The Minnesota Vikings' 2017 draft class will be given an opportunity to make an immediate impact, especially on the offensive side. While the Vikings traded their '17 first-round pick to Philadelphia, they were still able to select two players who are battling in camp for starting jobs and several more who could fill backup spots or slide in as role players. The Vikings are looking for much more out of this year’s class than the 2016 group, which rarely saw the field last season.
Dalvin Cook, RB, second round (No. 41 overall): General manager Rick Spielman traded up for Cook in the second round and it hasn’t taken very long to see why the Vikings were so interested. Florida State’s all-time leading rusher has received more first-team reps than any other running back in training camp, which is partly due to Latavius Murray recovering from ankle surgery, but also because Cook has displayed exceptional vision and acceleration. Cook has picked up on the Vikings’ running scheme quickly and shown the ability to catch out of the backfield. In the preseason opener, he caught four passes for 30 yards. If Cook continues to excel throughout the rest of the preseason, he could become the Vikings' main running-back option.
Pat Elflein, C, third round (No. 70 overall): After last season’s struggles on the offensive line, the Vikings made a conscious effort to improve at almost every position up front. Veteran center Joe Berger has been moved to right guard, opening up a spot for the former Ohio State standout to slide into the starting job. First, however, Elflein will have to beat out Nick Easton, who started five games for Minnesota last season. Elflein brings exceptional athleticism and strength that could help improve a running game that was the league’s worst in 2016. Elflein played with the second team in Minnesota's first preseason game, but he has taken a large number of first-team reps during camp. If he plays well in the other three preseason games, he is likely to win the job.
Jaleel Johnson, DT, fourth round (No. 109 overall): With 3-technique defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd's future in doubt due to a knee issue, the Vikings brought in two free-agent defensive tackles and drafted Johnson, who was a standout at Iowa. While he produced 7.5 sacks during his final season with the Hawkeyes, Johnson hasn’t yet shown the ability to get after the passer. He’s mostly worked with the third team as Shamar Stephen and Datone Jones have made up the second-team interior defensive line. Johnson should make the team, but he’s got a long way to go before seeing significant playing time.
Ben Gedeon, LB, fourth round (No. 120 overall): As the Vikings search for a replacement for Chad Greenway, who became a run-stuffing role player toward the end of his career, Gedeon has put his name in the mix along with veteran Emmanuel Lamur and 2015 seventh-round pick Edmond Robinson. The former Michigan linebacker’s instincts and strength have stuck out along with his ability to grasp different assignments. Head coach Mike Zimmer will most likely use the more experienced players to start, but Gedeon has shown enough to keep getting looks at the Greenway position. He will also have to perform well on special teams.
Rodney Adams, WR, fifth round (No. 170 overall): The South Florida standout has fit in comfortably as a slot receiver and playmaker type. During the first preseason game, he ran an end around for a big gain, then later slipped behind the line on a goal-line play for a touchdown. Because of his quickness and natural ability to make tacklers miss, Adams could have a part-time role in the offense. He’s also battling for kick- and punt-return spots, though he has struggled with catching punts in practice and the preseason opener.
Danny Isidora, G, fifth round (No. 180 overall): The Vikings have considered Isidora one of the pleasant surprises of camp. He has garnered praise from Zimmer on several occasions, showing strength and ability to pull during practices. While the starting positions are locked in, the backup spots are up for grabs, and Isidora appears to have a good chance to beat out former fourth-rounder T.J. Clemmings, who moved from tackle to guard this offseason.
Bucky Hodges, TE, sixth round (No. 201 overall): Fans and analysts might have set the bar a little too high for Hodges because of his freakish athleticism. At 6-foot-6, 247-pounds, he ran a 4.57 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. Naturally, he drew comparisons to some of the league’s dangerous downfield tight ends, but Hodges has a long way to go before he’s considered a big part of Minnesota’s offense. He’s adapting to blocking, playing on the line of scrimmage and learning a complex NFL offense. In camp, undrafted tight end Kyle Carter, who spent time on the practice squad last season, has been ahead of Hodges for the No. 3 tight end position.
Stacy Coley, WR, seventh round (No. 219 overall): The former Miami Hurricane star has been one of the standouts in training camp and was the most impressive offensive player in his first preseason contest. Coley caught three passes for 67 yards, including a diving grab along the sidelines that set up a touchdown. His speed and route-running ability have been a cut above the rest of the receivers who are battling for a depth role. Coley is also in the hunt for the open kick-returning job.
Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE, seventh round (No. 220 overall): An impressive bull-rusher at Northwestern, Odenigbo has seen his power translate to some success in practice. But it will be a tough task for him to make the 53-man roster because the Vikings are stacked at the position with Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, Brian Robison, Stephen Weatherly and undrafted standout Tashawn Bower all ahead of him.
Elijah Lee, LB, seventh round (No. 232 overall): At draft time, the Vikings liked Lee’s quickness and ability to track tight ends and running backs. He hasn’t yet been able to make a name among the rest of the linebackers, but his skill set might stand out more with increased preseason game action.
Jack Tocho, S, seventh round (No. 245 overall): At NC State, Tocho was a standout cornerback. With the Vikings, he’s making a move to safety and has largely spent camp playing with the third team. Tocho is considered to be a very bright player who could make the team based on strong special-teams play but is more likely slated for the practice squad.