The word so far has been that the Minnesota Vikings are making their draft picks earn their spot in the starting lineup, a trend that even extends to their top picks.
First-round WR Justin Jefferson is taking second-team reps, though he has recently received some reps with the first team. Gary Kubiak has indicated that he is pleased with where Jefferson is in his development, praising his intelligence and route running. Ezra Cleveland, similarly, has primarily been practicing with the second team. He is currently taking snaps at LG. Vikings fans should know whether he’ll stay at guard sooner rather than later. Both Kubiak and Mike Zimmer have expressed their desire to allow the OL to settle into their positions as soon as possible.
On defense, Mike Hughes and Holton Hill are receiving reps along the outside when the starters only have two corners. When they move into nickle, Hughes has been the main player to slide into the slot, as we suggested in our corner preview (though, admittedly, Jeff Gladney has gotten some reps in the slot). When Hughes moves into the slot, third-round corner Cameron Dantzler has received reps along the outside.
Confidence is so important in high level athletics, so it makes sense for the Vikings to bring their rookies along slowly. Having a young player move from backup to starter will boost a player’s confidence; conversely, putting a rookie in a starter position from the beginning may be putting that player in a position to fail. If they struggle, they’ll often be benched, a move can understandably shake a rookie’s confidence.
To be competitive in the 2020 season, the Vikings need their rookies to contribute. As a result, it’s crucial that the Vikings handle their rookies well in this unusual offseason. By putting Jefferson, Gladney, Cleveland, and Dantzler into an extended competition, the Vikings are helping to set their young players up for success.