The Vikings’ 2022 draft class is rife with talent and upside; but did they do enough? The fan base has been polarized by GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s Draft Day trades, and the perceived value of his selections based on where they were taken. My initial reaction to Oklahoma linebacker Brian Asamoah being taken at pick 66 was: “Reach” – especially with off-ball linebackers Chad Muma and Nakobe Dean (medical yellow flags) still available.
He’s a talented player but should one feel comfortable with the value at that spot? I’ve been patient while forming my opinion on this year’s draft haul and Brian Asamoah is a player who has really grown on me. After taking in as much information as possible through film, highlights, expert opinions, and the press conference of Mike Sholiton (Vikings Director of College Scouting), the pick makes a lot of sense.
After redshirting his freshman year in 2018, Brian Asamoah played three seasons at Oklahoma. He cracked the starting lineup in the second of those seasons, leading the team in tackles. He built on that promising 2020 performance with a stellar 2021 campaign where he was a Butkus Award (best linebacker) semi-finalist and an All-Big 12 Second Team selection.
Asamoah is an excellent fit in the Minnesota defense and it’s likely that they valued him more highly than most other teams. The main draw to Asamoah’s game is his range at the off-ball linebacker spot, running a 4.56 second 40-yard dash time at the combine. Measuring just over six feet tall and 226 pounds, he possesses a very modern build and skillset. Along with his slight frame comes above-average speed and overall athleticism. He has decent instincts in the run game and has some juice as a blitzer but his skill will be maximized in coverage.
The Oklahoma alum is of similar stature and repertoire to current Viking linebacker Eric Kendricks and has most of the tools to succeed him long-term. Kendricks is approaching his age 30 season and is only under contract through 2023 when he will be going on 32 years old. As lofty as it sounds right now, Asamoah may have a ceiling comparable to that of Kendricks and Minnesota could experience a very natural transition at Middle linebacker.
When comparing combine measurements of the two we find that they were the same height with Asamoah weighing in just six pounds lighter with longer arms. He will be best suited as an understudy to the veteran Kendricks in year one, getting most of his snaps on obvious passing downs. Asamoah could also vie for a starting spot in base packages on the interior next to Kendricks if Jordan Hicks finds himself in a true Sam role in base 3-4.
All in all, this is a player about whom Vikings fandom should show some excitement. His value at pick 66 is greater than most knee-jerk assessments when one considers the fact that he ran at least 1/10th of a second faster than the other big-name linebackers on the board. Asamoah is largely underrated in my opinion because he never really got any first-round buzz.
There was a first-round projection on Nakobe Dean for most of the season before his health concerns arose and names like Leo Chenal, Chad Muma, Christian Harris, and Quay Walker were heard much more often than Asamoah when projecting the second round. However, this did not keep him from rising to the #48 overall player on PFF’s Final Big Board and #69 on that of The Draft Network. I’m not certain that he was one of Kwesi’s late-night film studies but he very well may have ended the draft season even higher on the Vikings’ board. According to all reports from within the organization, the Vikings got their guy.