Vikings Counting on 1 Faction for 2023 Improvement

Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O'Connell at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, after a 20-17 win over the Washington Commanders in Week 9 of the 2022 regular season.

Reference any batch of credible NFL power rankings at the moment, and the 2023 Minnesota Vikings will live somewhere in the middle.

NFL experts and fans are lukewarm on the Vikings chances of winning back-to-back division titles, instead fancying the upstart Detriot Lions for NFC North supremacy.

Vikings Counting on 1 Faction for 2023 Improvement

And if the Vikings plan to prove those folks wrong, they’ll do so by relying on one particular faction of the current depth chart — the 2022 draft class.

Here’s Why.

Andrew Booth & Akayleb Evans

as April Arrives
Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports.

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah signed one big-name cornerback in free agency: Byron Murphy. And then that was it. He also unceremoniously said sayonara to Duke Shelley, who was magnificent in 2022.

Almost through a ‘there’s nobody else’ situation, Booth and Evans must start next to Murphy in 2022, implying the Vikings brass is excited about each man’s potential. Otherwise, Minnesota could’ve signed an extra competent CB in free agency or drafted Deonte Banks or Joey Porter Jr. with the 23rd pick.

But nope — they like these two 2022 draft class members for CB duty in September.

The Return of Lewis Cine

Counting on 1 Faction
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Cine broke his leg in England last October, ending a rookie campaign that hadn’t gotten off the ground in the first place. Camryn Bynum won the safety job opposite Harrison Smith while Cine was finding his footing on special teams.

Now, however, Cine’s injury recovery is progressing wonderfully, and he has to start before too long because of his 1st-Round draft stock. Ideally, a team doesn’t draft a man in Round 1 and then sit on him for two years for injury or poor performance. That’s when the ‘bust’ chatter begins. You might recall Mike Hughes.

Asamoah Time at LB

The Vikings Playoff Probability Meter: Week 14
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Like the CB section of the depth, the Vikings signed no high-profile inside linebackers after Eric Kendricks bolted to the Los Angeles Chargers. Of course, Troy Reeder joined the club, but he’s not a starter’s starter. Reeder is a depth linebacker, leaving Asamoah and veteran Jordan Hicks on the menu for linebacker duty.

Letting Kendricks walk because ‘we have Asamoah’ must’ve been the plan all along. If it was not, Minnesota could’ve explored the free agencies of T.J. Edwards, Germaine Pratt, or Bobby Wagner, for example. It also had the option of looking at Trenton Simpson, Jack Campbell, or Drew Sanders in the draft.

No cigar — because the Vikings admire their 2022 draft class, particularly Asamoah at linebacker.

Only Ed Ingram — No New Guards

Unsung Young Viking
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

At this very moment, the Vikings could pick up the phone and attempt to sign Dalton Risner, formerly of the Denver Broncos. He’s available via free agency, but Minnesota appears to be content with Ingram, a 2nd-Rounder from the 2022 NFL Draft.

Ingram wasn’t gangbusters as a rookie in 2022, but he did improve down the stretch of his maiden voyage, especially via pass protection. Through Adofo-Mensah’s actions — or lack thereof — the Vikings are outwardly committed to Ingram’s development. And rightfully so — sometimes it takes a rookie longer than 17 games to get cookin’.

However, Minnesota could have, in theory, drafted another guard or signed a free-agent version as a contingency plan, but they did not. It’s the Ingram Show at right guard, with veteran Chris Reed ready if Ingram’s maturation falters.

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 Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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