Rookie of the Mid-Year
First off, Dalvin Cook would have ran away with this award if he had stayed healthy. Prior to going down with a torn ACL, he was establishing himself as the next great three-down running back. Ultimately, he ends up as the best draft pick of the Vikings’ 2017 draft class.
That being said, it’s hard to award someone who played only three and a half games, especially with Pat Elflein and Ben Gedeon playing major roles on the team. With that, Elflein is the winner as he’s helped reshape a Vikings offensive line that was disastrous last season. Mainly a guard at Ohio State until his senior year, the 23-year old has stepped in right away to play center for the Vikings.
Admittedly, he’s not been perfect, but who is? Pro Football Focus ranks him 32nd among centers, but it’s hard to justify that ranking based on the eye test. As a whole, the offensive line has been superb and unlike last year, it’s hard to pinpoint anyone who hasn’t performed well. Additionally, center is one of the toughest positions to play in the NFL, especially as a rookie. So, given the circumstances, Elflein gets the benefit of the doubt.
The other candidate would be linebacker Ben Gedeon. While he has a respectable PFF rating of 71.9, he simply doesn’t see the quantity of snaps that Elflein does. Even so, he’s been effective replacing the retired Chad Greenway and is coming off a career-high four tackles against the Cleveland Browns, giving him 19 on the year. Not eye-popping, but also not bad, considering he comes off the field whenever the Vikings turn to the often used nickel package.
In the end, Elflein gets the nod for Rookie of the Mid-Year over Gedeon and Cook. Most importantly, he gives Minnesota a stalwart in the center of the line for years to come. The franchise has already had a great history with centers from Matt Birk to John Sullivan to Joe Berger, so Elflein looks like the next man to put on that list.
Strongly considered: Dalvin Cook, Ben Gedeon