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Minnesota Vikings draft picks under Kwesi Adofo-Mensah: Hits and misses from 2022, 2023

Mixed emotions from Vikings fans on Kirk Cousins news
Mixed emotions from Vikings fans on Kirk Cousins news 03:19

MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings' brass knows this is a crucial offseason.

The team did not re-sign quarterback Kirk Cousins and might select a quarterback higher than ever in franchise history. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has said he is comfortable with the uncertainty of their future.

But one thing is certain: Adofo-Mensah and his staff must improve upon their first two drafts. Their decisions this year will alter the franchise's future, maybe more than any other draft in franchise history.

MORE VIKINGS: Vikings' offseason moves, embracing of uncertainty show commitment to building a winner

Let's look at how the regime has done in their first two drafts. (For clarity, only players picked in the first four rounds are listed unless otherwise noted. Higher picks carry much more significance than late-round fliers.)

2022 draft class has not come to plan

The 2022 draft class was not an auspicious start for Adofo-Mensah, to say the least.

Former coach Mike Zimmer's defense had a brutal 2021 season, giving up the seventh-most rushing yards and the fifth-most passing yards of any team. Adofo-Mensah prioritized adding pieces to the defense in his first draft in Minnesota, specifically in coverage.

Lewis Cine, safety — round one, pick 32

The Vikings traded down in the first round and drafted safety Lewis Cine from Georgia with pick 32. Cine suffered a gruesome injury early in his rookie season and has not been on the field much in his first two years.

Cine was healthy last season but only played in seven games, with nearly all his work being on special teams. With players like Cam Bynum, Josh Metellus, and Harrison Smith all returning in 2024, Cine's future in Minnesota doesn't look promising.

Andrew Booth, cornerback — round two, pick 42

With pick 42, the Vikings took Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth, who has also not played much. Defensive coordinator Brian Flores benched Booth multiple times last year. Booth has also dealt with injuries in his first two seasons. His future in Minnesota could be in question.

MORE VIKINGS: Minnesota Vikings are pivotal players in 2024 NFL draft: What you need to know

Ed Ingram, offensive guard — round two, pick 59

Ingram has started at offensive guard both years with the Vikings and has stayed mostly healthy, which is a positive. However, the Vikings' interior has caused them trouble for years. Ingram appeared to improve throughout last season, but he routinely got beat by bigger, quicker defensive tackles. Interior pressure with Cousins was always the quarterback's kryptonite, but mobile throwers don't enjoy pressure in their face either. The Vikings could look to add to their offensive line in this year's draft.

Brian Asamoah, linebacker — round three, pick 66

The young linebacker's athleticism stands out, but Flores' trust in him waned throughout his second season in Minnesota. Asamoah has yet to become an impact player on the defense but has shown some flashes.

Akayleb Evans, cornerback — round four, pick 118 

Evans was anointed a starting role at cornerback out of training camp last season, but he struggled to defend bigger receivers, and his tackling in the open field was an issue. Flores also benched Evans at times. Weaknesses at the position led the Vikings to sign veteran cornerback Shaquille Griffin in free agency. Evans appears to be the third corner on the depth chart behind Griffin and Byron Murphy Jr. However, Flores has reiterated his desire for more depth at cornerback. He did not deploy much man-coverage last season due to a lack of trust in his cornerbacks and has talked about his desire to play more man-to-man in 2024. Cornerback could be a priority again in this year's draft.

Other noteworthy selections included:

Ty Chandler, running back — round five, pick 169

Chandler displayed his athleticism last season and took over the starting job from former Viking Alexander Mattison. Chandler will share the backfield this season with new Viking Aaron Jones.

Jalen Nailor, wide receiver — round six, pick 191

Nicknamed "Speedy," Nailor has been a bright spot for the Vikings on special teams. There might be an opportunity for him to get more snaps on offense this season, too.

In conclusion, Adofo-Mensah's first draft was a major whiff. With the first two picks not seeing the field — and no clear path to it — that's less than ideal.

2023 draft showed signs of improvement

The Vikings had six picks in the 2023 draft and only three in the first four rounds. 

Jordan Addison, wide receiver — round one, pick 23

Addison had a breakout rookie campaign, notching 911 yards. That was good for third across the league as a rookie, and he tied for the league lead with 10 touchdowns. His numbers likely would have been even higher had Cousins and wide receiver Justin Jefferson stayed healthy.

Mekhi Blackmon, cornerback — round three, pick 102

Blackmon had an up-and-down rookie campaign, but it's much too early to make a prognosis on his future. He played key snaps for the team, especially in the latter half of the season. His growth would be massive for the Vikings' cornerback play.

Jay Ward, safety — round four, pick 134

Ward did not see much action as a safety in his rookie season, but the Vikings are deep at the position. 

Other noteworthy selections from the 2023 draft were:

Jaren Hall, quarterback — round five, pick 164

Hall started two games for the Vikings last year amid Cousins' injury. He seemed slow to process and get the ball out promptly. The Vikings hope to draft their future quarterback in a few days. 

Ivan Pace, linebacker — undrafted free agent

Pace excelled at linebacker last season. His inclusion in the 2023 additions makes this class much more impactful. Pace will be a focal point of the defense in his second season. 

In conclusion, Adofo-Mensah's second draft was better than his first: he hit a home run on Addison. However, the Vikings did not have enough draft capital in 2023 to fill myriad weaknesses on the roster. Blackmon's progression will be one to watch.

If the Vikings hit on a quarterback, no one will fret about Adofo-Mensah's first two drafts — they will only think about 2024's.

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