Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
The Rookie Review is back for one last installment, covering the Vikings rookies who did not make the 53 man roster out of training camp last year, but spend time on the team’s practice squad in 2013.
Some of these rookies are still with the team, some are not. The Vikings signed most of these players to reserve-future contracts on Dec. 30, 2013, meaning they will get another shot at making the 53 man roster in Mankato this year.
Two of these players however, were plucked from the Vikings practice squad by other teams, both of them 2013 draft picks.
Travis Bond, OG
Drafted in Round 7, Pick 214 out of North Carolina
Nicknamed “Tree Top,” Bond is a massive offensive guard at 6-feet-7-inches and 330 pounds. Unfortunately, it did not appear in training camp that he always had the atheltic and technical ability to throw his size around properly. Bond showed flashes of solid play, but he couldn’t consistently shift his weight correctly or use correct technique. As a result, Bond started the year out on the practice squad. On Nov. 13 the Panthers signed him to their roster as a reserve lineman, and he’ll likely have to fight for that spot again this offseason.
Everett Dawkins, DT
Drafted in Round 7, Pick 229 out of FSU
Dawkins was the Vikings third seventh round pick in 2013, but like Bond he did not crack the roster and started the year on the practice squad. Dawkins never showed enough to be seriously considered for the 53 man roster, as he was usually held in check by second and third string offensive lineman. The Dallas Cowboys signed Dawkins off of the Vikings practice squad, but he will open the offseason with Leslie Fraizer and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Rodney Smith, WR
Undrafted out of FSU
Smith is the only player on this list who saw significant time on the Vikings roster this season, as he was promoted from the practice squad in Week 7. Smith didn’t have great production in college but his 4.43 speed makes him a liable deep threat, and he showed off those skills during the preseason (3 receptions for 87 yards, a 29 yards/reception average). Smith was active for four games in 2013, but with Joe Webb off the roster its possible he could be active for more next year. His speed would certainly be an asset in Norv Turner’s vertical offense.
Adam Thielen, WR
Undrafted out of Minnesota State University-Mankato
Thielen was an interesting story coming into training camp as an undrafted rookie, as the Vikings conduct training camp at his college alma mater. Thielen was highly productive in his senior season, with 76 receptions for 1,176 yards and 8 touchdowns. Like Smith, he has nice speed with a 4.46 in the 40, but he t did not receive many opportunities during the preseason, just catching two receptions for 27 yards. Thielen was placed on the practice squad at the start of the season, and he was the only Viking to remain there all year. Thielen will have to improve on those numbers if he wants to stay off the practice squad next year.
Bradley Randle, RB
Undrafted out of University of Nevada – Las Vegas
Randle is a player to watch coming into training camp this summer, as he could fit as a scat back in Norv Turner’s offense. Randle has tremendous speed, 4.38, but his small size at 5-feet-7-inches and 190 pounds limits his potential as a between the tackles runner or blocker. If he can show explosiveness as a receiver though, he could prove valuable in Turner’s offense as a Darren Sproles-type weapon.
Spencer Nealy, DE
Undrafted out of Texas A&M
Nealy originally signed as an undrafted free agent with the Lions, but was released at the end of training camp. The Vikings added Nealy to their practice squad, but he was released as well later in the season. The Vikings brought Nealy back on a reserve-future deal, so they think he has some potential, but clearly he hasn’t proven very valuable yet.
Kip Edwards, CB
Undrafted out of Missouri
Edwards started his NFL career with the Buffalo Bills, but failed to stick on their roster. Edwards is a large corner at 6-feet-one-inch, almost in the mold of Seattle’s corners, but he isn’t a very gifted athlete. He had nine tackles and two sacks in the preseason, so he brings value as a blitzer, but he may lack the speed to stay with NFL receivers. Edwards will certainly be given a shot to compete with the Vikings other corners on the bottom of the depth chart, but he will have to play faster or more physical to show he can stick around.
Brandan Bishop, S
Undrafted out of NC State
Bishop is a player who has solid instincts and techniques, but his athleticism limits his upside. Edwards made 13 tackles during the preseason and seemed to find the football, he just goes not have elite closing speed for a potential free safety. It’s possible he could compete for a roster spot this year though, as Mistral Raymond and Robert Blanton’s rosters spots are anything but secure.
Well, that’s it. We’re officially through all the Vikings draft picks from 2013 and the other rookies who will be coming back to Mankato this summer. Hope you enjoyed this series as a small diversion before another crop of rookies heads to Winter Park in a little over a month!