A Viking Is Among the ‘Sleeper Rookies’

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Multiple rookies from Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s second draft class are expected to contribute in the debut seasons. It starts with first-rounder Jordan Addison who is expected to join Justin Jefferson and K.J. Osborn as a top-three wideout option for quarterback Kirk Cousins. In addition to him, Jay Ward and Mekhi Blackmon might be in a position to earn a meaningful role in the struggling defensive back group.

A Viking Is Among the ‘Sleeper Rookies’

DT Jaquelin Roy is entering a defensive line room that lacks some high-end talent. He drew some Dalvin Tomlinson comparisons in the pre-draft process. If he is somewhat similar to the ex-Viking, he might be another player who can exceed the expectations set by his draft position.

Viking Is Among
Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports.

An intriguing pick was seventh-rounder DeWayne McBride. The running back had an outstanding college career at UAB and dominated his opponents for three seasons. While the foes in the NFL are much better, there is a scenario in which McBride’s talent translates to the pros and blows everyone away. That scenario gets enhanced because running backs rarely need time to get ready.

Chris Trapasso from CBSSports envisions McBride to be the Vikings’ sleeper rookie who will contribute in 2023:

I’m way too enamored with McBride. I have to keep reminding myself he was a seventh-round pick. But if there’s one position on the field that can reasonably make an impact being that late of a pick, it’s running back, and McBride has the goods. I’m telling you. That missed-tackle rate doesn’t happen by accident. And there’s a (good?) chance Dalvin Cook isn’t on the roster at the start of the season, right? That would leave only Alexander Mattison — and 2022 late-rounder Ty Chandler — ahead of McBride on the depth chart. McBride will contribute and could sneak into a vital role in Minnesota in Year 1. He’s bouncy, with plus vision, and experience in a zone-blocking scheme.

Chris Trapasso

McBride had a missed tackle forced rate of 36.1%, an outstanding number. He recorded more than 1,000 yards in 2022 after contact and had 45 runs of ten or more yards. All of those numbers ranked him in the top five in FBS football. The running back has phenomenal power combined with decent speed and vision. He is hard to bring down.

There Is a Dalvin Cook Plot Twist
Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports.

Dalvin Cook’s status will be the most intriguing topic in Minnesota until it is resolved. If they keep him, the backups won’t have a chance to shine unless Cook is getting hurt but if he departs, they can earn a huge role, including that of a starter.

Alexander Mattison was re-signed on a two-year deal for a total of $7 million with most of it guaranteed. Because of that investment, he is expected to take over for Cook. However, Chandler has shown some promise, especially in last year’s preseason, and the highly productive college star McBride is also in the mix.

He rushed for 3,523 yards in college with 3,084 of those yards coming in the last couple of seasons. McBride scored 32 of his 36 career touchdowns in the last two seasons. His downside is the receiving experience. The running back caught only five passes in his three college seasons. He either needs to learn it as soon as possible or he just wasn’t asked to catch passes in UAB’s offense. Chandler and Mattison are good pass-catchers out of the backfield.

Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

McBride hasn’t participated in OTAs because he is still recovering from a hamstring injury that kept him away from testing in the pre-draft process, a potential reason why he was available in the seventh round. Those injuries can be lingering. However, once he is back on the field, expect him to make some noise.

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