Is It Time to Panic About the 2022 Rookies?

Jul 28, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Lewis Cine (6) during training camp at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The word bust is loosely thrown around as soon as a player misses a game or makes a bad play. It is common but unintelligent practice in the NFL world. Fans are impatient and want their rookies to be like Justin Jefferson in 2020 who produced 1,400 yards in his first season in the league. But even he did have to go up against the bust allegations in the first two weeks when he didn’t start.

Is It Time to Panic About the 2022 Rookies?

Is It Time to Panic About the 2022 Rookies?
Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Lewis Cine (6) warms up before the game against the San Francisco 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

That same bust label has been put on the 2022 Vikings draft class. A reason for it was the trade down from the 12th overall pick to pick 32 just to select Lewis Cine at the end of the first round instead of picking the widely regarded superior safety Kyle Hamilton. It was the first draft class of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s reign.

Neither first-rounder Cine nor second-round pick Andrew Booth has done much in the first season with the Vikes even though the secondary is the big weakness in Minnesota.

Cine lost the training camp battle against Camryn Bynum and when Harrison Smith missed a game, it was Josh Metellus who took over the starting duties. In Week 4, Cine suffered a season-ending compound leg fracture. He is now fully recovered but his rookie year was a lost season. The top draft pick played one snap on defense.

Is It Time to Panic About the 2022 Rookies?
Aug 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. (23) in the first half against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Booth was supposed to be a solution for the cornerback problems but three separate injuries slowed down his development and kept him off the field in practices and games. He played just over 100 snaps on defense, most of them were poor reps.

So should we already panic about the two young defenders? The answer is no. Every player develops at a different pace. Some come in and immediately set the league on fire, others have a slow rookie season and break out in their sophomore years and some others need even more years until they finally get going. The injuries were unfortunate but they are healthy now and deserve a chance to show their skills on the field before fans should write them off.

It is not time to be in panic mode yet but when is it time to panic? The answer is complicated. There are some scenarios in which we should start to listen to the alarm signs.

One such scenario would be if Cine and/or Booth are healthy scratches in Week 1 of the regular season. That means if they are fully healthy and still don’t make the 48 active players on gameday, we should start to be concerned.

Nov 13, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) straight arms Minnesota Vikings cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. (23) after making a catch during second half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The same can be said if they are sitting on the sidelines while the starters at the same position play horribly. If the starters play well, it is alright to back them up but if the Vikings’ cornerback struggles continue like in previous years and Booth is rocking the bench, then we have a problem. That counts especially for the second half of the season. It is not uncommon to keep the starters in place for a while even when they struggle.

A third scenario is if they get hurt again. Some promising NFL careers ended prematurely because of injuries. Suffering multiple significant or lingering injuries early in a career can have devastating effects on that player’s playing future.

At this point, just over 13 months after they were drafted, it is premature to count them out. The duo Booth and Cine was drafted in the top 50 of the NFL draft for a reason and only time will tell if they can live up to the hype. However, they need and deserve to get that time before a final judgment can be made.

Booth’s way to the field is by beating out fellow 2022 draftee Akayleb Evans and rookie Mekhi Blackmon for the starting spot, while Cine will once again back up Bynum early in training camp with the chance to move up the pecking order.

Brian Asamoah is expected to replace Eric Kendricks in the starting lineup. Jalen Nailor and Ty Chandler are backups but they have shown some enough promise to be considered for larger roles.

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