E Point Perfect

Vikings Rookie Could Be X-Factor Moving Forward


Vikings Rookie Could Be X-Factor Moving Forward
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; A Minnesota Vikings helmet. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings 2022 draft class is underwhelming. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah selected 10 players in his first draft, and the contributions have been minor.

Both top picks, Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth, spent most of the season on injured reserve despite the defensive backfield desperately needing help. Second-rounder Ed Ingram is the starting right guard, but he’s a huge liability in the passing game. Kirk Cousins is regularly taking hits because of his whiffs.

Fourth-rounder Akayleb Evans and third-rounder Brian Asamoah showed some potential but haven’t gotten enough playing time to evaluate them properly. The other rookies have been a side note at best.

Vikings Rookie Could Be X-Factor Moving Forward

Of course, it’s too early in their careers to make final judgments about the rookies. Injuries are unfortunate, and some players simply need a few years to acclimate to professional football. In addition to that, development takes time.

One of the rookies is showing some flashes. He was unlikely to play a lot in his first season but had some sort of breakout game against the Packers in Week 17.

Jalen Nailor

Vikings Rookie Could Be
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell (left) and wide receiver Jalen Nailor. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

The rookie was a sixth-round pick in the 2022 edition of the draft out of Michigan State. He was the ninth of the ten rookie selections. Of course, the receiver room was filled with Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn at the starting receiver spots. In addition to them, the Vikings traded for Jalen Reagor, a return specialist who was supposed to be the top backup.

Nailor had to battle for roster spots with guys like Trishton Jackson, Olabisi Johnson, and Myron Mitchell. His advantage was that he could play in the special team coverage units and was a player the new regime added to the roster.

Nailor was a four-year contributor for the Spartans, the alma mater of quarterback Kirk Cousins. He appeared in 26 games and recorded over 1,400 yards and 12 scores. The biggest problem during his college career was injuries that slowed him down. Nailor’s nickname is “Speedy,” so slowing him down is not easy. The wideout was a state champion sprinter in high school.

Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor (83) rushes for a touchdown as Green Bay Packers cornerback Corey Ballentine. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Nailor appeared on 25 offensive snaps, including nine against the Packers and 12 in Week 8 against the Cowboys. Whenever the team is getting destroyed, Nailor sees the field. However, it is time to change that and give him more opportunities.

Nailor recorded three catches for 89 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown came on a play that Nailor can replicate, a deep go route where he won with speed and got open. Cousins threw a perfect pass between cornerback and safety. Nailor made the catch, broke a tackle, and scored.

Nailor also replaced Jalen Reagor in the game against the Colts. Reagor made two crucial mistakes that led to a pair of Kirk Cousins touchdowns. The team sent in Nailor and not Reagor after those mistakes, and it became apparent that the coaches trusted the rookie more.

Entering next season, Nailor could make a similar jump as teammate K.J. Osborn who did not see the field in his rookie campaign. The biggest step in his development came in the sophomore campaign when nobody expected it. Next season, the team might try to get Nailor on the field.

Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Indianapolis Colts safety Trevor Denbow (43) breaks up a fake punt pass attempt to Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Nailor could fill the critical role of the deep threat, a player mostly running deep routes. His speed and general skill set would fit that role perfectly. There’s a reason why the team handpicked him, and they certainly have a vision of how they want to use him. He has shown enough flashes to be included in future wide receiver plans.

Nailor has done enough in the game against the Packers to get a few snaps in the postseason. A couple of plays with the deep threat on the field could make a big difference, either on the receiving end of a game-changing play or as a decoy to open up the short passing game. The Vikings could look to give the rookie some more run in their final regular season game against the Bears, a game that most likely won’t have an impact on playoff seeding.

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


Source link

Related posts

A Few Vikings Make ‘Top 100’ List from Pete Prisco

Unsung WR Climbs Vikings 1st Unofficial Depth Chart

PurplePTSD: Best Value Viking, Evans in the House, Schedule Prediction

Watch: Kevin O’Connell’s Fiery Speech after Beating DET

Vikings-Giants Rematch Should Be Another Down-to-the Wire Game

Kevin O’Connell Will Experience Another New “First” This Week