Vikings’ Rookie Dubbed “Pest”

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Minnesota’s general manager, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, was in the spotlight in April. A quarterback was on everyone’s wishlist following Kirk Cousins’ departure, and he landed one: J.J. McCarthy. The rookie will compete with Sam Darnold for the starting spot. But he didn’t stop there, trading up for Alabama’s top pass rusher, Dallas Turner, to help defensive coordinator Brian Flores.

Vikings’ Rookie Dubbed “Pest”

Another notable addition to his unit is Turner’s former teammate, cornerback Khyree Jackson. The defender is another young candidate who can handle an outside cornerback spot. That position has been problematic since Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes left in 2020.

Vikings' Rookie Dubbed "Pest"
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The players in the cornerback room and a potential depth chart currently look like this:

  1. Byron Murphy Jr.
  2. Shaquill Griffin
  3. Akayleb Evans
  4. Mekhi Blackmon
  5. Andrew Booth Jr.
  6. Khyree Jackson
  7. Dwight McGlothern
  8. Jaylin Williams
  9. A.J. Green

Jackson joined Minnesota with the 108th draft pick. He was the first player taken outside of the first-round duo, as the second-rounder was part of the two trades that landed Turner, and the third-rounder went to Detroit for T.J. Hockenson.

The defender has an intriguing skill set, standing 6’4″ with solid results in his final college season at Oregon. NFL writer Doug Farrar praised him on X: “Oregon CB Khyree Jackson is a pest, and I mean that in a good way. Once he’s on you in press/match, it’s hard to peel him off. The Vikings got themselves a steal in the fourth round at a position of NEED.”

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It indeed has been a need for quite some time. Murphy solidified one spot, but the others are a mystery. Akayleb Evans will compete with free-agent addition Shaquill Griffin. Evans started last year but was benched twice because of his up-and-down play, while Griffin once was a Pro Bowler, but he has fallen off since.

Sophomore Mekhi Blackmon has shown flashes but doesn’t have the sample size to rely on him. Andrew Booth, meanwhile, can be titled as a bust so far, although there was some improvement in 2023. He needs a strong training camp to secure his spot on the 53-man roster.

Jackson is a threat to unseat him. The rookie is almost guaranteed continued employment as a fourth-rounder. Those very rarely get cut before their debut season. Jackson had a strange collegiate journey, starting at a couple of Community Colleges. Homesickness led him to drop out of one and skip a couple of seasons.

brian flores
Alabama defensive back Khyree Jackson (6) on the sidelines after a timeout during a game between Tennessee and Alabama in Neyland Stadium on Oct. 15, 2022. Syndication The Knoxville News Sentinel

After that break, he gave it another shot, and he eventually landed in Alabama, where he was a backup on Nick Saban’s team for two years. To boost his draft stock. Jackson transferred to Oregon before his final season and had a marvelous campaign.

Jackson played in 13 games last year and was targeted 38 times. He allowed only 19 catches for 200 yards and one touchdown while grabbing three interceptions, scoring a phenomenal passer rating of 41.6 when targeted.

A couple of months before his “pest” claim, right after the draft, Farrar had already been a big fan of Jackson, noting on X: “I like the Vikings’ acquisition of Oregon CB Khyree Jackson in the fourth round. Natural press cornerback who should fit well in Brian Flores’ defense. You’d like a bit more suddenness and route recognition in zone, but he’s sticky off the line.”

His size and length are unique, especially on Minnesota’s roster. In addition to that, he might already be one of the better press-man CBs on the team, something Flores needs for his defense to make another step. Last season, he had to rely on Evans, Booth, and Blackmon, and the inexperienced group was the reason why he played a bunch of zone coverage.

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If Jackson can be an upgrade in that regard, he will claim a significant role on defense, and Flores can be even more aggressive than last season, which is an exciting thought.

The rookie will turn 25 in August, but he still has some aspects of his game to work on. If he can do that, the sky is the limit for a player of his size. His training camp will reveal how much of an impact he can have early in his career.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Focus helped with this article.

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 prefers Classic rock over other genres. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt