Introducing the Vikings 2022 Draft Class
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was in the spotlight on draft day for the first time in his career. He orchestrated six trades. The former wall street trader is now officially an NFL trader as well. A lot has been talked about the trades, so this article is about the selected players, what their role will be in 2022, and who their competition will be.
The former Georgia Bulldog was universally recognized as the second-best safety in the draft, only behind Notre Dame star defensive back Kyle Hamilton. Cine ended up as the 32nd player selected in the first round and, therefore, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s first career selection.
The newest member of the Minnesota Vikings just won the national championship against Alabama and was named defensive MVP of that game. But he was not just a champion in college but also a champion in high school. He won two state championships, one when he was coached by legend Deion Sanders at Trinity Christian School.
First-rounders usually start in their rookie campaigns, which is the expectation for Lewis Cine. Harrison Smith is the other starter, and his competition is Camryn Bynum, the converted cornerback who was part of Rick Spielman’s final draft class. He started two games in 2021 and did a good job. But it is unlikely to be enough to win the starting spot over the extremely fast and hard-hitting first-rounder.
Booth was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and attended Clemson. After not playing a lot as a freshman, he played 333 snaps in a part-time role as a sophomore. In his third season, he earned the starting job and became one of the best cornerbacks in the nation.
Instincts and athleticism are his calling cards. He does most things extremely well, while his injury history is the main cause for concern. Knee injuries in high school and college and multiple minor muscle injuries were the reasons for some missed games. He missed the Combine with a minor injury and the pro day after having surgery on a core muscle. If Booth stays healthy, he’ll be a steal.
The two starting cornerbacks before the draft were Patrick Peterson and Cameron Dantzler. Peterson will be 32 when training camp starts, and Dantzler just got out of Zimmer’s doghouse. Booth will likely win a starting job before the season begins. He plans to be ready for training camp. At the very least, he’ll be cornerback three and surpass Kris Boyd as the top backup.
OG Ed Ingram
The Vikings have to finally get their offensive line right. The franchise signed a pocket passer in 2018 and did not support him with that pocket. Spielman invested a lot of resources into the offensive line, but it still was just good enough to be the 25th pass-blocking offensive line, per ESPN.
Ed Ingram comes with off-the-field issues. He faced allegations of sexual assault twice in 2018 and was suspended from LSU for one season. However, the charges were dropped. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah assured the media that the team did the necessary due diligence.
On the field, Ingram is an excellent offensive guard. He is a good pass protector, which is precisely what Kirk Cousins needs. At the senior bowl, he was named top offensive lineman of his team, where he interestingly took some reps at center.
Second-round guards come into the NFL and start right away. He doesn´t compete with the best guards in the NFL, but there are many options: New signings Chris Reed, Jesse Davis, 2021 third-round pick Wyatt Davis, and 2021 starter Oli Udoh. He could have a chance to play center, too. Garrett Bradbury enters the final year of his rookie contract and struggled so far in his career, especially in pass protection.
LB Brian Asamoah
The Oklahoma Sooner was Adofo-Mensah’s final pick on day two of the draft. Asamoah is a fast and undersized linebacker. The Browns drafted the linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in the 2021 draft. Vikings’ GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah worked in that front office and, therefore, after drafting Asamoah, compared the two with each other when he talked to the media.
The Vikings play with two middle linebackers in their new scheme. Eric Kendricks is one starter, while newly acquired Jordan Hicks is penciled in as the second starter. Asamoah is a way more polished player than Chazz Surratt and more talented than Blake Lynch and Troy Dye. For that reason, he should run away with the primary backup job while contributing to specific packages because of his coverage skills and speed. Long-term, he is an option to start at linebacker. He might have a small chance to replace Jordan Hicks at some point in the season, but at the very least, he should be the third inside linebacker on the depth chart.
CB Akayleb Evans
Evans is a long cornerback. His measurements are 6’2″ and 197 pounds. That, in combination with a 4.46 40-yard dash and long arms, makes him a prototypical cornerback. The Vikings’ fourth-round pick played at Tulsa before transferring to Missouri for his last college season.
He is an interesting project because of his physical traits. Evans will make the roster and has a chance to surpass some of the backups. He is a perfect scheme fit and has all the tools to develop into a starting cornerback in the future. In 2022, he will be a backup and special teams player.
DL Esezi Otomewo
For the first time since Nathan Triplett in 2010, the Vikings selected a Minnesota Golden Gopher. The fifth-year senior is one of the oldest players in the draft and is still a project. He will play inside as a defensive end in the 3-4 defense. Otomewo plays with a high motor and has some tools to work with, but the production in college never matched the potential.
The Vikings have some players inside. He has to beat players like James Lynch and Jaylen Twyman to make the roster. He will either make the roster and struggle to be active on game day or be a player on the practice squad where the team can work on his technique and watch him progress.
Chandler played his first four seasons in college in Tennessee, where he never had more than 655 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He transferred to play for the North Carolina Tar Heels, where he recorded 1308 scrimmage yards and 14 touchdowns.
The running back position is an interesting one. Dalvin Cook is the starter. Behind him, Kene Nwangwu takes one roster spot as special teams demon. Alexander Mattison was the backup for Dalvin Cook for three seasons and probably keeps that job. However, he had just 3.7 yards per carry in 2021 and struggled to relieve Dalvin Cook. Fullback C.J. Ham is technically a running back, too. A.J. Rose, the 2021 undrafted free agent, had some impressive showings in last year’s preseason. Just like the others, he has a chance for a roster spot. Chandler is a good pass catcher, something that is very important in the NFL. In addition to that, he can play on special teams as well.
Chandler’s role is hard to predict because it’s unknown if Kevin O’Connell needs a fullback in the offense, how many running backs the team keeps, and how much he values Alexander Mattison in a contract year in comparison to the rookie. At best, he’ll be Dalvin’s backup and special teamer. At worst, he’ll be a practice squad player.
OT Vederian Lowe
The sixth-round pick lacks the upside to be a starter in the NFL. However, he has to improve his technique but has a chance to become a swing tackle, the primary backup for the tackles O’Neill and Darrisaw.
In his rookie year, Lowe competes for the backup tackle spot and should be, at the very least, a member of the practice squad. He has a chance to be in the Rashod Hill role as a backup and part-time starter.
WR Jalen Nailor
Nailor is an interesting player. He tested with just a 4.5 40-yard dash. However, he looks way faster on game film. The Michigan State Spartan finished his college career with over 1400 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. In a 2021 game against Rutgers, the receiver posted a Randy Moss-like stat line of 221 yards and three touchdowns on just five catches.
Nailor could be a steal in the sixth round. He can hurt teams deep and could catch passes from another Spartan in 2022, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. In Los Angeles, Kevin O’Connell’s offense played with three or more wide receivers on 87% of the plays. Therefore, the team needs more receivers than in recent years. Jefferson, Thielen, Osborn, and Smith-Marsette are expected to be the top-four receivers. Behind them, Nailor has to compete with Blake Proehl, Olabisi Johnson, and special teamer Dan Chisena. There’s a good chance he’ll make the roster and can see the field on offense in 2022 and beyond.
TE Nick Muse
The Vikings went into the draft with a need at the tight end position. They waited until their last pick to address that need. Nick Muse is a willing blocker and a good athlete. He has to refine some technical flaws.
The competition between starter Irv Smith Jr. does not include any high-profile players. Johnny Mundt and Ben Ellefson are primarily blocking tight ends, while 2021 rookie Zach Davidson did not appear in a game as a rookie and is still a massive project. If he can beat out two of them, he’ll probably be on the roster. He is a better receiving threat than the two blocking TEs, which will help him in the competition. It’s a position where the team should strongly consider bringing in another player in free agency.
Overall, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah drafted ten players in his first draft. The four players he drafted in the first three rounds should see a lot of action in their rookie campaigns. At the same time, he selected some interesting prospects on day three, especially Akayleb Evans and Jalen Nailor.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who has a fable for 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 and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Arguing about the Vikings on Twitter is one of his favorite things to do. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt