The Minnesota Vikings are predominantly headlined by Justin Jefferson, Danielle Hunter, and others, but some unsung players are flying under the radar in 2022. The team has a 10-2 record through 13 weeks, the second-best mark in the NFL behind the Philadelphia Eagles.
And the best Vikings player that nobody talks about is a second-year EDGE rusher named Patrick Jones.
The Vikings drafted Jones in the 3rd Round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and he’s one of the few survivors from the class that wasn’t released in the summer by new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. Jones appears to have staying power and is quietly authoring a commendable sophomore campaign.
Through 12 games, Jones has fired up a 71.0 Pro Football Focus grade, the 11th-best on the Vikings. He’s the Vikings “other pass rusher” behind the billboard-headlining duo of Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith. And because Hunter and Smith are thriving as a twosome, Jones is kind of just a perk on defense and doesn’t receive ample fanfare. Jones has played 206 defensive snaps through Week 13, quite the spike from 99 defensive plays as a rookie last year. He also plays special teams, notching 214 special teams snaps to date in 2022.
One hundred and twenty-two EDGE defenders qualify for PFF‘s grading system as of December 7th, and Jones’ score of 71.0 ranks No. 40. The Vikings employ a Top 40 pass rusher in the NFL, and a large chunk of fans don’t know his name.
Numerically, per Stathead, Jones has recorded 18 total tackles, 16 blitzes, 6 tackles for loss, 5 pressures, 3 sacks, 3 QB hits, and 2 hurries in his second year. And that’s while not starting a single game to date. He’s played in all 12 games but never a starter. Spread over a full season, Jones could be a force.
At age 24, his development and maturation in 2022 are vital. Hunter is 28, so he still has a few seasons of prime performance left before encountering the back half of his career. Smith turned 30 right before the regular season started, meaning his playing days are dwindling. Of course, Smith is playing marvelously this year, but that may not last into, for example, 2024 or 2025. A productive Jones — we’ve seen his inroads this year — may lessen the Vikings urgency of drafting an EDGE rusher with high draft capital in 2023. The Vikings front office and coaching staff may “like what they have” in Jones, possibly envisioning a starting gig before too long.
Overall, get to know Jones. He’ll be a member of the Vikings until the end of 2024, at least. He’s attacking quarterbacks and stifling ball carriers in the shadows and would be a viable next-man-up if Hunter or Smith encounter injury.
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 Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).