Vikings rookie refresher

Posted Aug. 03, 2011 @ 11:33 a.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

Here's a quick look back at the rookies the Vikings drafted in April and how they figure into the mix this fall:

First-round QB Christian Ponder (No. 12 overall) — Fans might not have loved the pick when it was made, but head coach Leslie Frazier indicated that the rookie QB will have a good chance to compete for a starting job and it would not be shocking if he starts at some point early this season. Still, he'd have to beat out former Pro Bowler Donovan McNabb, which will not be easy, even though McNabb struggled last season. Many believe Ponder is an ideal fit in offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's short, rhythm passing game.

Second-round TE Kyle Rudolph (No. 43 overall) — Tight end wasn't the most pressing need imaginable, but this was a value pick on the order of the Patriots selecting Rob Gronkowski last season. Both players' stocks fell because of injuries in their final college season, but they each are talents. In Rudolph, the Vikings got a quality receiver and blocker who would have gone higher had he not been hurt as a junior.

Fourth-round DT Christian Ballard (No. 106 overall) — Don't be stunned if the talented but underproducing Ballard is starting Week One when Kevin Williams is (likely) suspended. The Vikings need Ballard to play to his ability and learn quickly because they have few other great options inside. Keep an eye on this kid.

Fifth-round CB Brandon Burton (No. 139 overall) — Burton has some natural cover skills, but he was beaten too often in college and might take a while to develop. Special teams could be his early home with a glut at the CB position.

Sixth-round OT DeMarcus Love (No. 168 overall) — It's not clear if he will end up at tackle or guard because he has some positional flexibility, but the Bryant McKinnie departure might unfairly speed up his timetable. Love, however, should get something of a redshirt season unless injuries — like they did last season — crop up.

Sixth-round FS Mistral Raymond (No. 170 overall) — Raymond is an unheralded pick who is limited athletically but will compete at a need position and on special teams. Many teams did not have a draftable grade on him, but the Vikings perhaps see him as a late bloomer with upside.

Sixth-round C-OG Brandon Fusco (No. 172 overall) — This scrappy, small-school center will have to make a big adjustment to the NFL from Slippery Rock, but he could nab an interior reserve spot if he shows he can slide over to guard in a pinch.

Sixth-round LB Ross Homan (No. 200 overall) — Many believe that Homan could be the Vikings' best lower-round pick as a special-teams warrior, but he actually will have a chance to compete at weak-side linebacker in time. A good, productive college player with a little vinegar in his bloodstream.

Seventh-round DE D'Aundre Reed (No. 215 overall) — He's an athletic rusher who put up decent production in a part-time role at Arizona and will have a chance to compete, either as Jared Allen's backup or be a factor at the soon-to-be-vacated DLE spot. Most likely, though, he'll be a practice-squad candidate.

Seventh-round WR Stephen Burton (No. 236 overall) — Another practice-squad possibility, Burton is a good-sized possession receiver and returner who must clean up his route running and polish. The Vikings took some chances on some players, and Burton is no exception.