After considering the first round and then the second/third, we turn our attention to the fourth. Minnesota’s fourth-round picks have a low floor and a high ceiling. They’re all intriguing players, and yet they all have some obvious downsides. In an ideal world, D.J. Wonnum, James Lynch, and Troy Dye will make a positive impact on both special teams and defense. Time will tell, though, whether they are ready to contribute. The season will be here in less than two weeks.
Best Case: Wonnum becomes yet another success story along Minnesota’s defensive line. Andre Patterson – The D-Line Whisperer – quickly molds Wonnum into a strong option on third downs. His length, athleticism, and work ethic create issues for opposing teams, allowing Mike Zimmer to deploy him with confidence in critical situations. Wonnum’s emergence eliminates any remaining concerns about depth as Zimmer works him into a semi-regular rotation with Danielle Hunter, Yannick Ngakoue, and Ifeadi Odenigbo.
Worst Case: Wonnum’s potential never translates to meaningful production. The Vikings do their utmost to get him onto the field, but he struggles to turn his abilities into quality play. Like Jalyn Holmes, Wonnum mostly underwhelms, languishing on the sidelines as a backup and/or healthy scratch on game day.
Best Case: Lynch overcomes an underwhelming training camp to begin earning snaps at 3-technique. Lynch creates problems for opposing offenses by getting semi-consistent penetration on third downs. His emergence gives Zimmer more flexibility. He allows the Vikings to create the defensive line rotation they’ve been discussing for years. It turns out Lynch is just one of those players who underwhelms in practice but shines during games.
Worst Case: The underwhelming reports around training camp foreshadow his season. If he makes the roster, Lynch never really sees the field. His lack of size creates big issues as he is easily overpowered by NFL linemen. He regularly gets scratched for games as he struggles to carve out a role on a defensive line in transition.
Best Case: Dye proves that he is an ideal modern linebacker. His length/speed combo make him a terror on special teams. When injuries inevitably happen, Dye is capable of playing on defense without their being a noticeable drop off in play. He proves particularly effective when defending the pass while being competent in run defense.
Worst Case: Dye struggles with NFL power and Zimmer’s system, essentially nullifying his tremendous athleticism. With elite options — Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr — ahead of him on the depth chart, Dye never emerges, even with the linebacker depth taking a hit. He plays on special teams, but goes mostly unnoticed.
We’re at the stage when things get a lot more difficult to predict. Some of the mid- and late-round picks will become impact players in Minnesota. Others will struggle to establish themselves as NFL players. Rick Spielman often mentions that it’s difficult to predict which college prospects will have productive NFL careers, a belief that largely motivates his desire to accumulate draft picks. Minnesota’s fourth round picks should make the final roster and earn snaps on special teams. Of the three, Dye appears to have the best shot at contributing early, whereas Wonnum and Lynch offer the most upside.