Well, the Vikings Found a New Slot CB

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The slot cornerback position was one the Vikings had to address going into the 2023 offseason after Chandon Sullivan’s contract expired. They seemingly never made any efforts to bring the veteran back to Minnesota.

After already picking a cornerback in round three of the draft when general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah chose Mekhi Blackmon out of USC and added him to a depleted room to help rebuild the defense with new defensive coordinator Brian Flores at the helm.

Well, the Vikings Found a New Slot CB

The nickel cornerback position is getting more important every year with the evolution of NFL offenses. More and more teams run three wideout sets regularly, and someone has to cover the slot receiver. In addition to going up against three receivers more frequently, those slot receivers are improving.

Slot WRs in the past were just some skinny-but-shifty dudes who caught six-yard passes all the time, but that changed. A nickel CB in today’s NFL might have to go up against Justin Jefferson, Davante Adams, and Cooper Kupp in a season.

The Vikings players at that position haven’t been great in recent years. Mackensie Alexander was replaced by Sullivan, an upgrade but left much to be desired. The players must be quick, tough, shifty, and need a high football IQ.

Minnesota traded down in round three, the Chiefs went up 15 spots, and Adofo-Mensah received a 2024 fifth-rounder in return. After waiting a little longer, Vikings fans learned about their new player, who was drafted 134th overall.

Vikings Found a New
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The Vikings brought in defensive back Jay Ward from LSU, he was announced as a safety, and that might be the position he’ll end up with. However, he is well-suited to be the new slot cornerback for the purple team.

Ward is 6’1″ and 188 pounds with an outstanding 10-yard split which shows his acceleration. The top-end speed is one of his problems. All of that sounds like the description of a slot CB. He is also excellent in run support, which is an important feat for a slot guy because he is playing close to the middle of the field, and he is a good blitzer.

Minnesota’s cornerback room has only one player with experience in the slot, but Byron Murphy is way too valuable to play there. He will start on the outside. The other side will be handled by one of the 2022 rookies Akayleb Evans or Andrew Booth, or third-rounder Blackmon.

After Sullivan left, the slot was vacant, and Ward should be in contention to earn that job.

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Ward is another aggressive player, similar to Blackmon, a pick that has Brian Flores written all over it. Flores also likes versatility, and Ward can move around. He played in a lot of different positions last year. Two hundred thirty snaps came in the slot, 178 as an outside cornerback, 108 in the box, and 104 as a deep safety, according to PFF.

He is an absolute dude. He’s the guy who people listened to on that defense. Worst-case scenario, he will be a great special teams guy.

An anonymous regional scout told Lance Zierlein from NFL.com

Ward will contribute in a wide-open secondary or be a good special teamer. The Vikings lost cornerback Kris Boyd in free agency, a valuable special teams player. He’s a tough guy with leadership skills and much experience in college.

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