The Minnesota Vikings enjoyed a successful campaign last year making it to the divisional round before encountering San Francisco. During the off-season Minnesota also lost valuable experience in Linval Joseph, Xavier Rhodes, and seemingly Everson Griffen. This provides the opportunity for younger players to step up and fill the voids left this summer. Whether it be overcoming injuries or underwhelming tenures these players could make the difference for Minnesota going forward.
Which Minnesota Vikings Players Could Step Up in 2020?
Mike Hughes– Cornerback
Selected as the 30th pick in the 2018 draft Mike Hughes was highly touted leaving the University of Central Florida. Though Hughes’ time in Minnesota has been hampered by injury and the Vikings are yet to see the best of their first-round pick. His rookie year began with a pick-six in Week 1 against the San Francisco 49ers. However, in week six Hughes tore his ACL against the Arizona Cardinals and wouldn’t see the field till the following season.
Entering the 2019 season, Hughes was the fourth cornerback on the Vikings depth chart. Hughes featured in 14 games during the regular season and started three before suffering an injury in January. Hughes would then be placed on the injured reserve and miss the Vikings playoff run with a broken vertebra. After losing Xavier Rhodes, Mackensie Alexander, and Trae Waynes during free agency, a healthy Mike Hughes is a clear starting corner in week one. With impressive zone coverage and aggressive ball skills, Hughes will be vital to the Vikings secondary if he can stay healthy in 2020.
Pat Elflein– Guard
Pat Elflein was selected at pick 70 in the 2017 draft by the Vikings. The team traded up for Elflein and would deploy him at center up until 2019. Elflein had an impressive rookie year and was named in the PWFA All-Rookie team. Elflein endured ankle and shoulder surgery in 2018 and was moved to guard in 2019 after the arrival of first-round pick Garrett Bradbury. A mainstay in Minnesota’s offensive line, Elflein played 15 games last season.
Inconsistent throughout the 2019 season, Elflein’s future with the franchise is uncertain as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. Minnesota didn’t address guard in free agency or the draft besides seventh-round pick Kyle Hinton. So it is expected Elflein will have one more year as a starter to justify his spot on the roster. Elflein could step up drastically in 2020 to ensure the Vikings pick up his fifth-year option.
Ifeadi Odenigbo– Defensive End
Since being selected in the seventh round by Minnesota in 2017, Ifeadi Odenigbo is yet to start for the Vikings. Odenigbo is on his second stint with the Vikings after being waived in September 2018. Odenigbo then re-signed with Minnesota and earnt a spot on the roster in 2019. Sitting behind Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen, Odenigbo has had to be patient but 2020 could be his opportunity.
The Vikings lost Everson Griffen in free agency though the defensive end is yet to find a new team. With a lack of cap space it appears Minnesota will enter the 2020 season without their four-time Pro Bowler. This provides an opening for Odenigbo to become the starter alongside Hunter for the upcoming year. Odenigbo showed flashes in 2019 with seven sacks and recovering a fumble for a touchdown in Week 15. Odenigbo can have an increased role in 2020 and step up becoming a starter ahead of Anthony Zettel, Eddie Yarbrough, or fourth-round selection D.J Wonnum.