Don’t Forget These 2 Explosive 2022 Rookies

'Rookie Watch' in Week 18
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Indianapolis Colts safety Trevor Denbow (43) breaks up a fake punt pass attempt to Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The top attraction among the new Vikings is rookie Jordan Addison. He will surely change the Vikings offense if he is as good as advertised. Coaches and teammates are already raving about the playmaker. He will not be the only young offensive player to play a significant role in the upcoming season.

Don’t Forget These 2 Explosive 2022 Rookies

In the first draft class of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s tenure, he targeted defense early. His top two picks, Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth, were supposed to help the secondary, and linebacker Brian Asamoah was another defender added in the third round.

These 2 Explosive
Aug 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandler. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports.

However, Adofo-Mensah added some speed to the offense when he picked Ty Chandler and Jalen Nailor on day three. Both possess exciting explosiveness and showed flashes but couldn’t claim a big spot on offense and were stuck in backup roles. That could change in their second season.

Chandler’s situation is fluid. Dalvin Cook, the star running back who received most of the team’s carries whenever he was healthy, might depart from the team via trade or release. If so, a competition for the vacant running back snaps will occur in training camp. Alexander Mattison, Cook’s top backup, is the front-runner to start, especially since he signed an almost fully guaranteed two-year contract in free agency.

DeWayne McBride, a seventh-round draft pick, is also in the mix. He is a powerful runner but lacks experience as a receiver. McBride only caught five passes in his college career. Speedster Kene Nwangwu has almost exclusively been active as a kick returner, and the new rule changes do not help his case. His roster spot is in jeopardy if the Vikings don’t value kick returns like they used to.

Aug 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandler (32) carries the ball against the Las Vegas Raiders during a preseason game at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Chandler has a chance to claim a meaningful role on offense in the case of a Cook departure. He looked great in last year’s preseason, where he rushed for 113 yards on only 15 carries. That’s an average of 7.5 yards per carry. Granted, in a small sample size against NFL backups and players who didn’t even make the roster. However, he showed power and speed in addition to excellent contact balance. He bounced off tackles like a true star running back.

The young running back is also a decent receiver. Chandler caught 73 passes for 681 yards and 4 touchdowns in college. All of that could be enough for the second-year player to be in the mix for the running back snaps in Kevin O’Connell’s offense after a potential Cook departure.

Nailor’s path to the field didn’t get any easier when the team selected Jordan Addison with the 23rd overall pick, but he still has a chance to earn snaps behind Justin Jefferson, K.J. Osborn, and Addison.

The Vikings run a pass-heavy offense and need receivers for that to work. His main competition for the WR4 spot on the depth chart is Jalen Reagor, who has been a disaster as a true wide receiver in the NFL. The Eagles traded him away, and he didn’t use his fresh start. Reagor even got benched for Nailor in the game against the Colts because he was responsible for not just one but two interceptions thrown by quarterback Kirk Cousins. Besides Reagor and Nailor, the Vikings only employ unproven receivers.

Only 3 Vikings Played Well vs. GB
Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

Nailor showed his talent against the Packers in the Week 17 blowout loss. He fired up 3 catches for 89 yards and a touchdown and was one of the few bright spots. His season totals were 9 catches for 179 yards and 1 TD. He is also relatively unproven but had a year to learn the system, and the team valued him enough to keep him on the 53-man roster in his debut season. The statistics could’ve been better had the WR room not been completely healthy for the whole season.

Nailor received a 91.6 grade from PFF, which ranked him second in the NFL behind only Tyreek Hill. Similar to Chandler’s preseason, the sample size was tiny, but he is still a promising player. A receiver with the nickname Speedy is always intriguing. The Vikings don’t have anyone who can stretch the field by running past defenders, and he could be that guy.

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