2022 Draft Class Highlights Vikings 2024 Breakout Candidates

Defender on the Road
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The Vikings had a disappointing 2023 season that ended with four straight losses and the elimination from playoff contention in the season’s final week. But the purple team still had some pleasant surprises, like the performance from rookies Ivan Pace and Jordan Addison, as well as the play of the offensive line, a problematic unit for years that finally turned the corner.

2022 Draft Class Highlights Vikings 2024 Breakout Candidates

Safeties Josh Metellus and Camryn Bynum were a big reason for the improved defense. To make a return to the postseason, the Vikings rely on progress from some more players. Here are five potential breakout performers.

5. Lewis Cine

The final pick of the first round in 2022 hasn’t worked out like the decision-makers hoped. At first, he lost the camp competition to Bynum, then he was passed for Metellus as Harrison Smith’s replacement, and in Week 4, he suffered a season-ending leg injury.

2022 Draft Class Highlights Vikings 2024 Breakout Candidates
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In 2023, Cine was once again unable to clinch a starting gig but was also stuck behind Theo Jackson and Jay Ward. So why would this year be different? Well, Lewis Cine still has wonderful physical tools he displayed in college when he won the national championship with Georgia. He also flashed some elite test results at the NFL Combine. There’s a reason why he was selected in the first round, and his talent isn’t suddenly gone.

With Smith contemplating retirement, defensive coordinator Brian Flores could find a role for the 24-year-old defender in what might be his final chance.

4. Jalen Nailor

Also a 2022 pick, Jalen Nailor was primed for a breakout season after Adam Thielen’s departure. He shined in the Lambeau Field blowout loss in his debut year when he was the one bright spot and continued that in training camp. However, he suffered a pair of injuries that prevented him from helping the team win when they were without Justin Jefferson and needed someone to step up.

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The wideout showcased his big play ability at Michigan State and his rookie season. Health has always been an issue and will be the priority in his third season. Still, Nailor has the explosiveness to be a difference-maker in Kevin O’Connell’s offense. K.J. Osborn and Brandon Powell are slated to hit free agency, leaving a void behind Jefferson and Addison and opening the door once again for Speedy Nailor.

3. Brian Asamoah

Linebacker Brian Asamoah was a promising player in his rookie campaign when he ate into the playing time of veterans Jordan Hicks and Eric Kendricks, but Pace’s rise to stardom and Flores’ tendency to line up safeties at linebacker cost him snaps just like a nagging shoulder injury he underwent surgery a couple of weeks ago.

5 Vikings Should Get
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Kendricks is gone, and Hicks is a free agent, leaving Pace as the only significant linebacker. Asamoah brings exciting athleticism to the table, and the former third-rounder has the opportunity to earn a role in Flores’ defense in 2024.

2. Andrew Booth Jr.

Akayleb Evans had a decent 2023 campaign in the starting role, but his final three games were quite disastrous. Byron Murphy has one starting spot locked up, but in case there isn’t a significant addition in the offseason, it will be a race between Mekhi Blackmon, Evans, and Andrew Booth for the second spot in the starting lineup.

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Booth was limited in his first season by various injuries, but a healthy 2023 season resulted in some solid play whenever he was asked to play. He was a highly-touted draft prospect, and the third season could be his breakout year.

1. Ty Chandler

Ty Chandler is a story similar to Booth’s. The running back was hurt for the majority of his rookie season and was stuck in the depths of the roster in 2023. He was buried behind Alexander Mattison and in-season addition Cam Akers.

Monitor Key Offensive
Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandler (32) dives for the end zone as Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt (57) and Cincinnati Bengals safety Dax Hill (23) defend in the first quarter of a Week 15 NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Cincinnati Bengals, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati. © Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

But when both were hurt in Week 15, Chandler had an outstanding game versus the Bengals, producing the team’s only 100-yard performance of the season and clinching the starting role for the remainder of the season. Mattison returned, but it was pretty obvious that Chandler was the more dynamic player.

The Vikings could add another running back in the offseason–in the draft or by signing someone from a stacked free agent class — but Chandler is primed for a productive 2024 season regardless of competition, either in a starting role or as a change-of-pace runner.


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

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