Thank you very much to Christopher Gates for taking the time out to do not just one, but TWO! of these Q&A's. But being as the Vikings were the only franchise lucky enough to net two Hokies through the draft and the post-draft scrum for free agents, we save the best for last. Be sure to check out The Daily Norseman for excellent Minnesota Vikings coverage.
The Vikings pass defense really struggled last season. Do you think Antone Exum can make an impact as a rookie?
I think that Exum was a huge steal for the Vikings as late in the draft as the team got him, and he certainly could make an impact on the defense early on if he can stay healthy. While the Vikings currently project him as more of a safety, he did play a lot of corner for the Hokies. With the NFL trending towards more of the big bump-and-run type of corners like we see in Seattle, Exum's ability to play that spot could go a long way towards his being able to help the team.
What does the competition look like in the defensive backfield?
Well, one of the safety spots is locked down by third-year man Harrison Smith. The incumbent starter at the other safety spot is Jamarca Sanford, who is basically the definition of "league average" at the position. He'll also be competing with Andrew Sendejo, who got an extended look last year thanks to injuries to both Smith and Sanford. Of the guys competing to be the starter at the spot next to Smith, Exum is definitely the most physically gifted, and if he can grasp the Vikings' new defensive schemes quickly, he could find himself seeing plenty of time for the Vikings.
Do you see Exum sticking at safety (where he's currently listed on the Vikings website) or could he move back to corner at some point?
It's kind of tough to tell. In today's NFL, you need to have two safeties with a lot of range, and Exum has the ability to do that. But, as I said above, the league is also trending towards bigger corners as well. I think that Exum could be very good at either position, but I think the Vikings are correct at the present time to project him as a safety.
Do you have any concerns about his recent injury history?
Any time a guy tears a major knee ligament, it's concerning. But Exum came back from that fairly quickly, and played decently before suffering the ankle injury last season. In a way, he reminds me of a guy the Vikings took in the 2013 draft in linebacker Michael Mauti out of Penn State. Mauti tore his ACL three different times in college, and was thought to be a second round prospect if he could stay healthy. Exum should have gone much higher than he did, and while he doesn't have quite the extensive injury history that Mauti does, he could end up to be a similar sort of steal.
Thanks again to Christopher for these thoughtful responses, and keep tuned to the Minnesota beat for more news on Exum's progress. We'll be back with another Q&A with The Daily Norseman later on LB Jack Tyler.
Until then, best of luck to you and your children in today's athletic endeavors!