With a fresh crop of rookies, comes new hopes and aspirations to make it in the league. With bright eyes and bushy tails, it remains to be seen what incoming players will secure spots on the 53-man roster and which will revert to practice squads or catch on somewhere else. For this year’s draft class, there are a handful of rookies who could look to make an impact and challenge for playing time sooner rather than later by pushing the veterans above them on the depth chart. Here a few key position battles to take note of this off-season.
Honorable Mention: LB Ivan Pace Jr.
- With many predicting the talented linebacker to be as early as a third round pick, Pace Jr fell out of the draft completely. Though Minnesota secured his services quickly as an undrafted free agent, it’s more likely the former Bearcat finds a key role on special teams as compared to pushing for playing time on the defensive side of the ball… at least for the upcoming season. However, look for him to have position battles come next summer.
WR KJ Osborn —> WR Jordan Addison
- Arguably the easiest gimme on this list, Addison was highly coveted by the Vikings front office brass. Seen as a true starter, the team passed on multiple trade offers in fear of losing the USC Spartan in May’s Draft. Though KJ Osborn has done well carving out a role for himself (and in my opinion could absolutely be a #2 receiver), Addison will come in and very quickly acquire the WR2 position. With Jefferson and Hockenson already lined up, how valuable this spot is remains to be seen but Addison’s mix of speed and route running ability will be coveted in O’Connell’s offense.
DT Dean Lowry —> DT Jaquelin Roy
- As one of my favorite prospects in this year’s draft, I was ecstatic when Roy was drafted. Roy has a stellar frame and the ability to become a true nose tackle in this league. With the loss of Dalvin Tomlinson, Dean Lowry was brought in as a veteran option. However, though serviceable, there’s a good chance Roy is able to secure substantial playing time this season by winning the position battles with Lowry or Tonga. With reports already coming out that Roy is taking reps with the first team, this may be more of a when than an if situation.
DE Marcus Davenport —> EDGE Andre Carter II
- Though the Vikings signed the former Saints’ first rounder to a larger prove it deal this off-season, there is concern in his ability to stay on the field. The reality? Davenport has never completed a full season. Though last year he hit a career high in games played, Carter II is a talented edge rusher who, though raw, should absolutely be able to secure snaps during his rookie campaign if he makes it onto the 53 man roster. Will he usurp the starting role? Probably not but even as a tool to help manage Davenport’s health and snap count, the former Army prospect was a priority free agent for a reason. Look for him to challenge for playing time this upcoming season.
S Harrison Smith —> DB Jay Ward
- This one hurts as Harry the Hitman is a beloved, franchise star. However, just as guys like Thielen, Kendricks, Greenway, Rhoads, and Jared Allen all eventually sizzled out or got pushed out, Harrison’s time will come one day or another. Ward fits a role that Flores utilizes frequently in his defense: a do-it-all defensive back. Though Ward may not be ready to start the season and can use some refining but there’s a reality where he pushes Smith and/or Bynum more than some may like to admit. This safety room looks to be stacking up as a bit of a rotation. Ward still needs to time to develop and win the position battles he enters, but look for him to challenge to get on the field in game day in some capacity.