An offseason rule: Beware of the Friday news dump.
This Friday, the Minnesota Vikings were on the wrong side of the headlines as the league announced that cornerback Holton Hill was suspended in the first four games of the 2019 regular season for violating the NFL's policy on performance enhancing substances.
The news came as a punch for the Vikings, who signed Hill as a free agent undrafted last offseason. Despite the project analysts' notes as high as the second round, he fell out of the draft due to reports that he failed to get a drug test in the NFL Combine. Hill was also suspended from college for violating team rules.
As a highly talented prospect, his performance on limited assignments last season was enough to believe him as part of the future. With injuries in the secondary, Hill played 376 snaps and allowed only 16 footsteps in 31 targets and a score of 67.0 against the quarterback – the third minor of any rookie with at least 30 pitches in his direction.
While his suspension is a slight blow to the 2019 version of the Vikings, the current iteration of the secondary is still quite solid, assuming that Xavier Rhodes recovers from a year when he was dizzy and 2018 first rounder Mike Hughes is fully recovered from his ACL tear last season. Surviving the four games without the corner 4 from the outside should not be a big setback. However, it can be a success from the team's perspective on the future of the position.
Coming in with serious concerns about his behavior, Hill has already had an attack on him. Now he has two. As the Vikings make plans for 2020 and beyond, they will have to assess whether they believe Hill is reliable to reach its full potential. It is possible that he simply made a mistake and returned to the right path, but now it is impossible for the team to be sure of that.
With Trae Waynes entering the final year of his contract and Rhodes reaching his age of 29, it is not clear if one of the two players will be on the squad in 2020. It would be wise to map out Hughes and Hill have the plausible substitutions if they played well in 2019. With Friday's revelation, it may be difficult for the team to believe that Hill can be a part of these plans. He may have to be treated as found money if things work from now on.
The Vikings were probably looking closely at the cornerbacks in the draft regardless of Hill's status because coach Mike Zimmer said his team could never have many defensive defenses. But before Friday there seemed to be more urgent needs, such as offensive line, defense, tight end, wide receiver and possibly safety. Looking to the future, the water is muddy in the cornerback position, which Zimmer considers absolutely vital to sustain success in defense.
The suspension could retreat to the top of the list, even though a corner in the first three rounds hardly made an immediate impact on Zimmer's defense. After the first round, teams are often anxious for areas of need for the next three seasons. If Waynes goes on a free agency and Rhodes does not come back next year, the Vikings can end up in cornerback if they do not make a draft later this month.
So Friday's suspension does not exactly spoil the Vikings' defense of 2019 or TCO's center of operations is working this weekend, but chances are it will eliminate Hill's goodwill and hopes (for now) and raise the cornerback in the Vikings' list. needs.
This year's draft team does not seem to have an elite cornerback perspective, but CBS Sports has rated 10 corners between 25 and 100 – and seven of them are taller than six feet. That may have been enough for Zimmer to be interested in drawing a curve even before the suspension was announced.