Vikings Rookie Projected to Be a Star

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Nothing is more exciting than having rookies with high upside, and the Vikings certainly added two of them in the recent NFL draft. All eyes in Minnesota are on the tenth overall pick and quarterback, J.J. McCarthy. The passer must beat out Sam Darnold first to enter the starting lineup; he reportedly has to check the boxes on Kevin O’Connell’s checklist before he is deemed ready.

Vikings Rookie Projected to Be a Star

Vikings Rookie Projected to Be a Star
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The other rookie who could have a huge impact on the purple unit in his debut season is Dallas Turner, the 17th overall pick. He contributed to Alabama’s defense, led by Nick Saban, for three years before entering the draft.

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah ultimately traded up six spots to grab the pass-rusher who was not expected to be on the board this late in the first round. Most had him going in the top ten; the Atlanta Falcons, with their eighth overall pick, were a popular landing spot until they chose to acquire QB Michael Penix.

Vikings Is Sweet
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy makes a pass against Alabama linebacker Dallas Turner during the first half of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, on Monday, Jan. 1, 2024.

ESPN analyst Seth Walder tweeted about his model for projected sacks in the next three seasons for rookie defenders, and the newest Vikings landed at the top of his list with a huge gap to the second-ranked Laiatu Latu.

The projected 19 sacks through three seasons may not sound that high on the surface, but comparing it to the other defenders in the draft shows its true value.

Walder added in the thread: “The model sees Vikings’ Dallas Turner as the clear best pass rusher in the class. Combine metrics were definitely a positive factor for him.”

Dallas Turner Is
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Turner had a fantastic outing at the Scouting Combine, highlighted by his 40-yard dash of 4.46 and elite ten and 20-yard splits. His 40.5-inch vertical jump and impressive broad jump also ranked him close to the top of all participants at the combine, regardless of position. Turner’s 8.86 RAS score ranked him 206th of 1,798 defensive ends since 1987.

His college sack production also helped him in the model, as he recorded a combined 14 sacks in the last two campaigns. However, his 8.5 QB takedowns in his freshman season apparently weren’t included.

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Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Turner is an athletic freak, which contributes to his absurd upside. He can win with speed and power, is a willing run defender, and is versatile enough to occasionally drop into coverage, so defensive coordinator Brian Flores can draw up some confusing defensive plays.

The Vikings signed Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel in free agency. Those two pass-rushers and Turner should combine for one of the better edge rotations in the league. All three can co-exist because teams heavily rotate edge-rushers. The trio also has the necessary versatility to be on the field together, even when it’s not an obvious passing down.

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Another fascinating element of Walder’s breakdown is that Gabriel Murphy ranks eighth with 10.8 projected sacks. After a productive college career, Murphy went undrafted, and the Vikings signed him right after the draft. Just last season, he produced eight sacks for UCLA.

Turner’s next steps must be to refine his pass-rush technique and add some more moves to his arsenal. Once he does that, the sky is the limit for the defender, who turned 21 in February. He is the early favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year, and Walder’s model showcases his talent.


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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