4 Vikings Have Exceeded Expectations in 2022

4 Vikings Have Exceeded Expectations in 2022
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The whole 2022 Vikings team, in general, is a big positive surprise — a team that won 15 games in the last two seasons and missed the postseason in both fired the head coach and the GM, had an underwhelming draft, didn’t make any franchise-changing moves with the roster, and still managed a 12-3 record. A divisional title goes hand in hand with the record, clinching a home playoff game.

The Vikings are still in pole position to clinch the second seed with an outside chance to secure a first-round bye week by usurping the Eagles in the standings.

4 Vikings Have Exceeded Expectations in 2022

Some Vikings have outperformed their expectations throughout the season, but which players have been the biggest positive surprises?

Garrett Bradbury

4 Vikings Have Exceeded
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The center had an underwhelming first three career seasons, and fans asked for a replacement. Surprisingly, the Vikings opted to keep him in the starting center spot, they didn’t even add competition to the roster, and it was Bradbury’s job all along. His pass protection was a huge liability in the past, and he’s still not great at it. However, he is much improved and helps the Vikings’ passing offense. In recent weeks, the center missed time with a back injury and re-aggravated his injury in a car accident.

The Vikings were without Bradbury in the last three games, and it would be important to get him back for the postseason. Bradbury is in a contract year, and the Vikings have to make a decision about him. After his development, he may sign a big contract in free agency, mainly because most NFL teams are looking for competent blockers.

Duke Shelley

ESPN Names Pleasant Surprise for Vikings
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The cornerback is an incredibly interesting player. He was in the NFC North in the preseason but on the Bears roster. Bears GM Ryan Poles decided to release the cornerback to trim the roster down to 53 players. His Vikings counterpart, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, picked him up and signed him to his practice squad. It took him roughly two months to get elevated to the active roster.

Shelley appeared in nine games for the Vikings and started three contests after multiple cornerbacks went down with injuries. In Weeks 15 and 16, Shelley started for the purple team, and it is looking a lot like he deserves to keep his job. It will be interesting to see if Dantzler returns to the starting lineup in the next couple of weeks or if the former Chicago Bear is continuing to start. His contract will expire after the season, and the Vikings should do their best to keep him in town. PFF has him graded as the 14th-best cornerback in the business.

Christian Darrisaw

Vikings Reinforcements on the Way
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The left tackle was good as a rookie and was always expected to take another step. However, he did not just make a step. He jumped into All-Pro conversations. The 2021 first-rounder needed only one healthy offseason. Darrisaw’s tendency to push people around is a fun watch and a rare case of fun to watch offensive line highlights. He was a Pro Bowl snub but has many years left in his career to attend the event.

PFF ranked him as the second-best offensive tackle in the league, behind only 49ers’ Trent Williams. The Vikings often leave him on an island with elite pass rushers, and Cousins is still safe. That’s why it was a considerable change when Darrisaw missed time with two separate concussions, and Blake Brandel had to start. Suddenly, the Vikings had to adjust the offensive line to help their left tackle.

Ryan Wright

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When the Vikings cut their 2021 punter Jordan Berry, it was a shock for most. Wright needed just one preseason game after the move to showcase his worth when he hit a booming punt that landed without moving right before the end zone. Wright was an undrafted rookie and one of the best moves of Adofo-Mensah.

Wright is third in punts inside the 20-yard line, sixth in hangtime, and had only one touchback in his 70 attempts. That touchback was a great punt that the coverage unit could not secure in an almost comical whiff. The rookie is also sixth in net yards per punt with 43.4.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt