Vikings Waiting For 2022 Draft Class To Step Up

2022 was the first draft in Minnesota for general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. While there have been some success stories like fourth-round cornerback Akayleb Evans becoming a starter in Year 2 and fifth-round running back Ty Chandler serving as a decent RB2 in his sophomore campaign, the class has overall been a bit of a disappointment.

We already commented on Kevin Seifert of ESPN’s stance that former first-round safety Lewis Cine could be on the roster bubble, but Seifert didn’t stop there, claiming that the other three picks in the first three rounds could run into similar difficulties this offseason.

This statement expands to the later picks of the draft class, as well, though it obviously doesn’t pertain to Evans and Chandler. Worth mentioning, though, is former sixth-round offensive tackle Vederian Lowe, who was traded to the Patriots for a seventh-round pick and went on to start eight games in New England last year, and fifth-round pass rusher Esezi Otomewo, who was waived after a year with the team.

Of the remaining players in the class, LSU second-round offensive guard Ed Ingram has been the most impactful player. Ingram became an instant, full-time starter as a rookie and has only missed two games in his time with the team. That being said, head coach Kevin O’Connell seemed to indicate recently that both starting guard spots are being fought for in a three-way competition between Ingram, backup tackle Blake Brandel, and Dalton Risner.

The battle could be a result of underwhelming performance from the second-rounder. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Ingram graded out as the 57th-best guard in the league out of 77 graded players his rookie year. Though he improved to the 38th-ranked guard in 2023, his overall score that determines those rankings only rose from 57.0 to 59.5. For reference, the top players at the position graded out in the 80s. Ingram could certainly win one of the two available starting jobs over Brandel and Risner, but the fact that, going into his third year, Ingram’s in danger of losing his job as the incumbent starter points to relative disappointment.

Taken 17 picks before Ingram, former Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth has also failed to play up to his second-round draft stock. Booth was already playing behind the starters, Evans and Byron Murphy, last year, but he is in danger of continuing to tumble down the depth chart as free agent addition Shaquill Griffin comes in with far more starting experience and fourth-round rookie Khyree Jackson could have more goodwill to win a roster spot in his first year with the team.

Third-round linebacker Brian Asamoah has likewise failed to crack the rotation in his first two years out of Oklahoma. He’s not likely to earn any starting time in 2024 as he’s been consistently working behind Ivan Pace and Blake Cashman so far this offseason. The free agent addition of veteran Kamu Grugier-Hill will likely take away any snaps as the primary backup at the position, as well.

Seventh-round pick Nick Muse was maybe not expected to do much as a late-round tight end, but he’s only been on the field for two offensive snaps in his career and missed all but two games last year. He may not see much room for improvement in 2024 as he’s been buried on a depth chart that now includes T.J. Hockenson, Josh Oliver, Robert Tonyan, and Johnny Mundt.

Lastly, sixth-round receiver Jalen Nailor was also mentioned by Seifert but on a slightly more positive note. Seifert claims that the coaching staff really wants to see Nailor make an impact and possibly earn the WR3 role this offseason. That role was vacated as K.J. Osborn departed for New England in free agency, and the Vikings didn’t really do much to replace Osborn after he left. With Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison leading the receiving corps, Nailor has an opportunity to step up into a crucial role.

Nailor’s early career has been hampered by injury. He missed seven games early in the season last year before sitting out the final four contests, as well. But coaches have pegged him as a “slippery target that defenders have trouble tracking” during his limited time in games and practice. While the coaches are hoping that he’ll force their hand, he’ll be competing with Brandon Powell, who was the fourth receiver on the team after coming over from the Rams last year, and Trent Sherfield, who has been an inconsistent contributor over his six years in the league.

So, Adofo-Mensah’s first draft did not produce the desired results in 2022, and while he did a little better by nailing Addison in the first round last year, the rest of the 2023 class has yet to make their impact. He’ll hope to continue hitting on first-rounders with quarterback J.J. McCarthy and pass rusher Dallas Turner this year, and he’ll hope that late-round picks like Jackson and kicker Will Reichard show their impacts, as well. Entering a bit of a rebuild postKirk Cousins, the team’s success will depend partially on how well Adofo-Mensah can build the team moving forward.

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