lack in experience, they make up for in raw talent.  The German sensation Moritz Bohringer comes back to try and earn a spot on the roster, and will have to fight off fellow veterans Jarius Wright and Michael Floyd.  Floyd is clearly the most talented in this group, but his problems off the field hinder his chances to make the squad.  Wright on the other hand just doesn’t seem to be a favorite of the current coaching staff and could find his name among the early cuts. This is an extremely wide open battle and it won’t become much clearer until a few weeks into the preseason.

Battle of the Ballhawks

Andrew Sendejo Vs. Antone Exum Jr. Vs. Jack Tocho Vs. Jayron Kearse Vs. Anthony Harris

It’s hard to believe, but the Vikings still haven’t found a suitable companion at safety across from Harrison Smith.  Sendejo got the job last year and didn’t do much with it.  Jayron Kearse was a preseason darling  a season ago, but seemed lost and unsure of himself when it mattered.  Anthony Harris and Antone Exum are likely down to their last chances, though Exum has been getting some recent positive feedback from Zimmer.  Jack Tocho is the new blood to the mix, and really has as good a shot as any of these guys to make the team.  I think I speak for most Vikings fans when I say at this point, I really don’t care who it is, but for god sakes will someone rise to the occasion and decisively take this spot already?

Battle of the Ball Carriers

Dalvin Cook Vs. Latavius Murray

There really is no question about it, Dalvin Cook is the Vikings running back of the future.  The question is, who will be the Vikings running back for 2017?  It will likely be a mix of the veteran Murray and rookie Cook, but what kind of split it will be, will be determined in camp and the preseason.  Will Murray take 70% of the load, as Cook adjusts to the speed of the NFL game?  Maybe Cook proves to be a fast learner and gets most of the snaps right out of the gate?  Or maybe it will be a 50/50 split with Jerrick McKinnon sprinkled in here and there.  Things will become more clear as we progress deeper and deeper into August, but at this point it’s a camp battle worth watching, especially if you are a fantasy football nerd.

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Grading the Vikings Signing of Will Sutton

If this grade was up to my heart it would be an A+…. maybe even an A++++. There is no possible way I can deny the amount of love I had for Sutton in the 2014 NFL Draft. He racked up 32 sacks during his time at Arizona St. (23.5 in his final year alone). So the talent was there, and the Bears acknowledged it with a 3rd round selection. Unfortunately he hasn’t racked up a sack SINCE that last year of college. He has started 18 games for the Bears over the past 3 years but hasn’t come close to living up to his potential.

Where I think it went wrong was the Bears switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 after Sutton’s rookie season. Sutton just wasn’t made for a 3-4. So there is still hope he could find his own in the Vikings scheme. He will join Linval Joseph, Sharrif Floyd, Tom Johnson, Jaleel Johnson …. So by no means is he a lock to make the roster, but with the question marks surrounding Floyd I would say he has a 50/50 shot.

If I had to put money on it, I say Sutton makes the squad as a rotational guy and even gets his 1st career sack wearing that beautiful purple jersey, but damn it …. that might be my heart talking again. I see it as a low-risk/high-reward type of signing. Worst case he is a camp body who helps push a younger guy to make the team.

 

Grade for signing Will Sutton: A+ ….. Okay maybe not …. C-

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Grading the Vikings Signing of Michael Floyd

The Vikings recently came to terms with troubled former Arizona Cardinal star receiver Michael Floyd, on a one year deal.

The former first round pick put up some big numbers in his career with the Cardinals.  He had 246 receptions for 3,781 yds, and 24 TDs.  He is a physical pass catcher who can make tough grabs in traffic.  Speaking of traffic, that is the big zit on the ass of his NFL career, as he was pulled over in a traffic stop and was so drunk he could hardly speak or knew where he was, and all of this was caught on tape.  He will enter the 2017 season facing a 2-4 game suspension.

This is a classic low risk/high reward type of signing for the Vikings.  Floyd’s talent can’t be denied and if he can win over the coaching staff, he could end up being a very productive part of the Vikings’ 2017 offense.  If he fails, it won’t cost the team too much.  What this signing also does, is put added pressure on last year’s first round pick Laquon Treadwell.  He will need to step up his game to fend Floyd from taking away his reps.

Grade for signing Michael Floyd: C

 

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Grading the Vikings 3rd Round Pick | Pat Elflein

Initial Reaction: Getting Elflein AND Cook without even having a 1st round pick??? Not too ….. shabby. Elflein was highly connected to the Vikings throughout the draft process and after the Cook pick I figured it was a long shot they would get him in round 3. The Ohio St. big man joins an offensive line in desperate need of both a guard and center, which … hold on to your hats … he plays both. While it isn’t 100% yet where he will play as a rookie, all that matters is he will play somewhere and big a big ole upgrade. Smart player who will be a good locker room guy who could start in the NFL for next 8+ years.

Disclaimer: I agree you can’t grade a player before they even put a jersey on, but what fun would that be?

Grade for this pick?

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