The Homegrown Nature of the Vikings 2022 Offense

The Homegrown Nature of the Vikings 2022 Offense
Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, and Irv Smith Jr.

The Minnesota Vikings added key defensive personnel via free agency to start games in the last couple of years, but the offensive side of the enterprise is largely homegrown.

Indeed, around half of the defensive starters were not drafted by Minnesota — Jordan Hicks, Patrick Peterson, Harrison Phillips, Za’Darius Smith, Chandon Sullivan, and Dalvin Tomlinson.

Glance at the depth chart on offense, though, and the arrangement is markedly different. In fact, per spring depth chart projections, Kirk Cousins is the only outsider from the group drafted elsewhere.

Vikings Offensive Starters


QB: Kirk Cousins (WAS, R4)
RB: Dalvin Cook (MIN, R2)
RB: Alexander Mattison (MIN, R3)
WR: Justin Jefferson (MIN, R1)
WR: Adam Thielen (MIN, UDFA)
WR: K.J. Osborn (MIN, R5)
TE: Irv Smith Jr. (MIN, R2)
LT: Christian Darrisaw (MIN, R1)
LG: Ezra Cleveland (MIN, R2)
C: Garrett Bradbury (MIN, R1)
RG: Ed Ingram (MIN, R2)
RT: Brian O’Neil (MIN, R2)
FB: C.J. Ham (MIN, UDFA)

Dec 25, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) and wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

While the defense possessing free-agent names drafted by other teams is not a bad thing — just as other NFL teams showcase non-organic starters on offense — this Vikings tendency is somewhat unique.

The Buffalo Bills are slated to start five non-organically-drafted players on offense in 2022. The Arizona Cardinals will be around eight. It’s four for the Cleveland Browns. And the Chicago Bears will start about four such men, too.

Minnesota isn’t the only team with a homegrown offense, but the lineage of this tendency can be sourced to scouting and subsequent draft habits. Somehow during a defensive era of football led by Mike Zimmer for eight years, former general manager Rick Spielman managed to concoct a starting offensive lineup via the draft — now given a rubberstamp by two newcomers in Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell.

Kevin O'Connell
Kevin O’Connell

On the other hand, a case can be made the Vikings should look outside of its draft walls to fix team weaknesses. For example, Minnesota ranks as follows via pass protection in the last eight seasons, per Pro Football Focus:

  • 2014 = 23rd
  • 2015 = 28th
  • 2016 = 30th
  • 2017 = 17th
  • 2018 = 27th
  • 2019 = 27th
  • 2020 = 29th
  • 2021 = 27th

Most sensible Vikings enthusiasts would trade multiple homegrown players to drag those OL woes from Hades to respectability. In other words, perhaps the offensive line needed some outside talent instead of the organically-drafted players over and over. The Vikings draft acumen in selecting skilled pass protectors floundered in the last decade, and the proof is in the numbers.

The takeaway? If the Vikings draft an offensive player — past or present — there’s a reasonable chance he will start, evidenced by the current depth chart, especially in contrast to the starting defensive personnel.

Moreover, the trait will be one to watch as more drafts are conducted by Adofo-Mensah with Spielman in the rearview.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

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