Only 1 Surprise in Vikings Projected Starting Lineup

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With free agency and the 2023 NFL Draft in the rearview, plus minicamps around the bend in June, NFL-themed media has turned attention to projected starting lineups as most rosters are set for personnel.

Bleacher Report took on the task last weekend, and when the Minnesota Vikings arrived on the docket, only one surprise was present — a possible starting assignment for defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga.

Only 1 Surprise in Vikings Projected Starting Lineup

Tonga was an unexpected standout performer in 2022, and according to Bleacher Report, his first campaign in Minnesota was enough to warrant a starter’s gig in Year Two.

Only 1 Surprise in
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BR’s David Kenyon also forecasted an RB1 job for Dalvin Cook, but that’s probably because he’s technically still on Minnesota’s roster. Cook is likely to be traded or released after June 1st.

For Minnesota, Kenyon envisioned this offensive starter group, “QB Kirk Cousins, RB Dalvin Cook, WR Justin Jefferson, WR K.J. Osborn, WR Jordan Addison, TE T.J. Hockenson, LT Christian Darrisaw, LG Ezra Cleveland, C Garrett Bradbury, RG Ed Ingram, RT Brian O’Neill.”

And on defense, “Edge Danielle Hunter, DE Dean Lowry, DT Khyiris Tonga, DL Harrison Phillips, Edge Marcus Davenport, LB Jordan Hicks, LB Brian Asamoah, CB Andrew Booth Jr., CB Akayleb Evans, S Harrison Smith, S Camryn Bynum, NB Byron Murphy.”

Vikings Keep Free Agent Defender in the Building
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He added about the lineups, “Ultimately, the offense traded Adam Thielen for Jordan Addison. The meaningful changes happened in defense with seven new starters. Dean Lowry, Marcus Davenport and Byron Murphy signed as free agents, while Khyiris Tonga, Brian Asamoah, Andrew Booth Jr. and Akayleb Evans are returning players in elevated roles.”

Out of nowhere last season, Tonga was absolutely tremendous, tabulating a 77.9 Pro Football Focus grade, the 13th-best mark in the NFL among interior defensive linemen. The score was also the eighth-best on the Vikings roster. He’ll remain with the Vikings on an incredibly affordable deal, one year for $940,000.

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The BYU alumnus played 11 games in 2022 while starting 2 and registered 28 total tackles, 4 passes defended, 2 QB hits, 2 tackles for loss, and 0.5 sacks. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah preaches value ad nauseam, and retaining Tonga for $940,000 with that PFF grade (and that abbreviated statline) adheres to the spirit of Adofo-Mensah’s philosophy.

If Kenyon is correct, Tonga will replace Dalvin Tomlinson this September, as the ex-Viking used free agency to net a large contract (four years, $57 million) from the Cleveland Browns in March. Determining if Tonga maintains the 2022 production level will be among the top Vikings talking points this summer.

Otherwise, Minnesota has oodles of other defensive tackles to the lineup next to Harrison Phillips and Dean Lowry — Jonathan Bullard, Ross Blacklock, Esezi Otomewo, Kenny Willekes, Sheldon Day, James Lynch, T.J. Smith, and rookie Jaquelin Roy.

Vikings mandatory minicamp kicks off on June 13th.

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,’ and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by