Two weeks ago, Bleacher Report forecasted Minnesota Vikings rookie EDGE rusher Esezi Otomewo as a possible “rookie gem.” And the hype hasn’t stopped there.
The same entity, Bleacher Report, mentioned last week one rookie to “keep an eye on” for each team, and for the Vikings, again, the nominee is Otomewo.
The pizazz surrounding Otomewo is a little strange, mainly because the pass rusher was drafted in the 5th Round of April’s draft. Generally speaking, low-round prospects don’t receive much build-up heading into a regular season. But, for now, Otomewo is doing just that among pundits.
Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report said about keeping an eye on Otomewo, “Otomewo played primarily outside the tackle at Minnesota, but he’s big enough that he could make sense as an athletic defensive tackle. The fifth-round pick stepping into any kind of role as a rookie would be huge for the Vikings.”
There are a couple of principal reasons why Otomewo is receiving early credibility with the 2022 Vikings. First, the Vikings pass-rushing depth is paltry. Of course, new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah signed Za’Darius Smith in March to pair with Danielle Hunter, and health permitting, the duo should be phenomenal. After those two men, though, it’s a hodgepodge of maybes.
D.J. Wonnum is probably the frontrunner to fill pass-rushing duties when Hunter or Smith are off the field. He received substantial playing time during his first two seasons as a pro. However, Wonnum isn’t a standalone star and is the benefactor of several situational sacks, so Vikings enthusiasts aren’t entirely sold on his status as a starter or budding star.
After that, men like Patrick Jones II, Janarius Robinson, Luiji Vilian, and Zach McCloud could ascend the depth chart for playing time, but actual defensive snaps for those players are best-laid plans.
So, almost by default, if Otomewo is any good this summer, he could reasonably become a third pass rusher in Minnesota for the 2022 season.
The other sentimental reason supporting his candidacy? He’s local. Otomewo attended the University of Minnesota and partnered with Boye Mafe (now with the Seattle Seahawks) for the Gophers pass-rushing duties. Minnesota hadn’t drafted a University of Minnesota alumnus since 2010 before the arrival of Otomewo. Therefore, his rookie stock has a little bit more sizzle.
At the University of Minnesota, Otomewo played in 34 games, registering 81 total tackles and 7.5 sacks. He’s a humongous human, standing 6’6″ and weighing 282 pounds. He majored in Business & Marketing Education. Departing high school, Otomewo was classified by some draft scouts as the best EDGE rusher in the state of Indiana.
If he catches on, Otomewo could also play on the inside of the Vikings defensive line in relief of Armon Watts and Harrison Phillips.
Overall, “keep an eye on this Vikings pass rusher” applies to a few men — Otomewo, Jaylen Twyman, and Luiji Vilain. Because there are three candidates, perhaps one will truly emerge as a pass-rushing alternative to Hunter and Smith.
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 Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).