The first preseason game is in the books, and we had our first look at the Vikings rookie class of 2022. It is a class full of potential, and with it being the first draft class of the Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell era, I expect many of them to make the final 53-man roster as the new regime looks to mold the squad of players into their identity.
With that in mind, here are my Vikings rookie predictions at this early stage.
Lewis Cine – Safety
It is an intriguing camp battle between Lewis Cine and Camryn Bynum to be the “starter” next to Harrison Smith. With the Hitman 33 years old, this is great news for the Vikings. The safety is in safe hands with Cine and Bynum when the Vikings are ready to move on from Smith. I expect Bynum to start the season with Cine seeing plenty of action in three safety sets. However, it is only a matter of time before this year’s first-round pick becomes a cornerstone of the Vikings defense.
Andrew Booth – Cornerback
Another intriguing camp battle in the secondary is between Cam Dantzler and Andrew Booth for the position opposite another veteran, Patrick Peterson. Similarly to safety, I would expect the more experienced Dantzler to start the season with the hope that Booth is the eventual successor to Peterson.
Booth will take more time to be ready than Cine. He has all the raw tools to be a starting cornerback, but development is needed before he gets there. His physicality is an asset, as was proved in the first preseason game. The line between what is acceptable and a penalty is often thin in the NFL. Costly penalties need to be kept to a minimum, but at the same time, you don’t want him to lose that physicality.
Ed Ingram – Guard
The offensive guard Vikings fans have been crying out.
Ed Ingram is a powerful dude, and I will be surprised if he’s not the starting right guard come Week 1. Round 2 in the draft was not a reach for a player of Ingram’s ability. His lower grades had everything to do with his well-publicized off-the-field issues. His stock raised massively from his showing in the first preseason game. He is strong at the point of attack and is comfortable getting to the next level. Everything you want from a guard — Ingram has it.
Brian Asamoah – Linebacker
Another impressive display in the preseason game against the Raiders came from linebacker Brian Asamoah. One play particularly stood out and showed what Asamoah is all about.
Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks will be the two starting linebackers for the Vikings, but Asamoah will see plenty of the field. His impact can be immediate, especially in the run game, where his electric speed makes him an immediate defensive playmaker. He is a player that I’m looking forward to keeping a close eye on in the next couple of preseason games.
Akayleb Evans – Cornerback
Behind the battle to start opposite Peterson, the battle to secure a depth place at cornerback on the roster is just as intriguing. Kris Boyd, Harrison Hand, Parry Nickerson, and Tye Smith remain from last season. Chandon Sullivan and Nate Hairston were signed in free agency, while Akayleb Evans was drafted in the fourth round. That’s seven guys vying for probably three roster places. Evans has impressed so far and has every chance to take one of those spots. Even if he doesn’t, there’s plenty of potential there to be a good depth player when the time comes.
Esezi Otomewo – Defensive Line
Another position that sees a lot of guys battling for places is the defensive line. The switch to a three-man front is the major change that has come with the new coaching staff. Former Golden Gopher Esezi Otomewo was an OLB in college but was drafted to be a defensive end in the front three. He has the size and potential to make the switch.
Whether that’s enough for an immediate roster spot is up for debate. especially with the signing of veteran Ndamukong Suh still a possibility. Life in the NFL may begin on the practice squad for Otomewo, but he’s not someone to forget about. His time will come, and a year of honing his craft could be just what he needs.
Ty Chandler – Running Back
The performances of Ty Chandler and Kene Nwangwu have been enough for some Vikings fans to demand a trade of Alexander Mattison. I don’t see a trade market for the current Vikings RB2. Teams just don’t value running backs like they used to and would much rather give their own Chandler/Nwangwu a chance.
With his contract ending after this season, this could be the beginning of the end for Mattison in Minnesota. If Chandler and Nwangwu continue to impress, they will be preferable to back up Dalvin Cook on their rookie contracts. Rather than paying Mattison, with the injury history of the two backs at the top of the depth chart, I wouldn’t rule out the opportunity for Chandler to lead the ground attack at some point during the season.
Vederian Lowe – Offensive Tackle
The starting tackle spots are locked in with Brian O’Neill and Christian Darrisaw. Then, the Vikings have several versatile players who can play tackle and guard in Jesse Davis, Oli Udoh, and Ezra Cleveland. If they were to have another out-and-out tackle on the roster, Blake Brandel is the favorite to be that guy, which leaves little chance for Vedarian Lowe, though he may well get a chance on the practice squad.
Jalen Nailor – Wide Receiver
Jalen Nailor possesses a weapon an offense can always use — speed. The Vikings don’t lack speed with the additions last season of Ihmir Smith-Marsette, but Nailor is already making an impression and looks a good shout to make the roster. However, wide receiver is another position where the Vikings have a lot of competition, led by superstar Justin Jefferson and veteran Adam Thielen.
KJ Osborn is a certainty to make the roster, and I personally think Smith-Marsette is definitely in. After that, Nailor has a lot of competition to beat out.
Free agent signing Albert Wilson scored the two Vikings touchdowns against the Raiders. Olabisi Johnson has returned from injury, and Dan Chisena has been an important special teams player for the last couple of seasons. Meanwhile, the two guys who appeared to be the long shots, Myron Mitchell and Trishton Jackson, both had impressive outings against the Raiders. How many receivers coach O’Connell decides he wants to carry on his roster could determine Nailor’s fate this season. I think he gets in.
Nick Muse – Tight End
Despite the Vikings appearing light at the right end position, especially since Irv Smith picked up an injury, Nick Muse doesn’t appear to be making a bid to make the roster this year.
Of course, that can soon change, but the first “unofficial” depth chart released by the Vikings saw him in a group with Zach Davidson and Shaun Beyer as the fourth choice. Johnny Mundt and Ben Ellefson look set to back up Smith. A place on the practice squad is no disgrace for a seventh-round pick. This is where I think Muse will find himself this year. He has the physicality and athleticism to fight his way onto the team further down the line.