In a couple weeks, the final pieces to the Minnesota Vikings’ offseason will be added through the NFL Draft. There will be plenty of time to dissect every move they’ve made in a couple of weeks. Before all the hype begins, let’s take a look at the current players who could potentially be breakout stars in 2014.
Jarius Wright, wide receiver
The third season for wide receivers is traditionally where you see a player take that next step. Jarius Wright could take that leap this year. In his first two seasons, his stats don’t overwhelming you. Last season, he had 26 catches for 434 yards and three touchdowns. That said, he seems to be getting better in each game he plays. Wright also started to build a rapport with quarterback Matt Cassel towards the end of last season. The Vikings don’t need Wright to become a superstar with Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson ahead of him on the depth chart. Jennings and Patterson’s presence should open things up for Wright in Norv Turner’s new offense. He looks the part of a slot receiver and big things could be in store for him if there’s improvement and consistency from the quarterback position
Josh Robinson, cornerback
There’s no way to sugarcoat Josh Robinson’s previous season. He was just plain awful. He made some decent plays as a rookie and it looked like the Vikings may have found a solid player. Then in 2013, he was asked to play in the slot, which was clearly out of position for him. He got burned often and then his season was cut short due to a sternum injury. This year, Robinson should moved back outside with the addition of Captain Munnerlyn. If the roster remains intact, he will be given the opportunity to start opposite of Xavier Rhodes. Coach Mike Zimmer has had success with defensive backs in the past and he’s hoping he has the same effect on Robinson. This is the year for Robinson to prove he belongs in the league.
Jeff Baca, guard
Some fans may be asking, “What’s a Jeff Baca?” Well, let me tell you, he’s a second year guard out of UCLA, who will be given the chance to start at left guard next season. He only played in four games during his rookie year, but the team appears to like him, which could mean more playing time. Charlie Johnson was re-signed, but because of his poor play the last two seasons, he may be better suited as a back-up. Baca may be the longest shot on this list, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him step up in 2014.
Sharrif Floyd, defensive tackle
Yes, it is possible to call last year’s first round pick a potential break out player. Sharrif Floyd only started in one game in 2013, but saw action in all 16. Defensive tackles rarely put up huge numbers in their first year and Floyd received minimal playing time as he backed up and learned from Kevin Williams. Floyd’s season was pretty nondescript. He was never bad, but he didn’t stand out either. With Williams no longer with the Vikings, Floyd will get the chance to shine in 2014. Adding Linval Joseph opposite him will give the Vikings defensive line the big body in the middle they need. This will only help Floyd and help put him in a good position to have a big year.
Honorable Mention: Audie Cole, MLB, Chase Ford, TE and Matt Asiata, RB
The Vikings should be an improved team in 2014. They made some impact signings in free agency and I expect they will select at least a couple of potential starters in the draft. It will be up to the players listed here to make that next step if the team is going to compete for a playoff spot next season.