Andrew Booth Has the Perfect Opportunity to Shine with Vikings
Before the 2022 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings had a glaring weakness on the defensive side of the ball. Poor secondary play had been a theme over the last two seasons, but for the first time in what feels like forever, Vikings fans have reason to be optimistic about the backend of the defense.
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and his new regime devoted their first two picks in this year’s draft to the secondary. After two trades within the division, Georgia Safety Lewis Cine and Clemson Cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. heard their names called by Minnesota.
Cine should be looked at as a day one starter, but Booth has the potential to take a starting role as well. Despite being drafted 42nd overall, most analysts had the former Clemson star slated as a first-round talent. His sports hernia surgery in the pre-draft process limited his ability to test at the combine, which likely led to his draft stock falling to the second round.
Booth’s athleticism shows up on tape, so it’s not something that should be concerning as the team heads into phase one of OTAs this week. Although he wasn’t participating much during rookie minicamp, HC Kevin O’Connell said Booth is “really close” to making his return to the football field.
Let’s dive into some of the skill sets that Booth will bring to a secondary that desperately needs additional playmakers.
It’s entirely possible that the Vikings had the cornerback with the best ball skills in the entire class fall into their laps at 42. Booth plays smoothly in coverage and has the hip fluidity to mirror opposing receivers. His breaks on the football come naturally to him, and he has the hands to secure takeaways.
Booth tallied five interceptions over his final two years at Clemson, with the one above looking like he channeled his inner Odell Beckham Jr. to secure the pick. Adding a cornerback with the ability to win jump balls and secure takeaways will do wonders in Ed Donatell’s defense.
Perhaps the most entertaining aspect of Booth’s game is his willingness to come downhill in the run and screen game. He’s a risk-taker at heart, and that isn’t always a good thing, but when he finds himself in the backfield, he makes his presence felt.
He utilizes leverage and seems to have mastered the art of ankle tackling. There’s a physicality that he displays regularly, and he’s not afraid to let opposing teams know after he makes any sort of big play.
Good tackling skills mixed with top-end ball skills are arguably the two most important traits a cornerback can display in today’s NFL. Although we don’t have the testing numbers to pair up with both traits, the film shows that Booth has the athleticism to play sticky coverage at the next level, too.
Although Booth isn’t the biggest cornerback to come into the NFL, he does have plenty of length to use to his advantage.
The former Clemson Tiger stands at just over 6 feet tall and has an arm length of 31-and-a-half inches. The wingspan comes in at just under 77 inches, which ranks him in the 71st percentile according to MockDraftable.com.
These measurables are efficient and show that size won’t be an issue at the next level.
Learning from Legend and Competition
Having good players in leadership roles can go a long way in developing younger players in the NFL. The good news for Booth is he’ll be able to pick the brain of a likely future Hall of Famer in Patrick Peterson.
What this also brings to the table is more competition in the secondary. This pick can be seen as a win-win situation, as it will either produce another starting-caliber cornerback or give the Vikings more depth at a position of need.
Booth was taken early in the second round, so it’s likely he’ll someday be a starter. However, if it brings another level to Cameron Dantzler’s game, this should be looked at as a win as well.
The Vikings trading frenzy throughout the draft made some people question Adofo-Mensah’s decision-making, but that shouldn’t be the case. Instead of adding one blue-chip player to the secondary with the 12th overall pick, he was able to add two starting-caliber players because of the trade backs.
Booth has an extremely high ceiling and even told media members during his post-draft press conference that he hasn’t played fully healthy since high school. If everything comes together and Booth can stay healthy, he has the potential to be a true lockdown cornerback for many years in Minnesota.
The secondary got revamped, and top-tier athletes were added to all three phases of the defense. There was not a ton of resources spent on offense, but there was also competition added at right guard, as well as for depth roster spots at WR, TE, and RB.
Jack Day is a Senior Writer for VikingsTerritory. He has spent time writing for KFAN.com, Vikings Wire, and working for the Vikings. He also co-hosts the original Vikings Territory podcast @LTBVikings. You can follow him on Twitter @Jack_H_Day.