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Vikings' rookie Stephen named to Kiper's projected all-rookie team

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Who was the only Vikings rookie named to ESPN NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper's projected all-rookie team? Here is a hint: it wasn't either of the team's first round picks Teddy Bridgewater or Anthony Barr.

It also wasn't either third round pick Scott Crichton or Jerrick McKinnon.

Instead it was the team's first pick in the seventh round, defensive tackle Shamar Stephen. Stephen impressed the Vikings coaches and front office so much during the preseason the team released veteran defensive tackle Fred Evans.

"We felt like Shamar was playing better (than Evans)," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said this week.

Kiper also was impressed by the rookie out of Connecticut.

"Stephen could be a steal if he builds on a solid start. The seventh-rounder out of UCONN is going to see time in the Vikings' rotation up front."

Stephen and St. Louis Rams rookie Aaron Donald were the only two defensive tackles on Kiper's team.

Stephen will step into the role as the backup to nose tackle Linval Joseph. He was given more playing time after Joseph sat out most of the preseason after being hit by a bullet at a Twin Cities' night club following the Vikings preseason opener.

Joseph is expected to be ready to play on Sunday – he isn't even listed on the team's injury report this week.

"I'm just happy for the opportunity they gave me and just to show them that I can play and be able to perform for them," Stephen told the Pioneer Press.

The Daily Norseman points out that Barr's outside linebacker position is rather crowded with early picks. Houston's Jadeveon Clowney and Oakland's Khalil Mack are both outside linebackers and were drafted in the top five picks.

Kiper added that if "all things were equal and every rookie got to start," he would have taken Bridgewater, but chose Carr because he will get more reps.

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