Vikings Defender Tabbed for 2024 Break Out Season

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Minnesota Vikings linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. stole all rookie headlines in Minneapolis last year, but almost quietly, cornerback Mekhi Blackmon performed wonderfully for a first-year defender, too.

Vikings Defender Tabbed for 2024 Break Out Season

Accordingly, Pro Football Focus tabbed Blackmon for its “2024 All-Breakout Team” last week, the only Vikings present on the list.

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Headlined by Tennessee Titans passer Will Levis at quarterback and Cincinnati Bengals runner Chase Brown at halfback, Blackmon and Bengals corner Christian Benford got the nod at CB. It is unclear how much playing time Blackmon will receive in 2024 — Minnesota has a crowded CB room with training camp 5.5 weeks away — but he could reasonably attain a CB2 or CB3 job by the time Week 1 rolls around.

PFF’s Gordon McGuinness explained Blackmon’s addition to the team, “The former USC Trojan had a nice rookie campaign, posting a 71.8 PFF coverage grade after joining the Vikings as a third-round draft pick. He allowed just 28 receptions and had a combined nine pass breakups and interceptions from 329 coverage snaps in 2023.”

2 Rookies Balling
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Found in Round 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft, Blackmon, for some reason, flies under fans’ radar when he should be classified as a tremendous defensive building block, not unlike the aforementioned Pace Jr.

Why? Well, easy — the numbers are there, and they’re indisputable.

Blackmon was the NFL’s 32nd-best overall cornerback back in 2023, according to PFF, a wonderful mark for a rookie and a decent grade for anybody. About 90 cornerbacks play football on any given Sunday, and Blackmon was near the NFL’s best one-third. Minnesota’s defense was infamously housed on two occasions by tall wide receivers last year: once versus Courtland Sutton and the Denver Broncos, the other time by Tee Higgins and the Cincinnati Bengals (though Akayleb Evans was the one directly on the Bengals receiver).

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Blackmon took some heat for allowing those dealings to transpire, but what rookie NFLer is flawless? Not many. Because of those [badly] memorable plays, Blackmon took a backseat this offseason, at least per fans’ excitement and long-term trajectory for the player.

Too, other stats paint Blackmon’s first season positively if one doesn’t fancy PFF as a trustworthy grading magistrate. He fired up an 81.8 passer-rating-against, which essentially means that NFL quarterbacks turned into Kenny Pickett — yes, that’s an insult — when targeting the USC alumnus. For reference, Broncos all-world CB Patrick Surtain II tallied an 88.2 passer-rating-against.

Minnesota Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. Flores was hired in February 2023 to take over for Ed Donatell after Minnesota finished 30th in points allowed.

These are the Vikings’ current cornerbacks on tap for training camp battles:

CB1: Byron Murphy
CB2: Akayleb Evans
CB3: Mekhi Blackmon
CB4: Shaquill Griffin
CB5: Andrew Booth
CB6: Khyree Jackson
CB7: NaJee Thompson
CB8: Jaylin Williams
CB9: A.J. Green III
CB10: Dwight McGlothern

And per PFF, Blackmon will safely grab a roster spot and break out into stardom.

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 MIN 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