The Minnesota Vikings will begin the second phase of upgrading their roster Friday evening on Day two of the NFL Draft. With three more days until then, speculation will soon become answers to the questions fans have had regarding the personnel within each unit on the roster.
One unit with fewer questions to answer than most is the linebacker group. The Vikings spent the past number of offseasons retooling and building this group into a solid unit. Over the past three years, they’ve spent two high draft picks on players who now be leading the linebackers in 2017: Anthony Barr (2014, first round) and Eric Kendricks (2015, second round).
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Anthony Barr*, Eric Kendricks*, Emmanuel Lamur*, Edmond Robinson, Kentrell Brothers
(*) – projected or incumbent starter
The Viking linebackers have been a solid unit over the past two seasons as the team has made acquisitions mostly through the draft, augmenting those picks with some low-cost free agent additions, to rebuild this unit since Mike Zimmer was hired as the head in 2014. Though the talent showed last season, they also showed some inconsistencies, particularly in pass coverage versus opposing tight ends. Overall, this group shows promise.
Eric Kendricks’ 2016 stat line: 109 tackles (6 for loss), 4.0 sacks, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble (1 fumble recovery), 1 touchdown
This group is set with their 3-down linebackers in Barr and Kendricks. With the retirement of Chad Greenway, the Vikings may be in need of another linebacker who can play in the defense’s base package on early downs. Emmanuel Lamur is likely to get the first crack to be the third starter, but Edmond Robinson has shown enough in his limited appearances to warrant a closer look as well. Kentrell Brothers was almost totally on special teams in his first season last year and could earn more reps.
Need (none; 1 — desperate; 10): 3 to 4
Chances Vikings draft a linebacker: Medium
Though the Vikings have their every-down linebackers on the roster, this team could use at least another addition to use in the base package. If they do decide to draft a linebacker, they may look to take one that has some pass covering capabilities as both Barr and Kendricks had some issues in pass coverage last season, which was surprising to some as many expected them to improve in this area. At the same time, with the whole defense’s more urgent issue with defending the run, it’s more likely that if the Vikings do take a linebacker in this draft, they’ll target one who specializes in this area. At the very least, the Vikings do need to replenish the depth at the position, particularly after the loss of Greenway and Audie Cole’s free agency departure.