Last season, the Minnesota Vikings experienced solid production out of rookie running back Kene Nwangwu. The speedster started as a special teams contributor and worked his way into a regular running back role.
There could be a similar standout this season, and it may surprise who it is.
Obviously, there should be an expectation that Lewis Cine shines in the secondary. He was a first-round pick, heralded tackler, and will play alongside Harrison Smith. Andrew Booth Jr. should also be expected to contribute heavily given the first-round pedigree and the need for a cornerback group to step up. Even offensive lineman Ed Ingram, too, with first-round measurables, should show nicely as he’s worked his way into a starting role.
From there, though, where do you look for the rookie to make the most impact for the 2022 Minnesota Vikings?
Akalyleb Evans will be in a similar position to Booth Jr. regarding opportunity. He’s obviously further down the depth chart, but the depth at cornerback will be tested. Patrick Peterson is a solid veteran, but the group still has more question marks than answers. I like Esezi Otomewo as a local product, but he’s got some real horses in front of him. Even Jalen Nailor continues to draw rave reviews amidst a good wide receiver group. I don’t think it’s any of them, though.
Give me third-round pick from Oklahoma — Brian Asamoah. Currently listed on the depth chart behind free agent acquisition Jordan Hicks, Asamoah will have plenty of opportunities to carve out a role. He’ll contribute on special teams early. And in the Vikings new defensive scheme, he will find himself rotating in at linebacker plenty.
At Oklahoma, Asamoah led the Sooners in tackles in each of the past two seasons, and his 4.56 time in the 40-yard-dash is flying for a linebacker. He may not draw a ton of starts given the veterans ahead of him, but he should have ample opportunity to make an impact. With Ed Donatell’s defense shifting to a 3-4 scheme, Asamoah can establish himself in the middle of the field and help a secondary that desperately needed it a season ago.
Tackles are a surefire way to show up in the stat sheet. If the combination of Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith can push runners up the middle, plenty will be available between the hashes. Asamoah has looked like he fits during preseason action, and playing at a high level in college certainly does wonders for acclimation.
I’m not sure we’re talking defensive player of the year here — that’d be a pretty insane breakout — but turning into a solid piece that looks like a future contributor is a good bar for Asamoah. As a third-round pick and the fourth selection made by Minnesota, you can’t be mad about that type of outcome.
Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.