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Monday, October 14, 2013
Minimal impact for Vikings' rookies so far

By Ben Goessling

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings were lauded for their aggressiveness during the first round of the NFL draft, when they used their first two first-round picks to take Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Then, the Vikings traded back into the first round to grab Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, potentially landing the kind of impact receiver they'd traded away (Percy Harvin) to obtain one of their first-rounders.

Cordarrelle Patterson
Vikings rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson has only been targeted 11 times this season.
It's entirely too early to say all or none of the first-rounders will or won't pan out. But it's interesting to note how tepid their impact has been on a team that had planned to rely on youth.

Patterson's usage has been a source of consternation for Vikings fans all season, and while he got 19 snaps on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers -- his second-highest total of the season -- some of that had to do with how far behind in the game the Vikings were. Patterson still got the fewest snaps of any Vikings receiver, and didn't get the chance to return a kickoff; all six of them were touchbacks. Considering the degree to which the NFL has marginalized the kickoff return in the name of safety, the best chance for Patterson and other return men to make an impact might be as a position player. To this point, the Vikings haven't made consistent use of Patterson in that role; he's only been targeted with 11 passes all season, catching eight of them for 85 yards.

Rhodes has been the Vikings rookie who's played the most, thanks to his role as the team's nickel cornerback. But the Vikings haven't been willing to elevate him over the struggling Josh Robinson and play him in their base defense, and now, Rhodes will have a MRI for an ankle injury he sustained Sunday. He's struggled at times in zone coverage -- he was at least partially culpable for Brandon LaFell's 79-yard touchdown on Sunday -- but has mostly been solid. The Vikings will have to see now how long his ankle injury might keep him out.

And though he did record the Vikings' only sack, Floyd was noticeably absent on Sunday, playing a season-low 19 snaps against a team that ran the ball 39 times. Floyd has been getting most of his work in pass-rushing situations, but the Vikings eventually want him to take over for Kevin Williams as their three-technique tackle. That would mean a bigger role on first and second downs, and it will be interesting to see if the Vikings try to get Floyd more work there as the season goes on.

Some of this is due to the Vikings being patient with their rookies, and in the cases of Patterson and Floyd, the team has veteran players above their draft picks on the depth chart. But the Vikings are also one of the league's youngest teams, and a roster constructed that way almost has to rely on rookies to make an immediate impact. So far, it's been slow going for the Vikings' trio of first-round picks.