ESPN Names Vikings “Surprise Player” for 2024

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Brandon Powell (19) returns a punt as they face the Titans at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn., Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. © Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK.

At least one Minnesota Vikings player shines out of nowhere in a given season.

ESPN Names Vikings “Surprise Player” for 2024

In 2021, K.J. Osborn took the plunge and became Minnesota’s WR3 after a long drought at the position. In 2022, Khyiris Tonga, a little-known nose tackle, turned heads, along with cornerback Duke Shelley. Last year, Ivan Pace Jr., Josh Metellus, and Ty Chandler took large career leaps.

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Per ESPN, the Vikings’ surprise candidate will be wide receiver Brandon Powell this year.

Kevin Seifert analyzed Minnesota’s offseason and 2024 trajectory this week, and when asked about the team’s biggest surprise on the horizon, he name-dropped Powell. “Wide receiver Brandon Powell. During the O’Connell era, the Vikings’ base offense has been 11 personnel, which generally means three receivers. So unless O’Connell is going to dramatically change that approach in his third season, there is a significant need for a third player to complement Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison in the receiving corps,” Seifert explained.

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Powell is tentatively on deck to fill WR3 duties in 2024, assuming newcomer veteran Trent Sherfield doesn’t seize the gig this summer. Third-year pass-catcher Jalen Nailor is also a contender.

Seifert added, “Powell filled that role well last season when Jefferson missed time with a hamstring injury, and he has a strong chance to earn a more permanent role there in 2024.”

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Powell joined the Vikings last offseason as a free agent from O’Connell’s Los Angeles Rams days. He’s a tried-and-true playmaker who helped Minnesota knock off the Atlanta Falcons on the road last November, thanks to a game-winning touchdown.

Overall in 2023, he banked 29 receptions for 324 receiving yards and the famous Atlanta paydirt. He was also the club’s punt returner last year, earning a trustworthy reputation for no fumbles and decent return production.

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Powell also wasn’t afraid to pick fights with the Vikings’ rivals. In late November, after a loss to the Chicago Bears, Powell teed off on Chicago. “Man, the Chicago Bears defensive backs is trash. That’s just simple. They were trash. We just hurt ourselves, that’s all,” Powell told Star Tribune after the Vikings loss.

If ESPN is wrong, and Minnesota adds a non-rostered WR3 to the depth chart, men like Hunter Renfrow, Michael Thomas, and Julio Jones remain on the open market.

Powell will turn 29 right after Week 1 when the Vikings hit the road for a date with the New York Giants.

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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