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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Vikings will need take off kid gloves when it comes to Waynes’ second season

By Judd Zulgad

The only thing more inexact than the NFL mock drafts that have populated the Internet in recent months might be the attempt to assign immediate grades for how each team fared in last weekend’s selection process.

The Vikings, for instance, got an A grade from USA Today on Monday, only the Jacksonville Jaguars joined them in that elite company, while ESPN’s Mel Kiper gave the Vikings a B-minus.

The reality is it will take at least three years to know how strong of draft class this will be for general manager Rick Spielman. The only thing we can be certain of at is that first-round wide receiver Laquon Treadwell should make an immediate contribution.

So instead of trying to analyze seven other players who we know little about, let’s take a look at three first-round picks from previous Vikings drafts who will start the season under the microscope.

CB Trae Waynes, first-round pick, 11th-overall section in the 2015 draft

Considering how much coach Mike Zimmer wants from his cornerbacks, it shouldn’t have come as a big surprise that Waynes spent his rookie season learning behind veteran Terence Newman.

Waynes started only one game in 2015, doing so only because injuries in the defensive backfield forced Newman to be shifted to safety, and was used primarily on special teams. He finished with 30 tackles and broke up four passes in 15 games.

But if last season was all about learning for Waynes, this season should be all about grabbing the starting job opposite veteran Xavier Rhodes. Newman returns to the Vikings, but he will turn 38 just before the regular-season opens, and if he starts again it will be a direct reflection on Waynes’ lack of development.

Don’t be surprised if Zimmer spends much of training camp paying special attention to Waynes’ technique, just as he did with Rhodes in 2014. Zimmer said late last season that he thought Waynes was starting to get a grasp on what the Vikings wanted from him.

“I think he understands he has to be tighter in coverage than what he was in the beginning,” Zimmer said. “I think he has a better understanding of the techniques that are being played. He still has things he’s got to continue to work on. In this league, it’s not good enough to be close to your guy. You’ve got to deny your guy the football, and he doesn’t do that all the time.”

LT Matt Kalil, first-round pick, fourth-overall selection in the 2012 draft

The Vikings have taken great steps to restructure an offensive line that was a massive disappointment in 2015.

Position coach Jeff Davidson was fired after the season and replaced by former NFL head coach Tony Sparano. After struggling with the transition from right to left guard, Brandon Fusco has been moved back to the right side but will have to compete with 2015 starter Mike Harris for the job.

Alex Boone signed a four-year, $26.8 million free-agent contract to play left guard. John Sullivan, who missed all of last season because of back issues, is expected to return at center. And while Phil Loadholt agreed to a restructured contract to return after missing all of last season because of an Achilles’ injury, there’s a good chance he will lose the right tackle competition to free-agent signee Andre Smith (one-year, $3.5 million), who had been in Cincinnati.

Notice the one change that wasn’t made?

Yep, that would be at left tackle, where the Vikings have decided to give Kalil one last chance. It became clear the Vikings would stick with Kalil for at least one more season on March 9, when they decided not to jettison him and thus took on an $11.096 million salary-cap hit for 2016.

By picking up Kalil’s fifth-year option, he will become one of the highest-paid left tackles in the NFL next season. The key question is will he play like one?

That hasn’t been the case since Kalil’s rookie season, when he ended up going to the Pro Bowl. Kalil has battled knee problems in the past and did show improvement in 2015 from the previous season, although he was far from dominant.

The scary thing(s) for the Vikings is that all of their changes on the line could pay off, but if Kalil doesn’t do his job, Teddy Bridgewater could still end up running for his life. The other issue is that if Kalil struggles there is no one to immediately replace him and finding left tackles isn’t easy.

WR Cordarrelle Patterson, first-round pick, 29th-overall selection in the 2013 draft

The Vikings sent their latest vote of no-confidence to Patterson on Monday, when they announced they had picked up the fifth-year options on 2013 first-round picks Sharrif Floyd and Rhodes but did not do the same for Patterson.

Patterson, of course, has no one to fault but himself.

The master of vowing to improve as a receiver, but never doing so, Patterson has become exclusively a kick returner and might have trouble making the roster in 2016. If the Vikings cut him before the season, they wouldn’t be on the hook for his $1 million salary in the final year of his contract. (He would count $900,000 against the cap because of his signing bonus.)

Patterson, who has gone from 45 receptions in his rookie season to 33 two years ago to only two last season, has a world of talent but seems to have little interest in making himself into a reliable NFL receiver who runs the correct routes.

Will that change? That’s something that no one, including the Vikings, will believe until they see it firsthand.

While there are high expectations for Waynes’ future and hope that Kalil overcomes his struggles, the reality is that almost everyone expects that Patterson soon will be a former Viking.

The post Zulgad: Vikings will need take off kid gloves when it comes to Waynes’ second season appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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