The Rise of Josh Metellus

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The 2023 season has seen the continued rise of Josh Metellus, a fourth-year safety drafted in the sixth round of the 2020 draft. One of the keys to roster building is finding good players throughout the draft every year. For a sixth-round pick, Metellus is working out wonderfully well.

The Rise of Josh Metellus

Metellus spent most of his first two seasons confined to special teams, which is nothing unusual for a late Day 3 pick. Proving his worth as a special teamer, he bided his time and finally saw increased opportunity in defense in Year 3. There were three starts across the season and a total of 258 defensive snaps played — compared to 70 over his first two seasons. After an Achilles’ injury ended Brian O’Neill’s season, Metellus was voted interim team captain to finish the season — an indication of his standing within the squad and how he was progressing as a player.

rise of josh
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The arrival of Brian Flores saw a change in approach from the Vikings defense. A staple of the Flores defense has been three safeties on the field. Before the season started, there was a lot of talk about the 2022 first-round pick, Lewis Cine, getting playing time as the third safety. That hasn’t materialized. Instead, it has been Metellus lining up with Harrison Smith and Camryn Bynum — being named a starter for all five games so far this season. Is Cine struggling to come back from the broken leg he suffered last season, or is he just struggling and not as good as Metellus right now?

Praise from the GM

There were signs of how highly the Vikings regarded Metellus during the offseason. The Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah went on Peter Schrager’s podcast and declared the Vikings safety his team’s unsung hero. The GM heaped praise on the Vikings number 44. “He’ll play some more this year, so I think you’ll see the stuff that we’ve seen. He was a special teams stalwart last year, a team-captain type.” 

Adofo-Mensah continued with what Metellus means to his teammates and the entire organization. “You can feel when somebody’s teammates really love them, really appreciate them, and really want to follow them into battle, and he’s one of those guys.” Confirmation of what Adofo-Mensah was preaching came when Metellus was voted to be one of the team’s eight captains. “He’s everything that the Minnesota Vikings are about, and I think people are really going to appreciate that more this season,” he added.

Through five games, there certainly is more appreciation of Metellus, the player.

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The ultimate nod of approval from the GM came in the form of a contract extension, which arrived on the eve of the season. It surprised many that a sixth-round rookie who was seen as a depth player and was on a cheap rookie contract. Would suddenly be given a two-year extension and a contract that could be worth up to $13 (6 guaranteed) million. Of course, we would soon discover Metellus was now considered a starter and an important part of what Flores wanted his defense to be. The contract was a reward for his progress.

A Solid Performer

Metellus started his Vikings career on the practice squad and has certainly come a long way. He always performed adequately every time he was called upon to step in on defense. In 2022, he tallied 42 tackles, including a tackle for loss, plus five pass deflections and a single interception. His performances last season garnered an excellent 85.1 overall grade from Pro Football Focus. On reflection, it shouldn’t be surprising that the Vikings viewed Metellus as a potential starter this season.

Through five games, Metellus has played on 300 defensive snaps, almost doubling the amount he played across his first three seasons. He has played on 86% of the Vikings defensive plays, showcasing his integral role. He hasn’t left special teams behind, though, playing on 55% of plays, which is down from previous seasons, but he’s still doing his bit. Metellus has 34 tackles, including a tackle for loss, 2 QB hits, and 2 pass deflections so far this season. PFF gives him a credible 71.4 overall grade.

The Vikings Have a Brand
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A solid performer, a captain, and someone who won’t shirk responsibility. Vikings players have been quiet on social media this season, especially compared to last season — which is understandable. Metellus shared a picture of the NFL’s division tables on the X app with a simple message — “Dug ourselves a hole, time to get to climbing!”

Whether it’s rescuing this season or turning attention to coming back strong next year, the Vikings need strong personalities in the locker room. They have one in Metellus.