The Vikings’ 5 Best Newcomers in 2023
The Minnesota Vikings have two games remaining (vs. GB, at DET) in 2023, needing to win both and hoping the Los Angeles Rams or Seattle Seahawks lose a single game if the club wants to enter the postseason.
Kevin O’Connell’s team has lost four of its last five games, severely hampering a once-promising shot of joining the playoff tournament.
The Vikings’ 5 Best Newcomers in 2023
And with 15 games in the rearview, these are the team’s top newcomers, ranked in ascending order (No. 1 = best).
5. Brandon Powell (WR)
Mr. Clutch indeed, Powell’s introduction to the Vikings’ roster has been memorable. He grabbed a game-winning touchdown from Joshua Dobbs in Week 9, a win that established Minnesota as a Wildcard playoff contender, at least at the time.
Powell is also extremely reliable in fielding punts, and Vikings fans don’t take that for granted. He doesn’t fumble and is a decent returner.
Powell could serve as Minnesota’s WR3 this week if Jordan Addison doesn’t play, and he’s proven that he’s cut out for the task. A Kevin O’Connell guy from the 2021 Rams, Powell could return to Minnesota via 2024 free agency. He’s earned it.
4. Dalton Risner (LG)
Risner acclimated so well to the Vikings offense — so quickly — that general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah traded then-starter Ezra Cleveland to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Halloween.
The former Bronco is what Vikings fans dreamed about for a decade — a man specializing in pass protection over run-blocking. He’s indicated a few times that he loves the Vikings’ culture, meaning he could return in 2024 and ensure total offensive line continuity.
Risner should also be extendable at an affordable pricetag.
3. Mekhi Blackmon (CB)
Blackmon is the NFL’s 15th-best cornerback overall per Pro Football Focus — veterans and everybody included — and the second-best among all rookie CBs behind Seattle’s Devon Witherspoon.
Somewhat quietly, Blackmon has arrived as a stable defensive back, and his rookie campaign is so wonderful that Minnesota may not need a high-round corner in the draft. Every year, Vikings fans pull up mock drafts and think, “Which cornerback do we need this year?”
Blackmon can start in 2024, and the club need not draft another 1st- or 2nd-Round corner.
2. Ivan Pace (LB)
A God of undrafted hopefuls, Pace showed up to Vikings’ training camp and preseason, immediately looking like the real deal. Then the regular season rolled around, and Pace basically started out of the gate over second-year linebacker Brian Asamoah.
Pace doesn’t have bad games — which is really weird for a rookie, let alone an undrafted edition — and has served as a playcalling anchor in the middle of Brian Flores’ defense.
He’s the NFL’s 21st-best linebacker, according to Pro Football Focus and the top rookie linebacker per the same grading system. The man is the real deal, and it will remain unbelievable forever that he was not drafted last April.
1. Jordan Addison (WR)
Sit down and think about some of the Vikings’ top moments of 2023. The Jordan Addison touchdown on Monday Night Football against the San Francisco 49ers? How about the touchdown that put Minnesota up 24-3 over Green Bay in Week 8? Maybe the Nick Mullens throwaway pass to Addison that was scooped and scampered for paydirt?
They’re all Addison-fueled, and the rookie has arrived in a mega way this season. He’ll be partnered with Justin Jefferson for the next 4+ years. Even when Vikings football might feel hopeless — there tends to be a lot of that — thoughts of Jefferson + Addison can provide warm fuzzies.
Addison is on pace for 936 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in his first year. Not bad.
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).