4 Non-Rookie Breakout Candidates for the Vikings

Nov 6, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Commanders running back Antonio Gibson (24) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Brian Asamoah II (33) during the second quarter at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings will soon fire up mandatory minicamp in June, training camp in July, the preseason in August, and the regular season in September.

Indeed, meaningful Vikings happenings are on the way as the franchise seeks to repeat as NFC North champions for the first time in 14 years.

4 Non-Rookie Breakout Candidates for the Vikings

And inside that quest, these are four non-rookie breakout candidates to monitor, ranked in no particular order.

Note: S Lewis Cine and CB Andrew Booth were excluded because they were drafted in Rounds 1 and 2, respectively, 13 months ago, and it won’t exactly be a ‘breakout’ for players living up to their reputations.

1. Brian Asamoah (LB)

Breakout Candidates for the
Sep 25, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Brian Asamoah II (33) in action against the Detroit Lions during the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

In a small sample, Brian Asamoah looked like a linebacking droid as a rookie. He caused turnovers, wreaked havoc on special teams, and is now on deck to start in September with Eric Kendricks joining the Los Angeles Chargers.

His physical toolkit is freakish and should be deployed all over the damn place in Brian Flores’ belligerent defense. Asamoah has the speed, aggression, and playmaking to become a household name in Vikings fans’ homes.

2. Josh Oliver (TE)

Baltimore Ravens tight end Josh Oliver (84) spikes the ball after a touchdown score as tight end Mark Andrews (89) looks on and Jacksonville Jaguars safety Andre Cisco (5) is slow to get up after an attempted stop during the fourth quarter of a regular season NFL football matchup Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. The Jaguars edged the Ravens 28-27. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union]

Plug your ears — there’s always a chance TE1 T.J. Hockenson gets injured for a game or two. If that occurs, folks need not panic because the Vikings signed Josh Oliver at a handsome pricetag in March. He’s a run-blocking tight end with ‘upside’ as a pass-catcher.

When the Vikings rushing offense improves in 2023, be sure to send a thank-you note to Oliver because he’ll be a key component. He’s quite an athlete, too.

3. Ty Chandler (RB)

Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sean Mannion (14) hands off to running back Ty Chandler (32) during the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

For now, Alexander Mattison is the RB1 on all Vikings-themed depth charts and folks’ roster projections. But Chandler was a stud last preseason and turned 25 a week and a half ago. He was an ‘old’ rookie coming out of the 2022 NFL Draft, so if the Vikings aren’t going to put his talents to use in 2023 — then when?

Chandler and rookie DeWayne McBride have a serious opportunity to steal the carry load away from Mattison, especially if the Vikings fully embrace an RB-by-committee approach.

There’s a world where Chandler outshines Mattison this summer. Keep an eye on it.

4. Khyiris Tonga (DT)

Only 1 Surprise in
Nov 13, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga (95) against the Buffalo Bills in the fourth quarter at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports.

Tonga was the NFL’s 13th-best interior defensive lineman in 2022, per Pro Football Focus, and now folks will learn if that was a flash-in-the-pan performance. Why? Well, Dalvin Tomlinson skedaddled to the Cleveland Browns in free agency, presumably leaving Tonga to fill his job.

He assuredly looked the part last year, but sometimes ‘unknown’ players are one-hit-wonders. If Tonga looms in the same 70s PFF range this season, he’ll fully achieve a breakout and probably start for the Vikings in the next few seasons.

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.