ESPN Names Surprise Standout Player for Vikings

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Minnesota Vikings fans aren’t entirely sure if Blake Brandel will start in 2024, but he’s on a decent path, according to ESPN.

ESPN Names Surprise Standout Player for Vikings

The sports media giant named surprise standout players from each NFL team this week, 10 days removed from minicamp. And at minicamp, Brandel was evidently the surprise standout.

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“You wouldn’t expect a former backup offensive lineman to be the talk of Vikings practices, and it’s not as if Brandel was on the tip of the tongue of every coach and player this spring. But it was exceptionally notable to watch how events played out at the left guard spot. After four years as a backup guard and tackle, and increasingly unsolicited raves from coaches, Brandel opened the spring as the first-team left guard,” ESPN’s Kevin Seifert opined.

Head coach Kevin O’Connell revealed at minicamp that his team would feature a threeway training camp battle at guard between Brandel, Ed Ingram, and Dalton Risner. There are no frontrunners, meaning the OG battle will be among the Vikings’ most fascinating next month.

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Seifert added about Brandel, “He remained there even after the Vikings re-signed 2023 starter Dalton Risner. Coach Kevin O’Connell indicated that Risner will compete with both Brandel and right guard Ed Ingram, a strong sign the Vikings will give Brandel every opportunity to elevate into a starting role.”

Brandel joined Minnesota from Round 6th of the 2020 NFL Draft, recently extending his stay beyond a rookie contract for three years and $9.5 million. That might be starter’s money, though Brandel has never consistently started. Stay tuned.

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Before Risner re-signed in late May — the guy most fans assumed would re-inherit his starting left guard job — Minnesota’s coaching staff sounded extremely high on Brandel as a starter, especially offensive coordinator Wes Phillips.

“I’m really excited about Blake. I feel like he gets bigger every time I see him. He’s just a massive man on the inside. But he’s in great shape, he’s always been very coachable,” Phillps told reporters in May at organized team activities (OTAs). “You talk about technique, fundamentals, footwork, hand placement, all the things that are critical for the O-line — one false step for an O-lineman could be a catastrophe — it’s been very encouraging so far with him stepping into that starting spot on the left.”

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Phillips continued, “I think it’ll only grow, the more experience, the more reps he gets. He’s been a guy that, any time he’s been put in a game at several positions, has come through for us. We haven’t forgotten that. I think he’s earned this opportunity.”

The clues are stacking. Before Risner returned, Brandel was the presumptive starting left guard. The coaching staff sang Brandel’s praises. Now, he’s ESPN’s standout player from minicamp.

The man will probably have a prominent role in 2024.

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 Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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