X-Factor Candidates for the 2022 Vikings

Nov 14, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle James Lynch (92) tackles Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings have a lot of requisite features to win in the NFL. They have a good quarterback, an elite receiving duo, bookend tackles, a dynamic running back, and an offensive-minded head coach on the offensive side of the ball.

Defensively, the organization has a great pass-rushing duo, good run-stopping defensive tackles, an elite linebacker, and a Hall of Fame safety. If the cornerbacks and the offensive line can improve, which is possible after the investments in the offseason, the team can be really good in the upcoming season.

However, a team needs more to be successful in the league. Contributions from not just the top players of the roster but also under-the-radar players are important. Football is a team game, and all 53 players on the roster are required for success. The Vikings have a few of those possible X-factors for the 2022 season.

James Lynch

Nov 21, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (19) and Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle James Lynch. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Rumors about signing Ndamukong Suh went away as quickly as they came up. He would certainly help to provide an interior pass rush, but the Vikings have an underrated player who can do some of that in 2022 and become an X-factor. Lynch was an absolute stud in college when he played three seasons for Baylor.

In his first two seasons on campus, Lynch played a rotational role as an interior defensive lineman. In his third and last college season, however, Lynch rose to stardom after Matt Rhule, the current head coach of the Carolina Panthers, moved him from the inside of the defensive line to the outside. He surprisingly became a full-time edge rusher. Lynch recorded 16 sacks, 19 run stops, and 13 quarterback hits. The incredible stats resulted in a big haul of awards. First-team All-Big 12, unanimous All-American, Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year, and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

In the draft, Lynch was overlooked. He is a unicorn. There are no edge rushers with 295 pounds in the NFL, but he had incredible production at that spot in college. The new scheme will be perfect for him because he can play inside in the 3-4 defense. He can bring the pass rush on obvious passing downs. He can also play in packages with three defensive tackles, which should be the case in about 20% of the plays. The quick defensive tackle is a great fit next to Harrison Phillips or Dalvin Tomlinson when defensive coordinator Ed Donatell doesn’t expect his opponent to run the football.

Jalen Nailor

How Rookie WR Jalen Nailor Fits with 2022 Vikings
Jalen Nailor

Nailor is an interesting player. His nickname is ‘Speedy,’ his college tape shows his elite speed, but his 40-yard dash time showed an average time of 4.5. He appears to be much faster on game film and, therefore, could be a steal for the Vikings in the sixth round. The receiver recently said on the Bleav in Vikings podcast that he intends to return punts for the Vikings.

He can also function as a deep threat in Kevin O’Connell’s offense. In his final year playing for Michigan State, he had a career game against Rutgers. The final stat line reminded a lot of Randy Moss when he scored three touchdowns and had 221 yards on just five catches. A deep threat like this should excite another former Spartan — quarterback Kirk Cousins.

The Vikings need receivers in 2022. Kevin O’Connell comes from the Rams, and they had at least three wideouts on the field on 87% of their plays. The Vikings, meanwhile, did so just 60% of the time. Nailor has to beat out a few players, such as veterans Bisi Johnson and Albert Wilson, but his talent should help him secure a roster spot and playing time.

C.J. Ham

Dec 9, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings fullback C.J. Ham. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Ham is an exceptional run and pass blocker. He is awesome in the passing game as a receiver. He can run the football. The fullback is the total package, and much more than just a meaningless piece to an offense like some people view fullbacks in general in 2022.

The position is slowly dying, but he is too good to be unused. Kevin O’Connell, the new Vikings head coach, is too smart to only play a spread offense without his star fullback. He will line up in the backfield and possibly play some tight end. Ham was an essential part of the offense in Mike Zimmer’s tenure, and that won’t change anytime soon.

Camryn Bynum

Oct 10, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Camryn Bynum. Mandatory Credit: Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

The second-year player probably lost his job to the rookie Lewis Cine on draft day. Well, he lost his job as starting safety.

Bynum will still find a way to be on the field. In some packages, he might be the slot cornerback. In some others, he could play as a sub-package linebacker and cover a specific tight end. Bynum can also play some snaps to give one of the other two safeties a rest and maybe even start the year until Cine is ready.

The safety was asked to deliver in 2021 when Harrison Smith suddenly missed two games. Bynum stepped up and had a phenomenal starting debut against the Ravens. The new coaching staff will recognize a good football player worth finding a place for in the new defense. He is a great candidate to become an X-factor in the 2022 Vikings team.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. He chose the Vikings as his favorite team, despite Christian Ponder being the quarterback at the time. 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