There is always a level of excitement around the annual NFL draft. Minnesota Vikings fans harken back to the legends of a franchise and remember the day that they were selected and hopes for the franchise changed almost immediately. Players like Alan Page, Randy Moss and Adrian Peterson are prime examples of how a draft pick can change the landscape of a team.
But, there is a flip side to that line of thinking.
For every draft pick, there is a veteran player who has legitimate reason to be concerned about career expectancy with a franchise. Teams draft players because they see something in them that makes them convinced they can develop that player in their image. As such, for every draft pick, that is an alternate, justifiable adverse reaction from a veteran player.
While a lot can and will happen between now and the final cut-down day on Labor Day weekend, these are the five players (four really) who could be feeling the pressure and likely aren’t as excited about the Class of 2016 as their fans are.
A case can be made that Laquon Treadwell merely fills the vacancy created when the team cut ties with Mike Wallace. But, in reality, the Vikings expected the role envisioned for Treadwell to have been filled by Cordarrelle Patterson. While it would be a potential enormous bonus to have Treadwell, Patterson and Stefon Diggs all being downfield threats unique to themselves, Patterson’s rookie deal will be up after 2016 and he is essentially on a prove-it contract. Have a big season and the Vikings may not draft wide receivers early for years to come. If not, the Patterson era ends unceremoniously after four years and he joins Christian Ponder in the mix of first-round draft busts.
Mackensie Alexander was a cornerback that Clemson would ask to shadow an opponent’s top receiver. In the NFL, his ideal spot is as a slot corner, where his ability to stick to a speedy receiver like glue would put the future of Captain Munnerlyn into question. Cap had a very good 2015 season but is entering the final year of his deal and, with the hopes of Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes being the outside guys, Munnerlyn has been put on notice that, if he’s going to stay, he will need to be elite and live up to his self-proclaimed billing as the best nickel in the NFL.
Willie Beavers was a college tackle who projects to guard in the NFL. Considering that Brandon Fusco and Alex Boone are both in the early stages of long-term contracts, Mike Harris is the guy who has to be preparing for the 2016 season like it could be his last with the Vikings. If Beavers pans out, it well might be sooner than later.
Kentrell Brothers, as things currently stand, is no threat to Eric Kendricks. But Audie Cole is another story. Cole was re-signed in the offseason, but Brothers is an ideal candidate to be what the backup middle linebacker is supposed to be – a player who excels on special teams and, if the starter gets injured, can step in and keep the level of play from not dropping off much. Depending on the makeup of the 53-man, there may have to be an exception to keeping two middle linebackers. If not, Cole isn’t at all happy with the selection.
Moritz Boehringer is the second wide receiver selected in the draft. Wallace’s spot has already been replaced by Treadwell. Should Adam Thielen be nervous? The Vikings have a unique advantage in drafting Boehringer that the only barrier between him and the practice squad is a team willing to put him on the 53-man roster. For a player who has never played high-level football, he is going to spend the next four months absorbing the Vikings offense – not an easy task for someone who calls English his second language. Much less the cadences and buzz words he needs to learn. In reality, Thielen likely doesn’t have to worry because the rest of the NFL is giving Boehringer a redshirt by design and intent.
Vikings fans are building up to the expectations of the 2016 season. For a handful of in-house players whose livelihood is on the line, draft weekend wasn’t as happy a three-day-tour as the outside world enjoyed.