It is always exciting to see what surprise players blossom every season. Each team typically has a few players who end up doing much better than expected originally. Last season for the Vikings, those players were Adam Thielen, Danielle Hunter, and Xavier Rhodes.
These Three Returning Minnesota Vikings Players Will Up Their Play in 2017
Thielen went from a role-playing receiver to nearly amassing 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. He will look to further grow this coming season. The un-drafted free agent out of Minnesota State has phenomenal chemistry with Sam Bradford, which will only improve with time.
Danielle Hunter held a rotational role on the defensive line and still managed to lead the team in sacks with 12.5 by the end of the season. Brian Robison will be 34 at the time the season starts. Hunter has youth and a very high ceiling. He has shown what he brings to the table as a playmaker, and will likely become the day-one starter.
Rhodes had a fantastic season, becoming one of the best lock-down cornerbacks in the NFC North, if not the league as a whole. He impressed enough to earn his first Pro Bowl appearance at the end of the season. His 100 yard pick-six against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 11 is certainly one of the highlights of an otherwise disappointing season for the Vikings. This being said, expect these players to continue to progress this coming season.
Who will be the surprise players for the Vikings in the 2017-2018 season?
The Vikings 23rd overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft produced only one reception in his rookie campaign, equivalent to the receiving output of Sam Bradford. Based on what is typically expected of a first round receiver, his season was disappointing to say the least. This was not due to lack of talent or athleticism though. Mike Zimmer has a track record of waiting until he feels a young player has developed enough to compete and make a difference in-game. Zimmer did this with Stefon Diggs. He did this with Teddy Bridgewater. This is exactly what I believe he is doing with Treadwell.
With the departure of both Cordarrelle Patterson and Charles Johnson, and the possible departure of veteran Jarius Wright, Treadwell should have an opportunity to showcase his talents as a likely number three or four at receiver for the Vikings. If he is thrown the ball, he is bound to make plays. If you don’t believe me, watch some of his highlights from Ole Miss. The man is an acrobat in the air. This season should be his breakout year.
The Vikings leading rusher last season managed just over 500 yards on a measly 3.4 yards per carry. That alone may be enough to kill this prediction in the eyes of some, but I am expecting an impact entirely different from McKinnon in 2017. He won’t be the Vikings leading rusher. Latavius Murray will boast that accolade at season’s end. Murray is a more versatile power-back as opposed to Matt Asiata. Due to this, McKinnon should be able to be a change of pace back with greater efficiency.
The improvements that the Vikings made to the offensive line through free agency is impressive. The unit should be better this season, in-turn helping the ground game. McKinnon won’t be a name that will jump out in the league as a whole, but he could be a standout role-player on the Vikings this season.
Last season was a bit of a roller coaster for Trae Waynes. Nothing embodied this more than his performance in the Vikings Week Two matchup with the Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers tested Waynes out downfield, drawing two big pass interference calls in the contest. Waynes bounced back to seal the victory for the Purple and Gold with an interception, stopping A-Rod’s comeback attempt. The former 11th overall pick improved in 2016 totaling 50 combined tackles and three interceptions in his sophomore campaign.
With more field time last season, along with the emergence of Xavier Rhodes, Waynes was thrown at more also. More passes his direction pointed out his major flaw, being that he commits pass interference far too often. He is an aggressive corner, but he will need to have more discipline in his coverage. The coaching staff is sure to be focusing on polishing that aspect of Waynes’ game in this coming season. If the penalty issues come to rest, the former Michigan State standout will have a great season in 2017.