The Draft Bust Might Not Be a Bust after All
General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has received a lot of criticism for his first draft class in charge of the Minnesota Vikings. Fans rightfully lamented the lack of difference makers, or even contributors, among the 2022 rookies. But one of them is slowly coming around, and the Week 6 contest showed signs of development.
The Draft Bust Might Not Be a Bust after All
Lewis Cine is still a no-show, which is concerning. He was inactive in Week 6, a novum in this season. In the first three contests, he contributed on special teams, following some missed time because of a hamstring injury. Right guard Ed Ingram has shown remarkable improvement in his sophomore season, but his occasional bad plays still need to be fixed.
Andrew Booth’s career also needs more time before a final judgment is possible. However, he received significant playing time for the first time in the 2023 season, giving fans hope that he might still be a possible contributor in the future.
The sophomore cornerback played on four defensive snaps in Week 5, followed by 26 in Week 6 at Soldier Field, basically replacing rookie Mekhi Blackmon as the third CB and subbing in for Akayleb Evans, who has been playing through multiple minor injuries. He earned his opportunity in practice, as Brian Flores mentioned during his presser on Wednesday:
He’s done a really good job in practice and we’ve seen that over the course of two, or three weeks. Mekhi had been playing well, too, but we just felt like ‘Hey, let’s give Andrew an opportunity.’ I thought he did a nice job with his snaps throughout the game, made some good tackles, coverage was competitive. So he did some good things.Brian Flores
Pro Football Focus gave Booth a grade of 67.9, a solid number. His emergence would certainly be an unexpected but welcome development. He was drafted in the second round in 2022. Most draft pundits had him listed as a first-rounder despite the injury concerns.
Booth’s biggest problem has always been injuries. He was a four-star recruit coming out of high school, and he joined Clemson over many other offers. The sophomore claimed in the past that he hadn’t been fully healthy since his high school days, and those woes carried over into his professional career.
In his rookie season, he missed the offseason workouts because of a core muscle surgery. In training camp, Booth suffered a hamstring injury that kept him out for the first few games, and a torn meniscus ended his debut season prematurely. He only logged 105 snaps on defense despite Minnesota’s struggling cornerback group.
Entering his second season with a new defensive coordinator and new cornerbacks coming in, Booth slipped down the depth chart and ended up as the fourth guy behind fellow sophomore Akayleb Evans, free agent addition Byron Murphy, and rookie Blackmon. Added some struggles in the preseason, and the result was some chatter about whether Booth would even make the roster. But he did, and he apparently has improved.
Head coach Kevin O’Connell was asked about the cornerback on Thursday.
He’s done a really nice job and I thought getting him in there a little bit with what he’s been doing in practice…it comes back to that development word. The timeline for all the players that you bring in here, especially those draft picks, is not going to be the same (for everyone). Andrew has done a phenomenal job, he’s really been maybe one of our better special teams players all year long, and then he’s always been a really good tackler, he’s always around the ball.
He just continues to work on his technique and fundamentals in coverage and his fit in this defense, pairing him with Akayleb, Byron, and Mekhi and that group gives us some versatility at that corner position. But I was really proud to see him get in there and proud seeing him get in there and make an impact like he did.Kevin O’Connell
Earning the trust of his coaches is a big step in getting more opportunities in the future. He just turned 23 and was viewed as a talented player coming out of college. It is way too early to label him a bust, and the recent developments have been encouraging.
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