Vikings Must Make Critical Decision about Rookie

The first rookie class of Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has been a bit disappointing, at least through 15 games of his maiden voyage.

The expectations were high, especially for the first two picks, but they couldn’t fulfill those in their rookie campaigns. Lewis Cine lost his training camp battle to 2021 fourth-rounder Camryn Bynum, who earned a starting job. In Week 3 against Detroit, starter Harrison Smith could not play, and most thought about Cine starting. However, third-year player Josh Metellus took over the safety duties.

Vikings Must Make Critical
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

One week later, Cine fractured his leg in London and was ruled out for the remainder of the season. Metellus started another game later in the season, and it turned out that he’s just a good player, and the decision to start him over Cine had nothing to do with the rookie. Head coach Kevin O’Connell recently stated that Metellus earned more playing time. Cine can start over again next season, and it’s way too early to call him a wasted pick.

Vikings Must Make Critical Decision about Rookie

Second-rounder Andrew Booth had a similar path. At first, he lost the camp battle to Cameron Dantzler. Then, he missed most games with multiple injuries. He is now on injured reserve and won’t play again in 2022. Ed Ingram won the starting job and struggled out of the gate but is slowly becoming a solid player. The rookie guard had a few consecutive good games.

Third-rounder Brian Asamoah and fourth-rounder Akayleb Evans were not supposed to see meaningful playing time in their rookie campaign. Evans had to step up because of injuries in the defensive backfield, and he started two games. Asamoah is filling in now and then, and he had two fantastic games against the Colts and the Giants in relief of veterans Kendricks and Hicks.

After that, the Vikings must decide on another rookie who showed great promise in the preseason.

Ty Chandler

Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; San Francisco 49ers cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields (36) tackles Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandler. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings RB room was already crowded when Adofo-Mensah selected Ty Chandler in the draft’s sixth round. Chandler played four seasons in Tennessee in a committee, followed by a year as a running back for the North Carolina Tar Heels, where he had his most productive season and recorded over 1,000 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. He added 216 receiving yards and a score in the air.

Chandler hurt his thumb in Week 5 and was placed on injured reserve. He returned to practice almost three weeks ago. Because of injured reserve rules, the Vikings must activate him in a 21-day window. That window will close on Wednesday. If the Vikings don’t activate him, he will be out for the remainder of the season, including the postseason.

Chandler did not see the field on offense and was only used on special teams. However, in the preseason, he showed impressive talent when he rushed for 113 yards in only 15 carries. If the Vikings would want to rest their top guys in Week 18, Chandler could play a significant role. He could also have a role if a running back were to go down with an injury.

Vikings Preseason Rookie Watch
Aug 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandler. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports.

Chandler’s biggest strength is his speed. He ran a 4.38 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. He is also a good asset in the passing game. In addition, Chandler showed that he can run with power and has the agility necessary to be an effective running back.

In the near future, the Vikings need to make more decisions that involve Chandler. Alexander Mattison, the backup running back, will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2022 season ends, as his rookie contract will expire. Star runner Dalvin Cook could be on his way out, especially with the new regime in town.

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Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The coaching staff built an offense around the passing game, as O’Connell coordinated in Los Angeles under coach Sean McVay. The Rams employ multiple running backs but without an expensive one. Releasing Cook would remove a dynamic playmaker from the offense but could save almost $8 million in cap space.

Without Cook and Mattison, the only remaining running backs would be Ty Chandler and Kene Nwangwu, barring another signing or draft selection. Chandler could play a big role in the future plans of the organization.

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