Vikings Add a Crazy Athlete to Defense

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.

The Minnesota Vikings have undergone a transformational period on defense in the last two seasons. Only Harrison Smith remains from the starting lineup of the 2021 season under the previous regime led by Mike Zimmer. After Danielle Hunter’s departure, defensive coordinator Brian Flores needed some talent in the outside linebacker position, and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah fulfilled that wish.

Vikings Add a Crazy Athlete to Defense


Vikings Add a Crazy Athlete to Defense
Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Hunter, Marcus Davenport, and D.J. Wonnum exited in free agency. The pass-rushing room was empty besides Patrick Jones and last year’s rookie, Andre Carter Jr. Since then, Adofo-Mensah has signed former Dolphins defender Andrew Van Ginkel and Houston’s sack leader Jonathan Greenard.

In the first draft round, the Minnesota Vikings traded up from the 23rd spot to position 17 to grab Alabama’s pass-rusher Dallas Turner. They sent a package of picks to Jacksonville but ended up with one of the top defenders in the draft class.

The elite athlete was productive at Alabama in all three of his seasons. As a freshman, Turner recorded 8.5 sacks and ten tackles for loss, followed by four sacks and eight tackles for loss in 2022. His best season, with 14.5 TFLs and ten sacks, came in 2023.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Already expected to test well at the scouting combine, Turner blew everyone away when he exploded for a 4.46-second 40-yard dash.

He is not quite as undersized as he appears on the chart because he tested against the defensive ends, which obviously featured many bigger defensive linemen. Still, his explosiveness numbers were crazy for either the linebacker or defensive end position. His absurd athleticism is his most vital attribute.

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports.

Lance Zierlein, draft analyst for NFL.com, summed up the talented defender in his scouting report:

Long and athletic with the explosive traits needed to become an impactful NFL pass rusher. Turner’s first-step quickness and elite closing burst are important building blocks, but he still needs to work on his process from Point A to Point B. He hasn’t learned to create the space and angles needed to consistently attack the edges, but that should come with better hand development and a more diversified approach.

A team would be wise to widen him out and allow him a better runway to ignite his burst and overwhelm tackles with his speed. He’s added 20 pounds since coming to Alabama, but he struggles at times to stack and shed run blockers or set a firm edge. Turner’s frame and game are much less developed than Will Anderson Jr.’s coming out of Alabama last year, so it could take time for him to make his mark as a starting 3-4 outside linebacker.

Lance Zierlein

Like every young pass-rusher entering the league, Turner must develop some technical elements to make a difference. Still, he has every necessary physical tool to be a dominant player at the next level.

Dallas Turner Is
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports.

With two solid outside linebackers on the roster, he doesn’t have to step into a full-time role immediately and can grow as a player in a rotational role, similar to Hunter in his first year. But make no mistake about it: he will play a meaningful role and can be a difference-maker for years to come.

J.J. McCarthy and Turner are a sweet haul in the first round of the 2024 draft.


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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