Mike Zimmer and the Minnesota Vikings got back to work quickly after the conclusion of the 2019 NFL Draft and just a week later had their rookie class on the field for the first time as a group, which included picks, undrafted free agents and tryout players. There is still plenty of time to make decisions about trimming the roster down from 89 to 53 players and several key spots are up for grabs that could potentially be filled by first-year players.
In that regard, the Vikings succeeded in bringing in guys that can and will affect the team from the first day they set foot at TCO Performance Center in Eagan. This weekend marked that first step for them and Zimmer took to the podium to address some of the bigger storylines surrounding the rookie class, whether it be the draft picks and where first-round offensive lineman Garrett Bradbury will play, how Irv Smith Jr. fits into the offense on day one and how Alabama prepped him to play early, how Armon Watts can factor into the defensive tackle rotation early and what the team sees in UDFA quarterback Jake Browning.
“One of the bright spots on the Arkansas defense” is probably the best way to sum up Armon Watts’ 2018 season. The Razorbacks were an absolutely brutal 2-10 (0-8 in the SEC) last year, and there weren’t a lot of things to like about their season, but Watts was certainly one of them. Watts was a 3-star recruit from St. Louis, and was a bit of a late bloomer, not making much noise until his senior year. Given the opportunity to start in 2018, however, he took advantage of the role and led Arkansas with 7 sacks and three forced fumbles. What really caught my attention was – while researching picks for an SB Nation Fan Mock –
coming across a quote by draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah mentioning Watts in the same breath as guys being discussed as first round picks: “When you look at tiers, in the first-round tier, Quinnen Williams, Christian Wilkins, Ed Oliver, Rashan Gary, who I think is more of an edge guy, Jeffery Simmons, and [Dexter] Lawrence could factor in there in the late 20s,” Jeremiah said. “Then, you get into that next tier for me, you start getting to Jerry Tillery from Notre Dame. I really like Armon Watts from Arkansas, who is just a real strong-handed guy and solid on tape.”
Safety Marcus Epps, a sixth-round pick out of Wyoming, said he has a laundry list of items he wants to learn from All-Pro safety Harrison Smith, who has been to four straight Pro Bowls.
“Man, there are just so many things. I can’t even say one thing,” Epps said. “I’m so excited to just pick his brain.
“He’s been one of the best safeties in the league for a long time now, so it’s great to have somebody like that to come in and learn from,” Epps added.
Sixth-round defensive tackle Armon Watts picked the biggest (and perhaps baddest) Viking in defensive tackle Linval Joseph.
But Watts had a bit of an inside look on Joseph stemming from his time working Vikings assistant defensive line coach Rob Rodriguez at the East-West Shrine Game in January.