The Minnesota Vikings have plenty of great players on their roster. They have some of the best in the league at safety, defensive end, running back and right tackle.
As good as some of their players are, they also have ones who have been disappointing so far in their careers. Maybe these players were struck by the injury bug, or perhaps others just haven’t lived up to their draft status.
Here are four players who have been disappointing so far during their time with the Vikings.
Holmes was a fourth-round pick of the Vikings back in the 2018 NFL Draft. He was a defensive end at Ohio State and the Vikings had plans to move him inside to be an interior disruptor. Mike Zimmer’s defense predicates itself on the pressure created upfront, especially through the “A” gap, and Holmes was seen as the guy who could provide it on a consistent basis. Many figured pairing him with Andre Patterson would be a match made in heaven, and Holmes would flourish under his teaching.
That has failed to happen so far. In two seasons with the team, Holmes has just one sack and seven career tackles. He only played in 73 snaps a season ago and appears to be well behind Armon Watts and Jaleel Johnson on the depth chart. He also has to battle with this year’s fourth-round pick James Lynch for a spot on the team.
Unless Holmes suddenly figures it all out, his chances of even making the Vikings’ roster this year are slim. He will have to play out of his head every single day in practice and impress the heck out of the coaching staff to save his job. If he can’t, he’ll be let go and considered one of the Vikings’ bigger draft busts in recent memory.
Elflein is so disappointing because he started his career off so well. The third-round pick came in as a rookie in 2017 and started 14 games at center for the Vikings. He played at a very high level and added some much-needed nastiness to the Vikings’ offensive line. Things seemed to turn sour in the NFC title game that year when he suffered a broken ankle. He had to have surgery on that ankle and also to his shoulder. Since then he hasn’t been the same player.
Elflein has especially struggled in pass protection and is often overpowered by the man lining up across from him. He is still an adequate run blocker, but whether he flat out lost strength after the surgery, or if it was a loss of confidence, he has become a shell of the player he was his rookie season. That’s what makes Elflein so disappointing. He was so good early and, for whatever reason, seemed to peak that year. His play has gotten worse each subsequent season he’s been with the team, and if he struggles again in 2020, his tenure with the Vikings will be over.
Hughes is the only first-round pick on this list, and if he doesn’t live up to that potential this season, he will be labeled a bust. Hughes has shown flashes of the ability that made him the 30th overall pick in 2018. The reason why he’s been so disappointing is that he cannot stay healthy.
During his rookie season, Hughes suffered an ACL injury. That cost him 10 games that year and another two in 2019. At the end of the 2019 season, Hughes suffered a broken vertebra in his neck, which caused him to miss both of the Vikings’ playoff games. As talented as this player is, he just can’t stay healthy and has not been a reliable asset for the team.
Hughes has played in 20 career games and has shown flashes. He has amassed 67 career tackles, two tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, two interceptions and 12 pass breakups. He has some playmaking ability to him, as he took one of those interceptions back for six points.
But his coverage skills have been hit or miss so far during his career. Sometimes he gives his receiver too much cushion, other times he has good position, but somehow the pass still makes it into the hands of the intended receiver. Other times, he has perfect position and is able to swat the ball away. The inconsistent play is probably due to the fact he’s missed so much time over his career and has yet to develop trust in the scheme or in his overall ability.
Hughes will always be considered a disappointing player until he can put together a full 16-game season. He’s in his third year now in Mike Zimmer’s scheme and will be the veteran of the cornerback group. It’s his time to step up and show the Vikings and their fans why he was worth a first-round choice.
Johnson was another fourth-round pick of the Vikings who just hasn’t been able to put it all together on the field. He hasn’t been awful and is coming off his best season yet, but the Vikings were hoping he would’ve made more of an impact by now. Last year he had 29 combined tackles, five tackles for a loss and three and a half sacks. He started three games last year and had moments where he was able to get into opponents’ backfields and create interior pressure.
The problem for Johnson is his production prior to the 2019 season. In 2018 he had just 13 tackles and half a sack. During his rookie season in 2017, he had just one tackle. Johnson created some buzz with some solid moments in the preseason but couldn’t produce the same way when the games began to count. He now faces competition from Lynch, Watts and Holmes, who will be battling for his job.
Johnson is in a contract year and that, along with this solid 2019 performance, could motivate him for his best season yet. He’ll need to play exceptionally well to keep his job with the Vikings beyond this season. If he has another season with sub-par production, his career in purple will have been disappointing.