The success of the Minnesota Vikings in 2014 could be determined by the play of at least two rookies.
The Vikings selected UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr and Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the first round of last month's NFL Draft. Both hold the key to the Vikings long term and maybe their short term success.
NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks outlined both extreme's for both of the Vikings first round picks. Brooks projects Barr will make 65 tackles, record 7.5 sacks, force four fumbles and intercept one pass.
Starting with Barr's best-case scenario, Brooks says:
- Is penciled in as the SAM linebacker
- He could become a designated edge rusher in the Vikings' nickel package
- Barr's athleticism and production as a pass rusher at UCLA, the hybrid role could pay immediate dividends for the Viking.
According to Brooks, Barr's worst-case scenario would be:
- With only two seasons as a linebacker at UCLA, Barr is still a raw player at the position
- Barr must become comfortable dropping in space and covering tight ends/wide receivers in the slot.
- Too many new responsibilities could prevent Barr from making an immediate impact
Those numbers would certainly give the Vikings a force on the outside.
Bridgewater's impact might be a little tougher to figure out. The Vikings haven't named a starting quarterback.
But Brooks says he believes the Vikings would like to hand the keys to Bridgewater sooner rather than later. He projects Bridgewater will throw for 3,200 yards, 23 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions, while completing about 62 percent of his passes.
Bridgewater's best-case scenario, according to Brooks:
- Bridgewater shows he's not only the most pro-ready quarterback, but landed in the best situation to succeed
- Bridgewater has a veteran supporting cast of All-pro back Adrian Peterson, and Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings and Kyle Rudolph
- If Bridgewater takes the starting job from Matt Cassel early, and plays well, he can help the team back into playoff contention
But on the other hand, Brooks outlines his worst case scenario:
- Vikings are happy to have Cassel serve as the temporary placeholder, but team officials want Bridgewater to claim the job quickly
- A prolonged incubation period for Bridgewater could be a major disappointment.
"He's a worker," Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer told FSN. "He wants to be really, really good. He's kind of feeling his way a little bit around the guys, which that will come in time. He understands he's a young guy, so he'll keep going, progressing in that way the more comfortable he feels around everybody, but I like him a lot. He's going to be a good football player for us."
The Vikings will wrap up their Organized Team Activities on Thursday, they host a mandatory minicamp next week and training camp opens July 24th.