The 2014 NFL draft is just over a month away, but while we’re thinking about what the Vikings will do this year, why not look at what they did last time around?
After looking through the rookie years for the Vikings first three picks from 2013, it’s time to move out of the first round and to the Vikings next pick on Day Three of the draft.
Due to the trade up with the Patriots to take Cordarrelle Patterson, the Vikings gave up all of their picks on Day Two, and they didn’t return to the action until they selected linebacker Gerald Hodges from Penn State in the fourth round with the 120th overall pick.
Coming into the draft, Hodges was known as the latest prospect from “Linebacker U,” as Penn State has been known for sending quality linebackers to the NFL. In fact, one of Hodges’ former teammates was San Francisco 49er Navarro Bowman.
A converted safety, Hodges was known for his ability to cover coming into the draft. Hodges was the 16th linebacker taken in 2013.
Coming into training camp, it was thought that Hodges might be able to compete for the starting weakside linebacker job, since the team only had Marvin Mitchell and Desmond Bishop in front of him. That competition never really materialized though, as Hodges had a nondescript showing throughout much of training camp and the preseason. At one point, Paul Allen even commented in the broadcast booth that he had not called Hodges’ name very often.
Hodges has the athletic ability to move and cover in space, but he did not show the coaching staff enough in practice last year to earn defensive snaps. At one point, the only weakside linebacker ahead of Hodges was Marvin Mitchell but the rookie still never found a way to move up.
ESPN’s Ben Goessling reported in his weekly mailbag that the Vikings “were a little frustrated Hodges didn’t show more fire last year, especially when Desmond Bishop’s torn ACL put him second on the depth chart at weakside linebacker.”
While Hodges saw no defensive snaps in 2013, he ended up being a member of the Vikings special teams units. Hodges ended his rookie season with five tackles, all on special teams.
Expectations for 2014
It’s hard to know what exactly to expect from Hodges in 2014, as there is very little game tape out there with him in a Vikings uniform. He is currently slated to start for the team at weakside linebacker, but the draft could change that. Mike Zimmer may also shift some linebackers around to different spots on his defense.
If Hodges does some extra work in the weight room to gain some strength and sticks his nose into his playbook, there’s no question that he has the athletic ability to contribute on defense. It’ll be up to him to see how big that contribution might be.
At the very least, Hodges will continue to provide the Vikings with young, inexpensive depth and a key special teams member.