The Minnesota Vikings have been getting a lot of praise recently for the performance of their rookie class of 2015. Earlier this week, ESPN’s Mel Kiper improved his post-draft grade for the Vikings from a “B” to an “A” – giving Minnesota the second-highest draft grade of any of the 32 teams in Kiper’s 20/20 hindsight (Washington finished first).
The Pro Football Writers of America chimed in this week as well, naming three Vikings to its All-Rookie Team – the most players of any team.
What made the Vikings’ selections more impressive was that they didn’t include their first-round pick, cornerback Trae Waynes. The selections included linebacker Eric Kendricks (second round), defensive end Danielle Hunter (third round) and wide receiver Stefon Diggs (fifth round).
Kendricks dropped into the second round because teams feared taking a high pick on a player viewed as somewhat undersized for the NFL. Clearly, Kendricks proved those critics wrong, leading the Vikings in tackles (105) and showing that he is an ideal scheme fit in Mike Zimmer’s defense.
Hunter was just the opposite story. He was a player that a lot of teams had on their radar, viewing him as a raw player with a ton of upside, but seen as being a year or two (if then) away from being an impact player. He was viewed as a raw risk/reward that would likely be a premium pick at the start of Day 3, not necessarily in Round 3. Hunter proved the skeptics wrong, taking on an increasing role as the season went on, finishing second on the team with six sacks and a forced fumble.
Diggs dropped into the middle of the final day due to injury concerns. He missed time in two seasons in college and the fear was that, although talented, he wouldn’t stay healthy. He did and ended up leading the team in receptions (52) and yards (720).
Here is the complete PFWA 2015 All-Rookie Team:
Quarterback – Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay
Running Backs – Todd Gurley, St. Louis; Thomas Rawls, Seattle
Wide Receivers – Amari Cooper, Oakland; Stefon Diggs, Minnesota
Tight End – Will Tye, New York Giants
Center – Mitch Morse, Kansas City
Guards – Ali Marpet, Tampa Bay; Brandon Scherff, Washington
Tackles – Rob Havenstein, St. Louis; Donovan Smith, Tampa Bay
Defensive Linemen – Malcom Brown, New England; Eddie Goldman, Chicago; Danielle Hunter, Minnesota; Leonard Williams, New York Jets
Linebackers – Kwon Alexander, Tampa Bay; Stephone Anthony, New Orleans; Eric Kendricks, Minnesota
Cornerbacks – Ronald Darby, Buffalo; Marcus Peters, Kansas City
Safeties – Adrian Amos, Chicago; Landon Collins, New York Giants
Kicker – Josh Lambo, San Diego
Punter – Matt Darr, Miami
Kickoff Returner – Tyler Lockett, Seattle
Punt Returner – Lockett
Special Teams Player – Lockett