New Rule Changes Could Help 1 New Signing Make Vikings Roster

Nov 27, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandon Powell (19) returns a kickoff during the second half against the Kansas City Chiefs at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports.

The NFL gathered in Minneapolis this week for its yearly spring meeting. During the meeting, two new rules were agreed upon that could directly affect the makeup of the Vikings final 53-man roster. Rules involving the quarterback position and kickoff and the recent rule changes could help one new signing make the Vikings roster.

New Rule Changes Could Help 1 New Signing Make Vikings Roster

Team owners voted to tweak the rules again for the 2023 season, starting with kickoff returns. The decision was made to allow players to fair catch the ball and place it at the 25-yard line, a massive advantage for the receiving teams. The fair catch can be called for anywhere inside the 25-yard line, resulting in the ball being placed at 25 yards. So kicking the ball short to try and force the returner to bring the ball out has gone out of the window.

Some believe this is the beginning of the end for kick returns, with the end goal to remove them from the game altogether. The reason behind the move is player safety, with a particular focus on reducing concussions. A good move for a player’s health but a bad one for players like Kene Nwangwu, whose place on the roster is predominantly down to his return skills.

Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Kene Nwangwu (26) during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

NFL owners have approved a bylaw allowing teams to dress a third quarterback for games without using a roster spot on that player. Good news for Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall, as the Vikings didn’t carry a third quarterback last season. The option becomes more likely with this rule and means a choice doesn’t need to be made between the more experienced backup QB and the rookie. However, this does mean the Vikings need to free up an extra space on the 53-man roster. Step forward, Brandon Powell.

The Case for Brandon Powell

Last season, Nwangwu was the Vikings kick returner, and Jalen Reagor was the punt returner. Famously drafted a place before Justin Jefferson in the 2020 draft, Reagor’s career has been a disappointment. The Vikings traded for him, hoping to revitalize his career, but it hasn’t happened. There were no explosive punt returns last season, and he caught just eight passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. There was a brief moment for optimism on the back of a couple of good catches.

Still, unfortunately, increased involvement brought about some bad mistakes, including running the wrong route and causing an interception.

I have more confidence in Jalen Nailor’s future. A sixth-round pick from last year nicknamed “speedy” should make the roster with Jefferson, KJ Osborn, and this year’s first-round pick Jordan Addison. That likely leaves one place for another wide receiver, and I’m giving that spot to Powell due to all the roles he can fill. Last season he returned both kickoffs and punts for the Los Angeles Rams.

Rule Changes Could
Dec 26, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandon Powell (19) reacts with defensive end Mike Hoecht (96) against the Minnesota Vikings during the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Powell isn’t the explosive returner Nwangwu is, who has three touchdowns in his first three seasons. Nwangwu had 920 return yards from 35 returns last season, with one of those touchdowns, compared to Powell, who had 605 yards from 30 returns and didn’t have a touchdown from four seasons of returning kicks. He does have a punt return touchdown from 2021 when playing for the Rams when O’Connell was coaching. Last season he returned 24 punts for 177 yards, compared to Reagor, who returned 26 punts for 167 yards. 

Double Role Versatility

Powell is at least as good at returning punts as Reagor is and would be a solid kick returner, which may be all a team wants with the new rule. That would depend on how adventurous the Vikings want their special teams to be. Is it worth letting Nwangwu look for the big play and risk a short field when you can start on the 25-yard line? That’s the question O’Connell needs to consider when it comes time to finalize the roster.

Oct 18, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Brandon Powell (15) in action during the game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Atlanta Falcons at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Powell brings more versatility that will be in his favor; he is a wide receiver who the Rams used in the run game. Last season Powell had 24 catches for 156 yards, and Reagor had 8 for 104 and a touchdown. Powell also had 17 rushing attempts for 80 yards, and Nwangwu had 9 for 14 yards. 

The role of all three players on offense would be rounding out the depth chart. It’s not that Powell is a better player than Nwangwu and Reagor; it’s the fact that he can fulfill the role of both while taking up one roster spot, freeing up a space for that third quarterback or any other position the Vikings might want to bolster. Versatility is king when trying to grab one of the last remaining roster spots, and Powell has lots stacked in his favor.