The Minnesota Vikings had 10 picks in the 2015 NFL draft. One year after their selection, it’s time to look back on their careers before joining the Vikings, their rookie seasons and a preview of what lies ahead of them during their sophomore seasons.
With their first pick in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL draft, the Minnesota Vikings selected Southern Illinois tight end MyCole Pruitt. There was no immediate need at the tight end position with Kyle Rudolph and Rhett Ellison on the roster, and the team also had fullback Zach Line, but Pruitt’s ability to contribute in both the passing game and running game was something the they felt they couldn’t pass up.
Before the Vikings
Pruitt was a first-team FCS All-American in 2013 and 2014. In 2014, he recorded a school-record 81 catches for 861 yards and 13 touchdowns, all of which led Division I tight ends. He ended his college career at Southern Illinois holding the school record for career receptions (211), receiving yards (2,601) and receiving touchdowns (25) by a tight end. He went on to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine and was a top performer among his position group in the 40-yard dash (4.58 seconds), vertical jump (38 inches), broad jump (118 inches), 20-yard shuttle (4.37 seconds) and the 60-yard shuttle (11.85 seconds).
What analysts said
“The production is impressive. It warrants attention and accolades, but the tape shows alarming inconsistency of effort and competitive fire. Pruitt won’t be considered a plus athlete for the position by NFL standards, so he must crank up the motor and keep it running -- especially when asked to block since that might be his way onto a team.” - NFL.com bottom line
“Tape leaves you wanting more and he is untested against elite competition, but Pruitt has obvious talent. He moves well for the position with the versatility to be an impact pass-catcher and potential blocker. Needs development in many areas -- route-running and consistent effort for starters -- but he has NFL starter potential.” - Dane Brugler, CBS Sports
“Played just one game against FBS competition, as well as 23 snaps at the Shrine Game, but caught 10 of 11 passes sent his way for 136 yards. Kyle Rudolph is entrenched atop the depth chart, but has been injury prone and the Vikings need a contingency plan as a pure TE.” - Sam Monson, Pro Football Focus
“The highly athletic MyCole Pruitt fits the range as a fifth-round prospect, and he could eventually evolve into a starter.” - WalterFootball.com
Pruitt did not have a large role in the Vikings offense during his rookie season since he was the third tight end on the depth chart. He primarily came in as an extra blocker in three-tight-end formations, but did get to show off what he brings to the table on occasion.
His first chance was in the preseason, where his playing time was more abundant. In the three games he played he recorded seven receptions for 92 yards and one touchdown. Those numbers decreased quite a bit during the regular season, as he recorded 10 receptions for 89 yards and zero touchdowns, despite being active for all 16 games during the season.
Even though he was active during every game this past season, snaps seemed to be hard to come by for Pruitt. He was on the field for 242 snaps during the 2015 season, which is minimal compared to Rudolph (907) and Ellison (479).
This seems as though it is going to be a tricky season for Pruitt. The Vikings re-signed Ellison to a one-year deal, despite coming off of a torn patellar tendon in the final regular season game against the Green Bay Packers. They also drafted another tight end, David Morgan. Morgan has looked good so far this offseason and will be giving Pruitt plenty of competition this for the third tight end spot on the depth chart.
If Pruitt does not show consistent improvement in his fundamentals and production on the football field during training camp and the preseason he could begin to see his snaps slip away. He still has a lot of upside and promise, but he needs to find ways to show his worth to the coaching staff; otherwise, he could just end up being a casualty of a deep tight end group.
On the contrary, though, he could also use this offseason and time working as the No. 2 tight end in Ellison’s absence to build up his stock. Ellison is only under contract through the 2016 season, so if Pruitt is able to impress this offseason while Ellison is still rehabbing it could mean a bigger role for him during his sophomore season.