5 ‘X-Factor’ Players for the 2023 Vikings

Grim Injury News for Vikings CB
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.

X-Factor is defined as, “a variable in a given situation that could have the most significant impact on the outcome.”

5 ‘X-Factor’ Players for the 2023 Vikings

And the Minnesota Vikings will need men with that reputation to stave off regression from a 13-4 season this autumn. Such players can also be labeled ‘moment of truth’ assets.

Every NFL team has X-Factor personnel, and these are the Vikings examples in 2023 listed alphabetically.

1. Brian Asamoah (LB)

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.

Oodles of Vikings loyalists assume Asamoah will be the real deal in 2023, primarily because he resembled a cannonball when called upon as a rookie.

And while that assumption isn’t foolish, it’s presumptive and hopeful. Asamoah played just 119 defensive snaps in 2022. He must parlay the at-times-dazzling rookie performance into a full season — with the weight of a starter’s expectation.

If he’s fantastic and becoming of a starting off-ball linebacker, Minnesota’s defense can take shape. But should his 2023 output delve into best-laid plans or a sophomore slump, the Vikings defense could struggle mightily, mainly because the depth behind Asamoah and fellow starter Jordan Hicks is a bit frail.

2. Andrew Booth (CB)

the Vikings Latest
Mar 5, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Clemson defensive back Andrew Booth (DB04) talks to the media during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

Booth could be the 2023 defense’s most important player. After general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah signed Byron Murphy, no other ‘big name’ CBs followed. Ergo, the Vikings coaching staff and front office must enjoy Booth and his running mate, Akayleb Evans.

The X-Factor status for Booth is straightforward — if he’s productive, the Vikings CB room will hum just fine. But if Booth is hurt — or he stinks — the club will just have to hope the aforementioned Evans is finished with concussion problems, Joejuan Williams is surprisingly effective, or rookie Mekhi Blackmon is a day-one NFL starter.

3. Garrett Bradbury (C)

the Vikings Last 5
Nov 13, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Minnesota Vikings center Garrett Bradbury (56) on the sidelines during a game against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports.

The mission statement for Bradbury is simple — don’t devolve back into the Zimmera-era version of himself.

Vikings fans — with pitchforks — were ready to lambast Bradbury out of town at this time last year, but then he arrived in 2022 with a new coaching staff and actually excelled. The man played like a 1st-Round center.

Bradbury must maintain or improve the 2022 mini-breakout. Otherwise, Minnesota’s offensive line’s guts will again be sickly.

4. Ed Ingram (RG)

from Ed Ingram
Oct 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (right) and guard Ed Ingram (67) in action during the game against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Ingram had a hot-and-cold rookie season, which is not uncommon. His pass protection and run-blocking improved down the stretch of 2022 — an important time for it — but his overall body of work remained a humongous meh. He graded a 57.1 from Pro Football Focus.

It’s a reasonable mindset to expect Ingram’s upturn in 2023, but if he does not, Minnesota will turn to Chris Reed and hope for the best. Ingram was drafted in the 2nd Round 14 months ago, a spot that should net a sure-thing offensive guard.

5. Khyiris Tonga (NT)

Nov 6, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga (95) and Washington Commanders wide receiver Dax Milne (15) exchange jerseys after their game at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports.

Last year, nobody knew who Khyiris Tonga really was. Then the man showed up on the scene of Vikings football and thrived when Dalvin Tomlinson fell injured.

Well, Tomlinson fetched an elephantine payday from the Cleveland Browns in March, and the Vikings brought Tonga back — presumably to start at nose tackle — for cheap.

If Tonga is inefficient, Minnesota can only turn to rookie Jaquelin Roy, veteran Sheldon Day, or a journeyman free agent. Should Tonga follow up his phenomenal 2022 season with stardom, Minnesota’s defensive line won’t miss Tomlinson and his large cap hit.

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.