3 Unforeseen Bright Spots on Vikings Roster

Aug 10, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Mekhi Blackmon (11) and Minnesota Vikings cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. (23) talk during warmups prior to the game at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings hope to reinvent their win-loss record this Sunday, taking on the Los Angeles Chargers at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Chargers are a one-point underdog at the Vikings house in Week 3.

3 Unforeseen Bright Spots on Vikings Roster

And while the Vikings season has not gone as planned — fans expected Minnesota to beat Tampa Bay in Week 1 and lose to Philadelphia four days later — fans remain confident the club can turn it around.

3 Unforeseen Bright
Aug 26, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell takes the field before a game against the Arizona Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Along the way, Minnesota has uplifted three notable bright spots on the roster, and these are those men listed in alphabetical order.

1. Mekhi Blackmon (CB)

Rookie minicamp highlights from Minnesota Vikings cornerback Mekhi Blackmon’s first practice as a Viking after being selected in the 2023 NFL Draft. Blackmon is a cornerback from USC drafted by Minnesota in Round 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft.

The Vikings said goodbye to cornerbacks Patrick Peterson, Duke Shelley, Cameron Dantzler, Chandon Sullivan, and Kris Boyd in the offseason and said hello to Blackmon, Byron Murphy, NaJee Thompson, and practice-squader Joejuan Williams.

Those additions and subtractions caused some anxiety for Vikings fans — and still do — but Blackmon has done his part in two career games. Of course, he’s not a Pro Bowler or anything of the sort yet, but his 66.8 Pro Football Focus grade so far is encouraging. If he keeps up his current pace, in time, he’ll be a trustable cornerback. His 89.6 passer-rating-against is also respectable.

2. Camryn Bynum (FS)

Could Be Cut This
Dec 4, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Camryn Bynum (24) reacts after the game against the New York Jets at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Bynum’s 87.8 PFF grade is second-best on the Vikings through two games next to Justin Jefferson. Not bad. His re-ascension to prominence is notable because Minnesota has so many safeties on the depth chart. It could’ve been easy for Bynum to get buried behind Lewis Cine, Harrison Smith, Josh Metellus, or rookie Jay Ward, but such is not the case.

Others are currently buried by Bynum, mainly Cine.

Bynum burst onto the scene in 2021 when Smith was injured, regressed to the naked eye in Ed Donatell’s system last year, and is now back. The guy looks like a machine through two games.

3. Ivan Pace (LB)

Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott (35) runs with the ball past Minnesota Vikings linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. (40) during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports.

Speaking of machines — all the spring hype. All the early-summer smoke. The training camp revelation. Preseason confirmation.

Pace had a summer of dreams for an undrafted rookie, hinting to anyone who’d watch that he could be a steal-of-a-deal Viking when the regular season rolled around. Alas, the regular season rolled around, and indeed, Pace is the real deal.

He’s fetched an 85.2 PFF mark — also known as the sixth-best in football among off-ball linebackers. Vikings fans will curiously lament all the bad or delayed-development draft transactions from general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, but Pace’s rapid development cannot be ignored when adjudicating his early Vikings tenure as bossman.

Pace could even garner fringe Defensive Rookie of the Year attention if this, well, pace, continues.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.