Vikings Draft Confirmed the Expected
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah entered his second draft in charge of the Vikings organization with only five picks. Leading up to the draft, it was a total mystery which positions he would address. After a couple of trades, he managed to draft six players, some intriguing prospects.
The GM brought in some much-needed help for Brian Flores’ defense, Jordan Addison, a new receiver to help Justin Jefferson in the passing game, a developmental quarterback, and a running back, but he ignored a different spot.
Vikings Draft Confirmed the Expected
The three defenders added to the roster all have a chance to impact the defense immediately. Mekhi Blackmon cost the most draft capital. He was the third-round selection. He will fight for a starting cornerback job in training camp with Andrew Andrew Booth.
Swiss army knife Jay Ward out of LSU is a candidate to play in the slot. The Vikings didn’t replace the departed Chandon Sullivan, so the spot is vacant. His LSU teammate Jaquelin Roy is the newest addition to an underwhelming defensive line group. He might be a contender to replace Dalvin Tomlinson, who signed with the Browns.
Adofo-Mensah gave his new defensive coordinator some help but ignored one position, linebacker.
When the Vikings released Eric Kendricks right before the start of free agency and Jordan Hicks took a pay cut, some expected the team to be set at linebacker, and those were correct. Others expected the Vikings to sign a different free agent or even draft a starter early, but the tandem is still at the top of the depth chart in May.
Hicks is a veteran, and his experience will help second-year defender Brian Asamoah grow into the starter role. In addition to his leadership, he still provides decent play, despite turning 31 in June. While he doesn’t possess the speed of a young player, he is still effective at the line of scrimmage against the run and on blitzes. Hicks has never been a great coverage linebacker. If he’s used right, he’s a solid player, and the new scheme might help him eliminate some 2022 struggles.
His teammate Asamoah is the future of the Vikings’ LB group. At least that’s the hope in Minnesota. He played mostly well in his rookie campaign but only saw the field on 119 defensive snaps, forcing a huge fumble against the Giants on Christmas Eve when he just ripped the ball out of Daniel Bellinger’s hands. Asamoah also forced a fumble against the Colts, but the officials whistled the play dead, a mistake, as replays showed.
Asamoah is the prototypical modern-day NFL linebacker. He is fast and explosive but doesn’t have the size of Hicks or linebackers or the past. There’s a good chance that Asamoah will struggle at times because he is a second-year player without much experience. He will make the occasional rookie mistake. However, he will play fast and has the talent to become one of the better linebackers in the NFL. His speed flashed on special teams.
The Vikings added one intriguing linebacker prospect, Ivan Pace. The undrafted rookie was expected to be a fourth or fifth-round pick, but the Vikings got him without spending a pick. Pace is undersized, the main reason he wasn’t selected, but he offers excellent pass-rushing skills and was highly productive in Cincinnati’s defense last season. If the rookie makes the roster, there could be a role for him as a blitzing linebacker.
Also employed is Troy Dye, who is entering his fourth season with the purple team. Dye is a special teams player and better suited as a backup than a starter. Free agent signing Troy Reeder is an interesting player. He was always a backup for the Rams but found a way to be a big part of the Super Bowl-winning defense. Reeder will compete with Dye and Pace for backup spots. Special teams ability will play a huge role in the decision-making process.
It wouldn’t be shocking to see the Vikings add another linebacker to the group. Myles Jack and Kyle Van Noy both have a history with Flores and would make sense. If the Vikings roll with Hicks and Asamoah, it’s a clear sign that they are confident in the duo, considering that cheap options are available. For now, the starting linebacker duo is set.
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
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