Vikings Rookie Could Be Used in Fancy Ways

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General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah entered his third offseason in charge of the Minnesota Vikings with many questions to answer. The most obvious was the quarterback position, as veteran Kirk Cousins was scheduled to leave in free agency. He indeed exited the building, joining the Falcons, putting the GM under pressure to find his successor in the draft.

Vikings Rookie Could Be Used in Fancy Ways

Vikings Rookie Could Be Used in Fancy Ways
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In the weeks before the draft, everyone expected Minnesota to ship multiple first-rounders for a passer, but they ultimately picked J.J. McCarthy with the tenth overall selection. Adofo-Mensah kept his additional first-rounder in 2024 and could target some defensive help for coordinator Brian Flores in the offensive-heavy draft.

He then sent various draft choices to Jacksonville, including pick 23, to climb to the 17th draft slot. Many considered Dallas Turner, Alabama’s pass-rusher, the top defender in the draft. The odds suggested he would be the first defender off the board, and many mock drafts sent him to Cousins’s Falcons eighth overall.

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The Vikings snatched him and paired the explosive defender with defensive mastermind Flores. Turner doesn’t have to start immediately for the Vikings, as the purple team had signed Andrew Van Ginkel and Jonathan Greenard, who could form a nice duo even without him.

However, having a talented player like Turner waiting in the wings for his opportunity is a sweet luxury, especially because the unit lacked some talent after years of subpar draft choices on the defensive side of the ball. The rookie will likely play a rotational role to some extent, but it remains to be seen if it is a true split of reps or if he’s subbed in on passing downs.

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Alec Lewis from The Athletic mentioned in a mailbag last Friday that he envisions the 21-year-old moving around rather than only playing on the edges.

Andrew Van Ginkel is rehabbing from a foot injury he suffered in last year’s regular-season finale, but if he returns for training camp, I expect him to start at edge rusher alongside Jonathan Greenard.

In that case, Turner would begin the season as an interchangeable pass rusher on the edge, but I also think defensive coordinator Brian Flores would deploy him on third downs and in additional exotic packages. Turner would likely ascend to every-down status, even playing off the ball if necessary, toward the back half of the season.

Alec Lewis, The Athletic

In his three years in college, Turner almost exclusively played on the edge and occasionally inside, but rarely as an off-ball linebacker. However, he logged 238 snaps in his career in coverage, implying he could be used that way. Unlike many other pass-rushers, he has the movement skills required to run with receivers and tight ends, as his 4.46 40-yard dash showed.

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Interstingly, both Flores and former Alabama head coach Nick Saban have compared the defender to former NFL linebacker Dont’a Hightower. He was a versatile puzzle piece in Alabama’s and New England’s defense, where both coaches were employed and coached him.

The name that comes to mind, and he was another Alabama player, is Dont’a Hightower. Big, fast, physical, great traits and intangibles, leadership. That’s the name that comes to mind. I would say he’s probably a little faster than Hightower.

Brian Flores

While the Vikings are unlikely to move their rookie to a full-time middle linebacker gig, teaching him the tools to unlock his full potential in a versatile role makes sense.

Dallas Turner Is
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Just last season, Flores proved that a linebacker in his scheme could flourish as a pass-rusher when Ivan Pace held that role. Some of those reps could go to Turner in the upcoming season to increase his snap count and get all three pass-rushers on the field simultaneously.

Versatility is key in Flores’ scheme, and having players who can play in various spots is crucial. Turner fits that mold with his absurd athleticism.

He finished his collegiate career with 22.5 sacks through three seasons. The Vikings hope his production transfers to the next level.

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