The Vikings’ 3 Most Pleasant Surprises in 2023

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The Minnesota Vikings journey to Detroit for a date with the Detroit Lions this weekend and barring a minor miracle, it will be the team’s final game of the season.

The Vikings’ 3 Most Pleasant Surprises in 2023

If Minnesota knocks off the Detroit Lions in Week 18 alongside a loss by the Green Bay Packers to the Chicago Bears, an Arizona Cardinals win over the Seattle Seahawks, and either a Tampa Bay Buccaneers or New Orleans Saints loss, the Vikings would reach the postseason. But that’s a blatant longshot.

3 Most Pleasant
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So, with the Vikings’ campaign nearing the finish line, these are the most pleasant surprises, ranked in ascending order (No. 1 = top surprise).

3. Mekhi Blackmon Can Play

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The rookie cornerback certainly didn’t achieve a spotless maiden voyage, but few do, especially from Round 3 of the draft. But Blackmon proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that he’s capable of becoming the real deal, earning 435 defensive snaps this season — or about 43%.

He ranks 32nd among all NFL corners per Pro Football Focus grade and fourth among rookie CBs. With Byron Murphy under contract in 2024, plus Blackmon’s arrival, the Vikings need not urgently find cornerback back depth like offseason’s past. Of course, fans would welcome a true-blue shutdown cornerback, but there are building blocks with Blackmon and teammates Andrew Booth + Akayleb Evans, who played well in spots in 2023.

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah nailed the 3rd-Round selection of Blackmon.

2. Ivan Pace Backed up the Hype

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In the spring and summer of 2023, Vikings fans insisted Ivan Pace would morph into the real deal after an undrafted three days last April.

Then, he did it.

PFF ranks Pace the league’s 19th-best linebacker overall — including veterans and rookies — and the top inside linebacker among first-year LBs. The man even filled a captain-like role when Jordan Hicks was lost for four games in November and December.

Thirty-one NFL general managers made a mistake by not snagging Pace, and he will continue to make them scratch their heads for the next several years.

1. Jordan Addison Was Worth the 1st-Round Pick

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Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Zay Flowers, and Jordan Addison looked the part of 1st-Round wide receivers. The verdict is still out on Quentin Johnston in Los Angeles.

Addison was often a season-saver for the 2023 Vikings, navigating injuries to Justin Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson throughout the year. The USC alumnus always seemed to nab a game-changing touchdown (for example, against the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers).

Tabulating 66 receptions for 864 yards and 9 touchdowns as a rookie is tremendous, and now, assuming Jefferson signs a hefty extension, Minnesota will enjoy Addison + Jefferson in the offense for a minimum of four more years. Jefferson’s knack for extreme receiving-yard accrual, sprinkling in Addison’s touchdowns, will bode well through the end of 2027.

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).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by