Vikings Rookies Snubbed
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s 2022 rookie class was disappointing, with Andrew Booth and Lewis Cine–his two top picks– barely seeing the field in their debut seasons. The new GM was under pressure in his second year in charge, and his rookies delivered. Despite entering the draft with only five draft picks, he found a decent number of contributors.
Vikings Rookies Snubbed
Jordan Addison and Ivan Pace certainly highlight his draft class. Adofo-Mensah chose receiver Addison with the 23rd overall pick, making him the fourth straight WR selection. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Zay Flowers, and Quention Johnston had their experiences in their first campaign, but none of the first-round receivers had the same impact as Addison, and surely none of the off-ball linebackers came close to Pace’s production.
Despite their excellent rookie seasons, Pace and Addison were snubbed from the AP Rookie of the Year Awards, and neither made the list of the five finalists for Offensive or Defensive Rookie of the Year.
The five guys nominated for Offensive Rookie of the Year:
- QB C.J. Stroud, Houston Texans
- RB Jahmyr Gibbs, Detroit Lions
- RB Bijan Robinson, Atlanta Falcons
- TE Sam LaPorta, Detroit Lions
- WR Puka Nacua, Los Angeles Rams
Quarterback Stroud has been the favorite for the award for quite a while. He guided his franchise into the playoffs after years of rebuilding and led the league in touchdown to interception ratio and passing yards per game. No other player has led the league in both categories in the same season in the Super Bowl era.
Rams wideout Nacua was a college teammate of Vikings quarterback Jaren Hall at BYU. He broke the all-time record for receiving yards in a rookie season and was a large reason the Rams made the playoffs instead of playing for draft picks like expected.
Another record-breaking season followed LaPorta. Detroit’s tight end set multiple rookie milestones and was unusually productive at a position that mostly needs a year or two to get acclimated to the NFL level. The two running backs showed why their teams were right to pick them in the top half of the first round.
Addison posted 70 receptions for 911 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. The only two players with the same or better numbers in their rookie seasons were Odell Beckham Jr. and Ja’Marr Chase.
He was supposed to be Justin Jefferson’s sidekick but was asked to step into a more prominent role once Jefferson was forced to miss time with his hamstring injury. Addison will turn 22 on January 27 and has a bright future. A big mystery is the identity of his passer in 2024 and beyond, as Kirk Cousins is not under contract for another season. He might return, but just as likely, the Vikings will address the position in the draft.
The former Pittsburgh and USC star showed the necessity of playing with a quarterback who has the ability to give him chances, something Joshua Dobbs struggled with. He had much better numbers with Cousins and Nick Mullens under center.
Also exceeding expectations was linebacker Pace, who fell in the draft. His size was a massive concern, but he used it as fuel, as a chip on his shoulder. Trying to prove his critics wrong, Pace didn’t just make the roster. He claimed a significant role in Brian Flores’ defense. But he couldn’t make an appearance on the shortlist for Defensive Rookie of the Year like these five players:
- DL Jalen Carter, Philadelphia Eagles
- DL Kobie Turner, Los Angeles Rams
- OLB Will Anderson Jr, Houston Texans
- CB Devon Witherspoon, Seattle Seahawks
- CB Joey Porter JR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Carter is the favorite to win the award, as he was just as good as advertised. Until an incident in college dropped his draft stock, he was considered the best player in the draft, and he certainly lived up to the hype as a bright spot in Philadelphia’s disappointing defense.
Pace appeared in all 17 games and started 11 contests, tabulating 102 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 2 tackles for loss. Pace led all rookies in tackles and all rookie inside linebackers in sacks, pressures, QB hits, and forced turnovers, and he didn’t allow a touchdown in coverage.
With Flores expected to return for a second season, the sky is the limit for the linebacker in his second season. Jordan Hicks could leave in free agency, leading to an even bigger role for him.
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