The Vikings are still buzzing in the afterglow of the 2020 NFL Draft and imagining how these 15 new players will fit on the roster. They should also be equally excited about their second-year players, who, with a year of experience under their belts, should produce much more than they did in their rookie campaigns. In part two of this series, we look at four more second-year Vikings’ players and project what the team should expect from them in their sophomore seasons.
The Vikings took this big man in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He impressed early in offseason practices with his massive frame and movement skills and generated a lot of buzz. There were rumblings he would compete and could potentially beat out Josh Kline for the right guard spot. When training camp began, Samia found himself running with the third team. He struggled to move up the depth chart but did end up making the final 53-man roster.
Samia was inactive almost the entire season except for two games. He saw his most work in the meaningless season finale against the Bears, in a game where neither team had anything to play for. He logged 31 snaps in that game and played pretty well, opening up holes in the running game and allowing Sean Mannion ample time in the pocket. However, with neither team having anything to play for, it is very difficult to take too much from this performance.
Samia is a favorite to land a starting job in 2020. He has to battle for that spot with players like Dakota Dozier, potentially Oli Udoh if the Vikings move him inside, and rookies Blake Brandel and Kyle Hinton. This former fourth-round choice should be seen as the favorite, and the Vikings will give him every opportunity to win the job. There has to be a reason the Vikings didn’t use a high 2020 draft choice on a guard, or bring in a veteran. They must feel Samia is ready to take on a much larger role, and believe he can be their right guard in 2020 and beyond. Expect to see Samia start a plethora of games for the Vikings this season, potentially as an upgrade to what the Vikings have put on the field at guard in recent seasons.
The Vikings took this small-school standout in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Coming from unheard-of Elon, he was expected to be someone who would basically need to redshirt his first season as he acclimated to the NFL game. That is exactly what happened, and he logged just 31 snaps his rookie season. Like Samia, those all came in the season finale against the Bears. Udoh played with a lot of aggression and was even able to pancake the great Khalil Mack on one play. That was an impressive debut, but again, with the Bears having nothing to play for, it’s hard to take too much from that game.
There have been rumblings that Udoh could slide inside to guard and compete for one of those jobs this season. He certainly has the athletic ability to play guard, and that could be a role he excels at. What could dump a little cold water on that plan is the lack of OTAs and mini-camps and a potentially shortened preseason. Without the reps in practice, he may not be ready to make that adjustment this season.
He could still be tried at guard this season but should be considered a long shot to earn a starting job. Expect Udoh to be used as a swing lineman this year. He could come in and sub at either of the tackle positions or be used at guard. He may not start any games in 2020 but should see his snap count grow exponentially, as the aggressive blocker will be an asset coming off the bench or giving the starters a breather.
Kris Boyd was one of the better stories from 2019. He struggled early in the preseason yet still made the team. He slowly became a special teams standout, which became a role he embraced and really seemed to enjoy with his celebrations after making a big play. The solid special teams play gave the young cover man some confidence, and he began seeing more and more snaps on defense. He held his own and finished his rookie season with 22 tackles, a pass breakup and two tackles for a loss. To see him take his coaching to heart and improve over the course of the season was great.
What his role will be in 2020 is hard to predict. While the Vikings lost Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander, they added Jeff Gladney, Cameron Dantzler and Harrison Hand. Boyd will have to compete with those young bucks, Mike Hughes and Holton Hill for playing time. He could really land anywhere on the depth chart, but a good guess will say he’ll be around the fourth cornerback. Expect Boyd to continue to be a special teams standout in 2020 and see an increased snap count on defense. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility that he doubles his tackle production and even registers the first interception of his promising career this upcoming season.
The Vikings used another sixth-round pick in 2019 on this big defensive tackle out of Arkansas. He was a bit of an unknown as he only started his senior season. After making the team, Watts found himself on the bench for the first half of his rookie season. He finally got some playing time in the game against Dallas, and had an impact with a couple of tackles and half a sack. Watts actually played quite well, finishing his debut season with 1.5 sacks, 13 tackles and a pass breakup which lead to an Anthony Harris pick-six. He’s got some playmaking ability to him and his role should expand in 2020.
While Watts was used as a nose tackle last season, his future could be as a three-technique defensive tackle on the Vikings roster. Their job is to create interior pressure, and Watts definitely proved he can do that. If the Vikings move on from Shamar Stephen as they should, Watts could form a rotation with the other interior rusher on the roster, rookie James Lynch. If that comes to pass, Watts will see a lot more than the 121 snaps he did last year, and the increased opportunities should lead to a lot more production.