The Bright Future of the Minnesota Vikings Defense


This week, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer were able to find a couple of defensive studs with their first two picks in the NFL Draft, adding to what is already a very talented defense in Minnesota.

The Vikings selected Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes with the 11th overall pick. Waynes is a terrific fit for the Vikings, and should become a solid starter fairly soon. Three weeks ago, I wrote over on Sporting Sota about the potential impact Trae Waynes would have on the Vikings defense. There’s no doubt that his impact on the Vikings will be a positive one. Between Xavier Rhodes and Waynes, the Vikings may have found themselves and epic cornerback duo that could be lethal for years to come.

In the second round, the Vikings were able to grab linebacker Eric Kendricks out of UCLA. Before the draft, Kendricks was ranked as arguably the best inside linebacker in the draft. Drafting Kendricks here was an excellent pick as it not only fills a hole in the Vikings defense that desperately needed to be filled, but they also got a great football player in Kendricks. Additionally, Kendricks and current Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr were teammates and close friends at UCLA.

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Dec 21, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Minnesota Vikings free safety Harrison Smith (22) tackles Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) in the second half of the game at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Waynes and Kendricks join a defense that is on the cusp of becoming elite. The secondary is loaded with young talent that just needs another year or two to mature. Harrison Smith is already a top five safety in the NFL. Xavier Rhodes is gradually becoming an elite shutdown cornerback and he’s only getting better and better. The Vikings added safety Taylor Mays and Terence Newman this offseason, who will both be able to contribute nicely and have both played for Mike Zimmer before. Also, Captain Munnerlyn has had a very good career as a slot cornerback, and using him there will give another boost to the secondary.

The linebackers were relatively disappointing last season, but there is still a lot of optimism for this group. Anthony Barr is a freak athlete who showed a ton of promise before and injury ended his season early. Gerald Hodges and Audie Cole both showed they could fill in nicely when needed. Chad Greenway, although he’s on the back nine of his career, can still play at a high level and will be an excellent mentor to Kendricks and other young guys in the group of linebackers.

Everson Griffen burst onto the scene last season as a pass rusher for opposing offensive lines to be reckoned with. He’s well on his way to becoming a Pro Bowl-caliber player, and he probably deserved it last year. Sharrif Floyd did some really good things last season after a pretty rough rookie season. Brian Robison, like Greenway, is on the back nine of his career. However, the guy can still make an impact on games with his relentless effort and energy. Scott Crichton and new draft pick Danielle Hunter from LSU are a couple young talents that could make contributions off the bench this season as well. This defensive line is full of athletic and talented players with a bunch of upside.

As a fan, it’s hard not to be really excited about what Spielman and Zimmer have put together with this defense. Many of the parts needed for an elite defense are there, and now we will hopefully get to see this defense grow and become elite in the next year or two. I’m not saying we will get to watch Purple People Eaters 2.0, but this will definitely be a defense that could play a huge role in earning a playoff spot (and possibly more) very soon.

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