Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is one week removed from his first draft with the need in the Vikings secondary. It really depends on who you ask in the Vikings’ fan base as to whether he did well or not. That is kind of the story of the divided fan base on a regular basis. If there is an argument to be made though, it is that Adofo-Mensah addressed the weak link. That weak link is the Viking defense. The Vikings were ranked at the bottom of the barrel in most defensive categories last season. It was something that needed to be worked on, and it is hard to argue that didn’t happen at the NFL Draft.
New Vikings Secondary
NFL Draft 2022
If I was to give you my opinion about the Vikings’ draft this year you’d hear from me that I thought they did a fine job attempting to fix the defense. The trades were a bit strange, especially within the division. But it seems as though the new regime got what they wanted as far as player personnel. Sometimes that has to be looked at as a win in itself.
In the first round at 32nd overall, the Vikings selected Lewis Cine, safety from the powerhouse Georgia Bulldogs’ defense. The staff followed that up in the second round at pick 42 overall with cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. out of Clemson. The Vikings then skipped around as far as defense goes in the third. But in the fourth round, they drafted Akayleb Evans, a cornerback out of Missouri. Three solid prospect picks added to the Vikings secondary. Rightfully so too. In 2021 the Vikings ranked 22nd in Passing Touchdowns allowed, and 28th in Passing Yards Allowed.
If the three selected can have an immediate impact on the Vikings secondary, it will be an automatic upgrade to the defense as a whole.
The Lewis Cine/Harrison Smith Tandem
Lewis Cine out of Georgia is an exciting piece to this secondary that the Vikings added. He is big, he’s fast, and he likes to hit. Not just hit either, he really unloads on people. You could actually make a decent comparison to that of Harrison Smith. Cine should be a day one starter right next to “The Hitman” back there. That takes nothing away from Camryn Bynum. Bynum was fine back there last season, and in the long term will be a great asset to the secondary. You don’t spend first-round draft capital on Cine though if he isn’t intended to start right away.
Besides being a violent downhill hitter, he has the ability to direct coverage and did so in Georgia. That alone is a big leadership trait that may not have been all that relevant in the secondary last season. Not to take anything away from Harrison Smith of course, but having more leadership isn’t a bad thing. His tackling ability is also a great skill that sets him apart from the other corners on the team. It seemed pretty uncommon for Vikings defenders in the secondary to make an initial tackle. That should be able to improve right away with Cine.
Overall Cine is instinctive, holds leadership qualities, and is immediately one of and if not the best tackler in the secondary. Watching him and Smith back there track balls and coming up to lay a hit on someone will be good for the defense. It also wouldn’t be surprising to see a Cine, Smith, Bynum package back there on some occasions. As mentioned, it wasn’t that Bynum was bad last season, it’s just that Cine is an immediate upgrade.
Andrew Booth Jr. & Akayleb Evans
Many look at the Andrew Booth Jr. pick as a steal in the second round and I would have to agree with them. Booth Jr. is another that could easily be a day one starter for the Vikings. Patrick Peterson is going to be starting on one side of the field, and I don’t think it will take long for Booth Jr. to beat out Cameron Dantzler on the opposite side. Dantzler did improve last season from his rookie campaign, but there is too much talent in Booth Jr. to be ignored.
One thing that people love about Booth Jr. is that he plays as if the ball is being thrown to him and not the receiver he is defending. He has the natural ability to either jump the pass or step in front of the receiver last second. His wingspan is a major factor in this. At 6’0″ Booth Jr. follows his average height with those long 32 1/8″ arm length. If you’re able to make yourself bigger against the pass, it automatically gives the quarterback a smaller window to throw to.
Another upgrade from Booth Jr. is the ability to make a tackle, and as mentioned this was not a strong suit for the Vikings last season. He is physical, can shed blockers, and isn’t afraid to stick his head in there. Overall I don’t see a scenario where Dantzler beats him out during training camp and the preseason, and he should make an impact to be better than defense in week one.
Out of the three defensive backs taken Akayleb Evans is without a doubt the lesser-known and most raw of the bunch. He will serve nicely in the depth of the secondary, and although he won’t make an immediate impact he could climb the chart. There is an opportunity for him, but he will have to prove his worth against Kris Boyd and Harrison Hand.
Looking at Evans it is hard to ignore his ability to come up and make a tackle on the running back. He is excellent at recognizing the run and doesn’t hesitate to come up and make a stop. Where he excels in recognizing the run he lacks in pass play development. He does tend to struggle to recognize routes and see receivers come off their break. There is no question he will need development, but that is why he isn’t considered to make an immediate impact.
He has Peterson on the team along with Smith to help him develop, and although it may take a while he still brings great attributes to the team. He is a great run stopper, he is physical, he has a tenacity that can’t be taught, and isn’t afraid to get into big receivers’ faces. It will all come down to him developing his skillset to be able to read routes, fix a stiff back peddle, and work on his inside man coverage. If he is able to gather what he will learn before the season starts and put it on the field, he will develop into a great asset.
After it is all said and done it looks like they promised to change their lackluster Vikings secondary from a season ago. Adding talented players is the first step, but they need to turn that into results on the field. With the new coaching staff and 3-4 defense in place, it will all come down to turning the corner and making it happen. If the Vikings are able to supply a solid defense we were used to seeing for many years, there is no doubt that this team will be very competitive and fun to watch.