Hi everyone. I am moving to Seattle for a full time position after graduating college and decided a solo road trip was in order to prepare for full-time work life. In total it will take 26 days and will start in my current location (Rochester, NY) then head on home (Houston, TX) to move out of my house, then finally up to Seattle where I’ll be living full time. Pictured below is my trip. Each location does not mark a single day and some places I will be visiting then not sleeping there.
My 2 questions when planning my road trip (at least when discussing location) are between Nashville and Houston, and between Zion National Park and Seattle. If anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to hear them. I am a very open person and love many outdoor activities. Swimming definitely a plus. I will be taking my bicycle and also will be camping for much of the trip if that helps.
2022 was a dangerous year to be a Vikings fan, especially if you have a pre-existing heart condition. While a season of 13 wins -- tied for the most since 1998 -- may seem like the team is in a position to make a Superbowl push, the actual quality of the team is a lot more... well, mediocre.
The 2022 Vikings ranked 19th in offensive EPA per play, 25th in defensive EPA per play, 27th in Overall DVOA, and 15th in Pythagorean Wins (with 8.4 expected wins). Kevin O'Connell always preached the performance of the team in priority situations. The team finished 12th in 3rd down conversion rate and 8th in red zone conversion rate. And the team led the league -- by far -- in the number of 4th quarter comebacks and game winning drives. When it was time to put up or shut up, the team put up hard. Except for in the playoffs.
All of that made the future of the Vikings tough to read. But Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and the rest of the front office told us what they thought of the team with their free agency moves. In a league where teams are trading the farm for Hall of Fame QBs and giving $20M/Year deals to nose tackles and guards, the Vikings' big free agent splash were a one year deal on an injury-prone DE and a good-not-great corner that doesn't even crack the top 20 highest AAVs at the position. Concurrently, the team parted ways with half of the team's 2022 captains to try to get under the cap. All of this while the team is not done with transactions -- Dalvin Cook still presents as a cut candidate due to his age and contract structure. Notable Departures:
- WR Adam Thielen ($6.4 Saved / $13.5 Dead)
- LB Eric Kendricks ($9.5 Saved / $1.93 Dead)
- CB Patrick Peterson (Unrestricted Free Agent)
- DT Dalvin Tomlinson (Unrestricted Free Agent)
- EDGE Za'Darius Smith (Post-draft trade)
Other Notable Transactions:
- CB Byron Murphy (2Y / $17.5TOT / $8.1GTD)
- EDGE Marcus Davenport (1Y / $13TOT / $10GTD)
- TE Josh Oliver (3Y / $21TOT / $8.2GTD)
- DT Dean Lowry (2Y / $8.5TOT / $4.2GTD)
- Re-Signed C Garrett Bradbury (3Y / $15.75TOT / $5.15GTD)
- Re-Signed RB Alexander Mattison (2Y / $7TOT / $6.35GTD)
- Re-Signed FB CJ Ham (3Y / $5.6TOT / $3.3GTD)
- Re-Signed All-Pro LS Andrew DePaola (3Y / $4.025TOT / $1.515GTD)
The other major change that influenced how the team addresses the draft was the shift from Ed Donatell's Cover 2 shell defense to Brian Flores's aggressive man defense. Compared to the 2022 Vikings, Flores's 2021 Dolphins blitzed over twice as often and played with light boxes at roughly half the rate. On top of the front seven, one of the biggest changes in scheme is the Cover 2 alignment, which Donatell employed on nearly half of all defensive snaps compared to just 12% for Flores's 2021 Miami team. With one crop of rookies and free agents brought in to play in a Fangio style scheme, the defense would have to undergo a massive shift to succeed in a scheme that can only be described as the complete opposite of what was run in 2022. Cornerback
- Arguably the Vikings' biggest need, the team was without a true CB1. Byron Murphy comes aboard as the most experienced player. Pegged a slot-only player through his first three years, Murphy spent most of his time in 2022 outside and had a career year. After that, the team looked to rely on improvements from their 2022 draft class with Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans, two players that combined for fewer than 300 defensive snaps last season primarily due to injury. You can see how KAM and crew, confident in their scouting ability, are betting on health to affect the secondary for the better. But taking another bet on a young player is a smart move at a position where depth is always a good thing. Interior Defensive Line
- The loss of Dalvin Tomlinson -- who played 551 snaps last year and compiled 14 pressures -- leaves issues next to Harrison Phillips. Jonathan Bullard was third on the IDL with 319 snaps last season and returns on a one year deal. Tonga and Lynch had some flashes, and the team brought in Lowry. The rotation (optimistically) can get to competent. But finding a true winner on the inside of the line was viewed by many as a priority. Wide Receiver
- The Vikings starting personnel at WR heading in to the draft was Justin Jefferson (stud), KJ Osborn (decent), and... Jalen Nailor? Brandon Powell? Oh dear Lord don't tell me it's Jalen Reagor. The loss of Adam Thielen was expected, but nevertheless leaves a gaping hole next to JJ and KJ in the lineup. Keenan McCardell is arguably the best WR coach in the league, and playing with Jefferson would give one-on-one opportunities for any receiver. But having somebody that can actually win those one-on-ones remains a question. Inside Linebacker
- Eric Kendricks's jersey change marks the true end of an era at LB. Kendricks struggled in Donatell's scheme last season, as did most players. But he was a longtime leader on the defense and a valued community member. Jordan Hicks, Brian Asamoah, and Troy Reeder sit atop the depth chart. Hicks can be solid and Asamoah had flashes, but counting on this group as every down players is a risk to say the least. Offensive Guard
- Ed Ingram was one of the worst starting guards in the league last season. But he's a rookie. Maybe he gets better in year 2. Maybe he stays terrible. Even if you're optimistic there, Ezra Cleveland is entering a contract year at left guard. Adding interior offensive line depth is always smart. Quarterback
- This offseason, reports surfaced that the team and QB Kirk Cousins could not finalize a contract extension. That means for the first time in his Vikings tenure, Cousins is entering a contract year. Cousins has been an above average QB during his time in Minnesota. Last year saw him finish 4th in yards, but he was painfully mediocre at efficiency stats like TD percent (17th), ANY/A (18th), and ADOT (20th). Entering his age-35 season, it would be wise to look for a successor even if the team plans on retaining Cousins past 2023.
*Indicates measure is taken from Pro Day 1.23 WR Jordan Addison, USC Profile: Jr 5'11 173lbs 31.5 Arm\
8.75 Hand 75.125 Wing* 4.49 40 1.57 10 34 VJ 10'2 BJ 4.19 SS* 7.05 3c 5.95 RAS* 2022 Stats: 11 Gm 59 Rec 875 Yds 8 TD 2 Drops Steve Smith Sr
: "Addison has one of the highest ceilings among WRs in this draft due to his blend of route running chops and his all around athleticism. He is a three level route runner: intermediate, deep, and short... The way he can get in and out of his breaks is so natural. He uses leverage. And he manipulates the DB consistently"
Addison -- a Biletnikoff Award winner during his Pitt days -- is one of the highest floor players in the class. He is a route running technician with proven dominance playing inside and outside. He had more than 3 yards per route run in two different offenses. He understands how to marry his athleticism and quickness with the breaks in his routes. He finds the DB's blind spot and forces them to lose. Addison is a bit on the small side, but not abnormally so given this draft class. He does have some concerns with his hands -- his drop rates as a freshman and sophomore were 14% and 10%, respectively -- but he showed improvement in this as a junior.
The need here is clear. As mentioned earlier, the WR depth past JJ and KJ is abysmal. Even with Thielen and Osborn on the roster in 2022, the Vikings needed juice in the WR room. The 2022 Vikings had one top 5 WR in yards per route run (Jefferson). There was no other receiver in the top 100. Teams were not worried about Thielen or Osborn. Teams could put two or three defenders on Jefferson without any fear of what anyone else might do to their defense. Hockenson fixed this a bit down the stretch, but an outside playmaker was still needed.
The real question here is why the team opted not to go for CB Joey Porter Jr, who filled what many considered to be the team's biggest need and was a higher ranked prospect for Lance Zierlein, PFF, Danny Kelly, Matt Miller, and Dane Brugler. The answer here -- if I can take a guess and stretch my logic a bit -- is that the need at WR2 was greater than the need at CB. Patrick Peterson was the biggest loss in the secondary, and the team brought in Byron Murphy to try to fill that role. On offense, Minnesota had not brought in a replacement for Adam Thielen. The depth chart past Jefferson and Osborn was filled with bodies that might not make a 53-man roster on a lot of teams. Trade: SF gives 3.87 to MIN for 3.102, 5.164, 7.222
| ||Jimmy Johnson ||Rich Hill ||Fitzgerald-Spielberger ||Harvard |
|Total give ||155 ||48 ||737 ||115 |
|Total get ||117.7 ||45 ||1334 ||197 |
|Absolute Diff ||-37.3 ||-3 ||+597 ||+82 |
|Percent Diff ||-24% ||-6% ||+81% ||+71% |
The biggest thing to consider when evaluating this trade is that the Vikings came into the draft with 5 picks, only two of which were in the top 100. In my biased opinion, this was a home run trade, even if the traditional charts disagree. To take three swings at the bat instead of one is a humble and wise strategy, especially for a team with limited draft capital. The move looks even better in hindsight because there were no CBs taken between 87 and 102. 3.102 CB Mekhi Blackmon, USC Profile: 6Sr 5'11" 178lbs 31" Arm 9.25" Hand 74.625" Wing 4.47 40 1.47 10 36 VJ 10'5" BJ 11 Bench 7.44 RAS 2022 Stats: 14 Gm 66 TKL 2 TFL 1 FF 15 PD 3 INT
Brett Kollman: "Feisty, physical press corner who definitely has to play more under control in the NFL to avoid flags, but he has all the competitiveness you want to see from a potential CB1 at the next level. Never backs down from anyone. Has easy gas to stay in control of a route from top down, even against true burners. Legit 4.4 speed and gets up to it quickly. Outstanding ball production... Held up extremely well despite being targeted often. Battle tested, aggressive, and confident... Very similar to Desmond Trufant."
An unrecruited high school positionless player out of high school that signed with JuCo San Mateo, Blackmon followed up four seasons at Colorado with a breakout 2022 campaign as one of the best defenders on the USC defense. The Trojans played a man-heavy scheme, which let Blackmon shine. He has great anticipation and instincts. His production this year says as much. He plays bigger than his size, and he has inside-outside versatility. He will have to clean up some of his physicality to avoid flags at the next level. He will also have to refine his technique to stay with the more complex routes he'll see. But he is a strong culture and scheme fit for what Brian Flores is bringing to the defense.
The need at CB was obvious even before hiring Flores. The Vikings ranked 31st in passing yards allowed, 26th in Passing DVOA, and 24th in EPA allowed per pass attempt. Bringing in Byron Murphy helps. So do the healthy returns of Booth and Evans. But Murphy has not yet shown that he can be a consistently great player (or at least not markedly better than what we got out of Patrick Peterson last year). And Booth and Evans are unproven. Blackmon -- taken with the last pick on Day 2 -- is not expected to come in and be Jalen Ramsey or Sauce Gardner. But in a shift to a more aggressive man-coverage defense with a thin CB room, Blackmon is an upside player that will have every chance to take a starting spot on a porous defense. Trade: MIN gives 4.119 to KC for 4.134, 2024 5th\
| ||Jimmy Johnson ||Rich Hill ||Fitzgerald-Spielberger ||Harvard |
|Total give ||56 ||24 ||578 ||88 |
|Total get ||58.4 ||24 ||898 ||133 |
|Absolute Diff ||+2.4 ||0 ||+320 ||+45 |
|Percent Diff ||+4% ||0% ||+36% ||+34% |
On top of entering the weekend with a mere 5 draft picks in the current year, the Vikings also entered with a mere 5 draft picks in the 2024 class (3rd rounder traded for Hockenson, 5th rounder traded for Reagor). Dropping 15 picks in a relatively flat part of the draft while adding a mid-Day 3 pick is good business given this team's lack of capital.
*Here we assume a future pick in round n
is valued at the middle pick of round n+1
, not accounting for compensatory picks. In this case, a 2024 5th is equated to pick 176. 4.134 S Jay Ward, LSU Profile: Sr 6'0.5" 188lbs 32.5" Arm 8.25" Hand 76.875" Wing 4.55 40 1.54 10 34.5 VJ 11' BJ 4.35 Shuttle\
7.31 3c 16 Bench 6.70 RAS* 2022 Stats: 13 Gm 60 TKL 2.5 TFL 5 PD 1 INT 2 FR TD
Nate Tice: "A ton of fun. I just like this fit because of Brian Flores's defense. Just picture all of those mixture guys that the Patriots have used over the years... Jay Ward can be that"
A three year starter with reps at safety, slot, and outside CB, Ward is one of the most versatile players in the class. He possesses excellent length and movement skills. His experience at CB make him a fluid player in coverage. In the run game, Ward's size is a concern. His 188lbs Combine weight puts him in just the second percentile for safeties. This translates to issues with taking on blocks. He is a very aggressive player, beelining to the ball as soon as it's out. But his size coupled with his impatient playstyle lead to a lot of missed tackles. He was also flagged seven times last season.
In his final season in Miami, Flores was extremely creative with how he employed his safeties. Jevon Holland had the 2nd most blitzes in the league at the position. The number 1 player? His teammate Brandon Jones. With the defense taking on Flores's amoeba identity, an aggressive player with experience at multiple positions has the potential to find a role early on. The defense will look to utilize him similar to how Jevon Holland was used as a rookie. And with Harrison Smith well into the twilight of his career, Ward is a timely pick as the team attempts to thread the needle in their competitive rebuild. Trade: MIN gives 5.158, 6.211 to IND for 5.141
| ||Jimmy Johnson ||Rich Hill ||Fitzgerald-Spielberger ||Harvard |
|Total give ||32.4 ||13 ||722 ||103 |
|Total get ||36 ||15 ||492 ||74 |
|Absolute Diff ||+4 ||+2 ||-230 ||-29 |
|Percent Diff ||+10% ||+13% ||-47% ||-39% |
It's a bit strange to see Adofo-Mensah move away from the analytics charts in favor of the traditional ones, but the value swap here is not absurd. The real question with this trade will be if Roy ends up being a true contributor. 5.141 NT Jaquelin Roy, LSU Profile: Jr 6'3" 305lbs 32.75" Arm 10.125" Hand 78.125" Wing 5.13 40\
1.82 10* 26" VJ* 8'5" BJ* 5.00 Shuttle 8.01 3c 30 Bench 3.72 RAS* 2022 Stats: 13 Gm 49 TKL 3.5 TFL 0.5 SCK
Lance Zierlein: " The more you watch, the more you like the way Roy plays the game... Despite limited starting experience at LSU, he already displays signs of a rush plan and the athletic talent to execute it. Roy is an ascending talent with the potential to become a quality starter. "
After a 30 tackle, 1.5 sack campaign as a rotational player in 2021, Roy shifted from a penetrating 3T position to more of a traditional nose tackle under new HC Brian Kelly. This transition let Roy shine as a run stuffer. He eats space and is incredibly tough to move from his spot. He averaged almost 52 snaps a game in 2022 and his motor never let up. He has some work to do if he wants to be a three down player, particularly as a pass rusher. His bend and balance in this front are especially lacking.
The Vikings' front office seems to be a lot more comfortable with the current IDL room than I am. Harrison Phillips is a plus starter. Past that, the roster is filled with unproven youth or proven subpar players. As a 5th round pick, Roy has an uphill battle to separate himself from that group. But he's a good lottery ticket at this price. His positional versatility ensures that the defense can simply put their best players on the field. 5.164 QB Jaren Hall, BYU Profile: RSr 6'0" 207lbs 39.75" Arm 9.5" Hand 71.875" Wing 4.63 40\
1.59 10* 4.19 Shuttle* 7.06 3c* 7.96 RAS* 2022 Stats: 12 Gm 248 Comp 376 Att 66% Comp 3171 Yds 31 TD 6 INT 86 Rush 789 Rush Yds 9 RUsh TD
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah: "We added a really talented player that has a ton of upside... The ability to make decisions, throw the football accuracy, deal with conflict when it comes his way, and sometimes try to make a play outside the framework of the playcall. He does all those things at a really great level... That's an outstanding young man. I'd like to see him lead my team or any organization I'm a part of."
Despite being the third oldest prospect in the QB class, Hall only has 24 starts under his belt due to two years on religious mission and one year with a hip injury. But when Hall took over for Zach Wilson in 2021, he hit the ground running. BYU went 10-3 in that first year with Hall compiling a 4:1 TD:INT ratio. He is a two time team captain, and all reports of his character are off the charts.
Hall is a poised pocket passer capable of extending plays and picking up yardage on the ground. He was only sacked 12 times in 2022, which is a testament to both BYU's offensive line and Hall's ability to create under pressure. There are conflicting opinions on Hall's upside and arm strength, with Lance Zierlein calling his arm "unimpressive" while Kyle Crabbs claiming that hall has a "live arm with the ability to throw with juice off platform". Where there was near-universal agreement was in his understanding of the scheme, as Hall operated BYU's RPO-heavy offense like a machine. He has a clean release and quickly gets into a rhythm. His largest universal concerns are his age (he turned 25 in March) and his injury history (missed 20 games in the last 4 years). He also has ball security issues with 13 fumbles over his career.
I expected the Vikings to draft a QB in this class. The only question was if it would have been via a trade up on Day 1 or a flyer on Day 3 (or a falling Will Levis). With his age, size, and injury history, there are plenty of questions about what Hall can be. He will have a year in practice to put together his audition tape to be Kirk Cousins's replacement -- it's certainly a viable path for this team to take a RiddeHowell/Mills-esque year to evaluate Hall while they continue retooling the defense. But the more likely path is that Hall becomes a long-term backup for the team. Cousins has been the model of health, but that doesn't mean that QB2 is an unimportant position. Sean Mannion, Kellen Mond, and Nick Mullens have manned that position to various degrees over the past few years. None has shown that they can be a competent plug-in player if needed. There is some hope that Hall -- who operated the BYU offense with a mechanic efficiency -- can be that player. 7.222 RB DeWayne McBride, UAB Profile: Jr 5'10" 209lbs 30.625" Arms 9.5" Hands 73.125" Wing 20 Bench\
* 2022 Stats: 11 Gm 233 Att 1713 Yds 19 TD 7.4 Y/A 2 Rec 10 Rec Yds
Dane Brugler: "Overall, McBride is unproven as a pass catcher and blocker, which might restrict his NFL role, but his contact balance, vision and lateral agility are among the best this running back draft class has to offer"
In an era of advanced metrics and Combine showmanship, perhaps the trait that has gone underappreciated more than any other in RB scouting is balance. McBride may have the best balance in the entire RB class outside of Bijan Robinson. He comes from a heavy outside zone scheme at UAB, where he led the FBS in yards per game and set school records for single-game and single-season rushing. McBride absorbs contact like a sponge. His short area burst is strong, and he makes defenders miss with power and finesse. McBride has ideal size and toughness. His concerns are simple. He was not utilized as a receiver in college, and he had more career fumbles than catches in that time. McBride profiles as a two-down player at the next level. Although Adofo-Mensah has voiced his belief that McBride's passing game usage was a product of scheme rather than ability, McBride still has to prove that he is more than just a short yardage runner in the NFL.
After spending a pick in back to back years on RB and re-signing Mattison to a modest contract, RB was a bit of an unexpected pick for this regime. Dalvin Cook still seems to be movable (a likely cut candidate at this point), which would make this pick more logical. Chandler struggled with injuries as a rookie, but both he and Nwangwu profile more as speedy scatbacks than true between-the-tackle runners like Mattison. Even Mattison has never been a true three-down back. McBride plays much more similarly to Mattison than the other backs on the team. He will try to carve out a role behind him as the future thunder to the lightning provided by Chandler and Nwangwu.
UDFA FB Zach Ojile, Minnesota Duluth Profile: 6Sr 6'0" 241lbs 31.5" Arms 8.5" Hands 75.5" Wing 4.78 40\
1.79 10* 31" VJ* 9'1" BJ* 4.40 Shuttle* 31 Bench* 4.15 RAS* 2022 Stats: 11 Gm 12 Rush 53 Rush Yds 3 Rush TD 25 Rec 289 Rec Yds 5 Rec TD
A Twin Cities native, Ojile was a late addition to the roster, joining after a May rookie minicamp tryout. Ojile played LB, QB, FS, and RB in high school but found a role as an H-Back at UMD. He served as a team captain the past two seasons and finishes his collegiate career with over 1100 total yards and 24 total TDs. He was an All-Conference player for the DII NSIC Bulldogs. Whether Ojile participates at FB or TE, he'll need to prove his versatility to beat out the veterans on the depth chart. Working in his favor is Kevin O'Connell's shift to a more base-heavy offense in 2023. WR Cephus Johnson, Southeastern Louisiana Profile: 6Sr 6'4" 223lbs 33.25" Arm\
8.5" Hand* 78.625" WIng* 4.57 40* 1.59 10* 36.5" VJ* 10'1" BJ* 4.39 Shuttle* 7.25 3c* 18 Bench* 9.48 RAS* 2022 Stats: 11 Gm 184 Pass Att 65% Comp 1354 Pass Yds 10 Pass TD 5 INT 89 Rush 488 Rush Yds 5 Rush TD
Johnson is making the fulltime switch from QB to WR as he attempts to latch on to an NFL practice squad. He earned the starting role for South Alabama as a redshirt junior before transferring to SE Louisiana, where he took some snaps at WR in spring games. Johnson's stats were unimpressive as a starting QB, notching just 1354 yards and a 2:1 TD:INT ratio in 11 starts. He has good size and instincts as a runner, but he has basically no experience playing WR. WR Lucky Jackson, W Kentucky / XFL DC Defenders Profile: RSr 6'0" 179lbs 9.624" Hand\
32.25" Arm* 75.875" Wing** 2023 Stats: 10 Gm 36 Rec 572 Yds 5 TD 1 Fmb
Jackson last put on a college uniform before the pandemic for Western Kentucky, where his 2019 season saw him put up over 1100 yards on 94 receptions. Following his college days, Jackson spent time in the CFL and the Spring League before joining the XFL's DC Defenders and becoming an All-XFL receiver. WR Malik Knowles, Kansas St Profile: RSr 6'2" 196lbs 32.25" Arm 8.75" Hand 77.625" Wing 2022 Stats: 14 Gm 48 Rec 725 YDs 2 TD 8 Rush 164 Rush Yds 3 Rush TD 23 KR 592 KR Yds
Knowles is a vertical threat with good size and length. He offers value as a kick returner and leaves Kansas State with a top 5 rank in all-purpose yards. Knowles is an undeveloped route runner that struggles with quick change-of-direction. He also has trouble with press coverage. He'll need to prove his value on special teams, where he has plenty of collegiate experience as a kick returner. WR Grant Maag, North Dakota Profile: 5Sr 6'4" 206lbs 9.25" Hand\
31.875" Arm* 77.625" Wing* 4.49 40YD* 1.60 10YS* 40.5" VJ* 10'5" BJ* 4.34 Shuttle* 6.90 3c* 8.50 RAS* 2022 Stats: 12 Gm 41 Rec 540 Yds 5 TDs
Maag was brought in following the announcement of Ben Ellefson's retirement. He is an Inver Grove Heights native and a graduate of St Croix Lutheran in St Paul. He leaves North Dakota with over 2000 yards over his five years and served as a team captain the past two seasons. His size gives him an advantage with a shorter WR group ahead of him, but Maag is a far cry from a roster lock. WR Thayer Thomas, NC State Profile: 6Sr 6'0" 198lbs 9" Hand\
30.125" Arm* 73.5" Wing 4.56 40* 1.63 10* 37" VJ* 10' BJ* 4.03 Shuttle* 6.93 3c* 15 Bench* 7.85 RAS* 2022 Stats: 13 Gm 57 Rec 642 Yds 4 TDs 2 Rush Att 44 Rush Yds 1 Rush TD 17 PR 128 PR Yds
A multisport athlete that was drafted by the Red Sox in 2019, Thomas walked onto the Wolfpack football team and got onto the field any way he could. In 2018, he saw work as a receiver, punt returner, and passer. Thomas has good hands (a career drop rate of 4%) and a high work ethic, but he is an undeveloped route runner that struggles to create much after the catch. He will need to prove his worth on special teams if he wants to make the roster. TE Ben Sims, Baylor Profile: RSr 6'4" 250lbs 33.125" Arm\
9.5" Hand* 80.125" Wing* 4.58 40YD* 1.56 10YS 36" Vert* 10'2" Broad* 4.41 Shuttle* 7.46 3c* 15 Bench* 8.40 RAS* 2022 Stats: 12 Gm 31 Rec 255 Yds 3 TDs 2 Drops 1 Rush TD
Sims projects as a blocking tight end with limited ability as a receiver. He's a patient run blocker with good balance and toughness, but he is still cleaning up some technique. He isn't a creator with the ball in his hands and his tape fails to demonstrate the explosiveness that his testing suggests. OL Alan Ali, TCU Profile: RSr 6'4" 301lbs 32.875" Arm 9.5" Hand 77.625" Wing 5.23 40\
1.89 10* 26.5" VJ 8'5" BJ* 4.91 Shuttle* 7.94 3c* 3.80 RAS*
A 5 year starter for TCU and SMU, Ali is a fundamentally sound center prospect with good body control and core strength. He has experience playing at all 5 OL positions but spent most of the past 4 years at center. His lack of athleticism and length are likely the reason he went undrafted. OT Jacky Chen, Pace Profile: RSr 6'5 1/4" 299lbs 10" Hand\
34.5" Arm* 80.75" Wing* 5.41 40* 1.81 10* 29" VJ* 8'10" BJ* 4.74 Shuttle* 7.90 3c* 24 Bench* 5.39 RAS*
It's hard to find very much information on an undrafted lineman from a DII school whose toughest opponent was the University of New Haven. Chen is an OT prospect that is viewed as a ball of clay. Chen's 40 yard dash and 3 cone were underwhelming to say the least, but he was an above average tester in burst and explosiveness drills. That combined with his length make him an interesting project. EDGE Andre Carter II, Army Profile: Sr 6'6.5" 256lbs 9.375" Hand 33.275" Arm 81 Wing 4.91 40\
1.65 10* 30" VJ 9'1" BJ 4.36 Shuttle 6.97 3c* 11 Bench 6.29 RAS* 2022 Stats: 10 Gm 41 TKL 7 TFL 3.5 SCK 2 PD
The highest profile UDFA signing of the class, Carter was getting 1st round buzz this time last year
. At that time, Carter was coming off an 18.5 TFL / 15.5 sack season. However, Carter struggled to repeat his production as a senior, notching just 3.5 sacks. Carter finished out the draft cycle with lackluster testing, failing to run under a 4.90 in the 40 yard dash and weighing in at a mere 256 lbs -- a big concern given his 81 inch wingspan and towering stature. Carter has a ton of upside, but he doesn't have the frame to be a real NFL player right now. After 4 years training to be an officer in the US Army, he will need at least one season (maybe more) in an NFL weight room where he can focus on building muscle mass. He'll look to follow the mold of fellow Army player Alejandro Villanueva, who added 43 lbs to his 277 lbs frame entering the league before becoming a 7-year starter. Luckily, he joined the team with one of the best training facilities in the league. EDGE Junior Aho, SMU Profile: 6'2" 260lbs 9" Hand 33.875" Arm 79.875" Wing 4.58 40\
1.66 10* 33.5" VJ* 10'3" BJ* 4.90 Shuttle* 7.38 3c* 9.38 RAS* 2022 Stats: 13 Gm 23 TKL 2 TFL 2 SCK 1 FF
Quite simply, Aho is an athletic freak that should find his way onto the team thanks to the International Player Pathway roster spot. He takes pride in his speed and athleticism, but he also understands the limitations to his game. Aho was a solid rotational player for SMU. He will look to follow in the footsteps of other International Pathway players like Efe Obada and Jordan Mailata. DT Calvin Avery, Illinois Profile: RSr 6'1" 343 lbs 10" Hand\
32.5" Arm 81.87" Wing 5.37 40* 1.84 10* 30.5" VJ* 8'5" BJ* 8.01 3c* 31 Bench* 3.12 RAS* 2022 Stats: 13 Gm 23 TKL 2 TFL 1 PD
Avery is a former four star recruit out of Texas, earning snaps in 12 games as a true freshman. He started 12 games in 2022, primarily at nose tackle. He has a wide, large frame that makes him hard to move. However, he is an underwhelming athlete to say the least, and his statistical production is nearly non-existent. LB Abraham Beauplan, Marshall Profile: RSr 5'11" 241 lbs 9.25" Hand 31.75" Arm 77 1/4" Wing 4.62 Shuttle 35.5" VJ 9'9" BJ 7.33 3c 22 Bench 4.52 RAS 2022 Stats: 12 Gm 66 TKL 6.5 TFL 1 SCK 3 PD
Beauplan started the draft process by making an appearance on Bruce Feldman's Freaks List, reportedly squatting as much as 565 lbs and benching as much as 285. The few reports that exist on Beauplan suggest he's an urgent, downhill run defender that will look to carve out a role on special teams early on. LB Wilson Huber, Cincinnati Profile: 6Sr 6'4" 241lbs 9.75" Hand 32.375" Arm\
80" Wing* 4.70 40* 1.66 10* 35" VJ* 10'4" BJ* 4.45 Shuttle* 6.91 3c* 18 Bench* 8.34 RAS* 2022 Stats: 13 Gm 54 TKL 6.5 TFL 1 SCK 1 PD
A 3 star recruit out of Indiana, Huber started his career at Cincinnati as a TE. He played a hybrid role in his first 2 non-redshirt seasons, earning snaps on offense, defense, and special teams. He made a full role switch to the defensive side of the ball in 2020 and eventually earned the team captain moniker in 2022. Huber had some solid testing despite profiling as more of a thumper. LB Ivan Pace Jr, Cincinnati Profile: Sr 5'10.5" 231lbs 30.25" Arm 9.5" Hand 72" Wing 4.59 40\
1.70 10* 35" VJ 9'8" BJ* 4.40 Shuttle * 7.18 3c* 22 Bench* 5.71 RAS* 2022 Stats: 13 Gm 137 TKL 21.5 TFL 10 SCK 3 FF 4 PD
Ranked the 11th best LB for Daniel Jeremiah, 9th for Dane Brugler, and 7th for PFF, many thought Pace could have gone as early as Round 3. Pace was a one year starter for the Bearcats after transferring from Miami (Ohio), and he hit the ground running. He led the AAC in tackles and TFLs. He is a smaller player (although not abnormally so in today's game) that plays with his hair on fire. He gives tremendous effort on every play and is always around the ball. Pace is a super tough player that loves to tackle. His size is a concern; he gets washed out of plays too easily. He is also lacking in coverage skills, struggling to stay connected in man coverage. Still, it's incredible that Pace went undrafted. He's an easy special teams projection as a rookie with the upside to be put in position to win under Flores. CB CJ Coldon, Oklahoma Profile: 6Sr 5'10" 186lbs\
8.375" Hand* 31.125" Arm* 75.125" Wing* 4.60 40* 1.58 10* 37 1/2" VJ* 10'5" BJ* 4.24 Shuttle* 7.31 3c* 3.92 RAS* 2022 Stats: 12 Gm 42 TKL 2 TFL 4 INT 6 PBU
Coldon is an instinctual football player that relies on his feel to create ball production. He spent 5 years at Wyoming before transferring to Oklahoma and leading the team in INTs and PBUs. In zone, Coldon watches the QB and looks for the right cue to understand when and where the ball is headed. CB NaJee Thompson, Georgia Southern Profile: 5'10" 200lbs 9.125" Hand 32.75" Arm 76.625" Wing 4.57 40\
1.63 10* 32" VJ* 9'8" BJ* 4.56 Shuttle* 7.40 3c* 13 Bench* 1.59 RAS* 2022 Stats: 13 Gm 37 TKL 1 TFL 11 PD 1 INT
Thompson's love for the game is undeniable. After struggling to latch onto the Georgia Southern WR room, Thompson approached his head coach asking to be exclusively a special teams player. He relishes being a gunner on punts. He eventually got moved to CB in 2021, logging 557 snaps at the position in 2022. He's undeveloped at the position, but his special teams prowess gives him a good shot at the roster. CB Jaylin Williams, Indiana Profile: RSr 5'9" 184lbs 9.125" Hand 29.875" Arm 71.75" Wing 4.43 40\
1.58 10* 34.5" BJ* 9'11" BJ* 4.20 Shuttle* 7.01 3c* 13 Bench* 5.54 RAS* 2022 Stats: 10 Gm 40 TKL 2.5 TFL 7 PD 1 FR 1 BLK
A longtime role player for the Hoosiers before becoming a fulltime starter in 2019, Williams's 6 career INTs were the most amongst active players on the team last season. He earned second team All-Confernece honors in 2020 and was an honorable mention in 2021. K Jack Podlesny, Georgia Profile: RSr 6'0" 195lbs 29.25" Arms 9" Hands 74.75" Wing 2022 Stats: 31 Att 26 Made 50 Long 109 Kickoff 72 Touchbacks 74 PAT Att 73 PAT Made
Ranked as Dane Brugler's 4th kicker and Lance Zierlein's 3rd kicker, Podlesny enters Vikings camp following a career that saw him walk on to Georgia's football team and finish with an 82% hit rate. He hit all but one extra point last season for the national champion Bulldogs. A concern with Podlesny is his leg strength. His accuracy beyond 40 yards falls to just 54%. His clutchness may also come into question as he missed two kicks in the national championship semifinals against Ohio State.
Projected Depth Chart
Pos (Projected 2023 Rostered Count / 2022 Rostered Count): Starter
QB (2/2): Kirk Cousins
, Jaren Hall,
RB (4/4): Alexander Mattison
, Kene Nwangwu, Ty Chandler, DeWayne McBride,
FB (1/1): CJ Ham
WR (5/5): Justin Jefferson
, KJ Osborn
, Jordan Addison
, Jalen Nailor, Brandon Powell,
TE (3/3): TJ Hockenson
, Josh Oliver, Johnny Mundt,
OL (9/10): Christian Darrisaw
, Ezra Cleveland
, Garrett Bradbury
, Ed Ingram
, Brian O'Neill
, Chris Reed, Austin Schlottman, Oli Udoh, Blake Brandel,
DT (7/6): Harrison Phillips
, Dean Lowry
, Jonathan Bullard
, James Lynch, Esezi Otomewo, Jaquelin Roy, Khyiris Tonga,
EDGE (4/5): Danielle Hunter
, Marcus Davenport
, Pat Jones II, DJ Wonnum,
Andre Carter II
ILB (4/4): Jordan Hicks
, Brian Asamoah
, Troy Reeder, Ivan Pace Jr,
CB (5/6): Byron Murphy
, Andrew Booth
, Akayleb Evans
, Mekhi Blakmon, Joejuan Williams,
S (5/4): Harrison Smith
, Lewis Cine
, Jay Ward, Josh Metellus, Camryn Bynum,
K (1/1): Greg Joseph
P (1/1): Ryan Wright
LS (1/1): Andrew DePaola
KR: Kene Nwangwu
PR: Brandon Powell
2024 Needs Starters Needed:
QB, OG, EDGE, DT -- Whether due to expiring contracts (Cousins, Cleveland, Davenport, Hunter) or overall suckitude (Ingram, Lowry), we need to find new starters at this positions in 2024. Could we go on with average-level free agents? Maybe. Should we? Maybe not. We'll see how the group plays:
CB, LB, RB -- These are positions where the front office is counting on young players (Booth, Evans, Asamoah) to fill the roles of departed starters. If those players take that step up, these positions drop on the needs list. Otherwise, we're in for a rough season. Depth needed:
WR -- The depth after Jefferson, Osborn, and Addison is not great. And Osborn is entering a contract year. Unless Keenan McCardell works some magic with Jalen Nailor or Trishton Jackson or Thayer Thomas, this should be a position we add to next year.
Final Thoughts Versatility.
When we look at this Vikings draft class, that's the first word that comes to mind, and it comes in big bold letters. Addison has inside-outside versatility. So does Mekhi Blackmon. Jay Ward is the most versatile of the group, capable of playing every DB position plus some spot snaps at LB. Roy has been productive everywhere from 0T to 4i. And the team has talked about how much they believe McBride can contribute as a pass catcher on top of his bruiser mindset as a between-the-tackles runner.
On offense, this shift seems to stem from a philosophical change following the TJ Hockenson acquisition last year. O'Connell's unit went from trying to copy-paste Sean McVay's outside zone scheme (largely a 3WR offense) to Kyle Shanahan's outside zone scheme (largely a TE-FB offense). And in that mold, O'Connell was looking for players he could use to create the illusion of complexity. That is, how can we employ versatile players to present defenses the threat of multiplicity?
On defense, the answer is a lot simpler. By bringing over Brian Flores, the team is hoping for a jolt in tenacity and an overall move to a hybrid amoeba scheme. You can look historically at how Bill Belichick has utilized flexibility in his defenses to maximize his gameplan for whatever offensive scheme is next on the menu. You can look at players on the line of scrimmage that have experience in both 43 and 34 schemes (Hunter, Phillips, Lynch, Bullard). And in the secondary, look no further than the selection of Jay Ward as an attempt to clone players like Jevon Holland and Kyle Dugger.
As Adofo-Mensah has repeatedly said, he approaches his job with humility. He listens to those around him and he finds the point where stories marry data to make informed decisions. And in O'Connell, he found someone who shares that mentality. With the emphasis on versatility, that mindset can now be applied on a weekly (and play-by-play) basis to opponents. We'll see how successful that strategy is as the team continues to straddle the line between competitive and rebuilder, but there is certainly an energy around the fanbase with the continued success of the offense and the addition of Brian Flores.