The Vikings rookie preview series continues today with a look at the first cornerback the Vikings selected in the 2014 NFL Draft. This small school standout will hope to make a big impact one of the league’s worst pass defenses last season, or at least provide better depth than the myriad of cover men the Vikings put on the field last season.
Kendall James, CB – Maine
Taken in 6th Round, 184th overall by Vikings
Age: 22; Height: 5-10; Weight: 180
40 Yard Dash: 4.40; Bench: 9; Vertical Jump: 39; Short Shuttle: 4.19; 3-Cone Drill: 6.81
2010 Stats (11 games, 0 starts) – 16 tackles, 0 sacks, 0 interceptions, 0 passes defensed
2011 Stats (13 games, 11 starts) – 50 tackles, 3 interceptions, 7 passes defensed
2012 Stats (11 games, 11 starts) – 45 tackles, 3 interceptions, 15 passes defensed
2013 Stats (13 games, 13 starts) – 36 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 11 passes defensed
*Video Note: Kiper does not start talking about James until about the :30 mark
*Scouting information comes primarily from Dane Brugler of CBS Sports
James is a solid cover corner whose size will likely limit him to being an inside nickel corner at the next level.
Despite his limited size, James has solid awareness and ball skills, and has shown good footwork throughout his collegiate career. Despite his small size, James is not afraid to get physical with receivers and jam them on the line of scrimmage, and can play zone, off or man coverage.
James needs to improve his tackling, as he is a below average run defender right now. His small size also allows him to get blocked out of plays somewhat easily, even though he is very active trying to get around blocks.
Despite coming from a small school, James should be able to contribute somewhat quickly as an inside corner. His size just limits his upside, especially when you consider the division the Vikings play in and the kind of receivers that line up to the outside there.
James brings extra value as a special teams player as well, as he was Maine’s gunner on their coverage units.
Spot of the Depth Chart:
James will enter a crowded depth chart with the Vikings, as 18 defensive backs will be trying to make the team’s opening day roster.
James, who projects more of an inside nickel corner, will primarily be competing with Captain Munnerlyn and Marcus Sherels for snaps in the Vikings defense. While Munnerlyn will start in the nickel for the Vikings barring injury, Sherels spot as the backup nickel corner is not secure.
A key aspect to their traning camp battle will be special teams, where Sherels was a standout last year and where James will try to earn playing time right away.
Odds of Making Roster: Possible
One of the Vikings final cornerback spots could go to either Sherels or James as the backup inside cover man. While Sherels received a nice two year deal from the Vikings this offseason, new head coach Mike Zimmer is in no way tied to keeping him on the roster.
Even though Sherels was an excellent punt returner last year for the Vikings, he was still one of the worst rated corners by Pro Football Focus. Of course, Sherels has been on the roster bubble seemingly every training camp of his career and survived, so it won’t be an easy battle for James.