B/W Case: The Fourth Rounders Will Create Roster Competition for Vikings
During this past draft, the Vikings added three fourth rounders to their team. RB Kene Nwangwu (119th), S Camryn Bynum (125th), and DE Janarius Robinson (134th) will all look to secure a spot on the final roster. Of course, mid-round picks need to earn their spot even though the team will do its utmost to find a reason to keep them. In other words, all three will need to compete. What’s a realistic best and worst case for these three?
Nwangwu Has a Low Floor, High Ceiling
There were some misgivings among Vikings faithful when Minnesota opted to choose Nwangwu at 119th. We already have Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison dominating the running back snaps. There’s also a good case to be made for Ameer Abdullah being more involved. Nwangwu’s clearest path towards contributing, then, comes on special teams.
By this point, everyone knows he’s extremely fast. The dude hasn’t even played in a preseason game and he’s already listed as one of Madden’s top-3 fastest RBs.
Of the three Vikings fourth rounders, Nwangwu may have the toughest time contributing apart from special teams. Cook won’t be sacrificing any touches, and Mattison deserves to be more involved. It’s also notable that Nwangwu is competing with K.J. Osborn, Dede Westbrook, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Ameer Abdullah, and Chad Beebe for return duties (side note: anyone I missed?). In other words, we can be confident that he’ll contribute to the overall competition during the offseason, but very little is guaranteed for him.
Keep in mind that even as a senior Nwangwu only had 61 carries for 339 rushing yards. It’s discouraging to see that he only had 3 catches for the year. Given his modest size and speed, one would hope he could be an effective third-down back. We can’t even really blame Covid for these modest totals given that he played in 12 games.
In 19 kickoff returns, though, Nwangwu accumulated 550 yards, good for a 28.9 average. At this stage, Nwangwu is largely potential. He offers a low floor and a high ceiling. It won’t be surprising if he gives the return game a real spark; it also won’t be surprising if he lands on the practice squad.
Bynum Offers Good Depth at Safety
Bynum was a corner in college. Minnesota is hoping that a switch to safety will better-suit his skill set.
Still only 23, Bynum is 6’0, 200. The sense one gets is that he’s an intelligent, hard worker who how some athletic limitations. Check out his workout numbers:
He started for two years in college, though it’s notable that he was a captain for four years. The leadership, then, really stands out for him. Being a great leader is a strong attribute for a safety. As Blitzology Brian once pointed out to me, being a safety requires a unique intelligence and ability to communicate. Having strong leadership skills will help.
Previously, I thought about whether Bynum may push for a starting spot, but Xavier Woods has been getting praise from both Harrison Smith and Coach Zim. It’s unlikely the rookie who is switching positions will be able to overcome the veteran Woods. His best case likely involves being #3 on the depth chart while contributing as a special teamer on game day. If one of the top two go down, Bynum can hopefully come in as a rock-solid replacement in the short-term.
The worst case will feature him struggling to transition to safety. Perhaps making the jump to the NFL and switching positions is simply too much to ask of the rookie, meaning at least one of the Vikings’ fourth rounders needs to start the year on the practice squad.
Robinson Will Compete Opposite Hunter
As we noted after the draft, Robinson was a highly-regarded prospect by The Draft Network. Minnesota got him at 134 even though TDN had him as their 74th-best prospect. This is how they described him: “Robinson has long arms, heavy hands, and a stocky build that was engineered to play on the edge in the NFL. He is a powerful run defender, smart processor, and has plenty of tools to become a more effective pass rusher. He has some really exciting flashes rushing the passer where his length, flexibility, rush variety, effort, and hand power shine. There is room for Robinson to round out his game by learning how to consistently apply his immense physical gifts on the field and deploy his rush plan quicker.“
Andre Patterson indicated that Robinson was a player he really wanted Minnesota to add: “I always find that guy in the draft where I say, man I’d love to get my hands on this kid, and he’s the guy.” The best case – Vikings fans will tell you – is yet another defensive lineman who blossoms under Patterson’s teaching. Now, we shouldn’t expect first-rate play from the rookie in 2021; success will involve being a solid rotational end. If he can give Minnesota quality snaps on early downs and maybe even as a pass rusher, then Robinson’s rookie season will have been a good one.
The worst case involves him failing to rise above the cluster of DE prospects. As we noted in our d-line preview, there are a ton of players vying for that starting spot opposite Hunter. Keep in mind that Robinson only accumulated 8 sacks in his college career; the most he ever had in one season was 3. Of course, fans will be quick to remind you that Danielle only had 4.5 sacks in his college career and that his best year was also a mere 3 sacks. Hunter, though, is a rare player.
The hope is that Robinson follows in Hunter’s footsteps, but it’s far from a guarantee.
The Best and Worst Case for The Vikings Fourth Rounders
The Vikings are hoping their three fourth rounders will come into camp and compete at three critical positions. Ideally, they’ll all be backups who offer some ability to play in a limited capacity. Otherwise, they’ll hopefully become strong contributors on special teams. I’m hopeful for these players, especially Robinson and Bynum. There’s opportunity for all of them to help our Vikings succeed in 2021.