Unsung Vikings Rookie Looks Like a Future Star

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Addison and Ivan Pace have been the focus of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s second draft class in charge of the Vikes. Addison, 21, has been an excellent wideout since Week 1, combining sweet route running and playmaking ability. Pace has been a force in the center of Brian Flores’ defense as a blitzing linebacker, in coverage and against the run.

Unsung Vikings Rookie Looks Like a Future Star

Unsung Vikings Rookie Looks Like a Future Star
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Both rookies have a chance to become foundational pieces in Minnesota and have rightfully received the most headlines. However, there is another rookie who is slowly turning heads. Cornerback Mekhi Blackmon has been an excellent contributor recently.

The Vikings badly needed cornerback help in free agency and during the draft season, as sophomores Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth were the only potentially contributing cornerbacks. They ended up signing veteran Byron Murphy in free agency. He has been a good defender all year.

Entering the draft, the Vikings needed at least another defensive back, although they lacked their second-round pick, which was part of the T.J. Hockenson trade, and had many other holes. Addison filled one of those in the first round. Blackmon was the selection in the third round. The USC defender was the 102nd overall pick, curiously the same as Kirk Cousins and Alexander Mattison.

Unsung Move of the
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Blackmon was a backup in the offseason workouts but quickly usurped veteran Joejuan Williams in training camp. And that should’ve been expected after putting up phenomenal numbers at USC. He was graded by PFF as a top-5 cornerback in the country in both man and zone coverage and ranked as the second-best CB in the nation behind only fifth-overall pick Devon Witherspoon.

The knocks on him were his size at 5’11” and 178 lbs and his age. At 24, Blackmon was one of the older prospects. Regardless, everything else was positive in scouting reports. His man coverage skills, paired with elite competitiveness and aggressive mindset, are a Brian Flores special.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

At the start of the season, Blackmon was viewed as the team’s slot cornerback, but this time, the brilliant defensive mind of Flores actually hurt him. The new defensive coordinator decided just to erase the slot cornerback position to add Josh Metellus to the field. Metellus, the third safety, has played a significant role this season and has played 91% of the snaps.

Then, a few weeks ago, Andrew Booth received playing time as the team’s backup and third cornerback. However, Blackmon played more in Week 10, and throughout the season, he has played 201 snaps on defense. Booth has logged only 69.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Facing Derek Carr and later Jameis Winston on Sunday, both quarterbacks that tend to make some risky throws, Blackmon caught his first career interception.

Just a couple of weeks prior to that grab, he locked down Packers receivers on multiple plays when they attempted a comeback late in the game.

Tork Mason-USA TODAY Sports.

PFF has graded him as a top-20 cornerback in the NFL. Through 170 coverage snaps, Blackmon was targeted 21 times and has allowed 11 catches for 116 yards. In addition to his interception, he has made five pass breakups, resulting in an unusually high on-ball production.

Evans and Murphy have been decent at their job, so there is no need to change anything in the defensive backfield, but he certainly looks like he’d be up for the task if he were asked to play more. Blackmon looks like a steal less than seven months after the draft.

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