MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Vikings start rookie mini camp this week at TCO Performance Center.
It’s the first chance for the team’s 10 draft picks to get on the field in a live practice environment for the first time since hearing their names called during the NFL Draft. It’s also the first time for Kevin O’Connell and the coaching staff to get a live look at their newest talent.
The Vikings will also have nine undrafted free agents and other prospects on the field, hoping to make an impression on the coaching staff and earn a roster spot. Here are five storylines to monitor as the Vikings’ rookies take the field.
WILL LEWIS CINE LIVE UP TO THE HYPE?
The Vikings moved back 20 spots, trading within the NFC North Division to take Lewis Cine with the No. 32 pick, the last selection of the first round. He’s one of five Georgia defensive players taken in the first round, after the Bulldogs won the 2022 national title. He was a Third Team All-American in 2021 and earned Second Team All-SEC honors, making 73 tackles with one interception and nine pass break-ups in 15 starts. At 6-1 and 200 pounds, Cine showed his athleticism at the NFL Combine with a 4.37 40-yard dash and 36.5-inch vertical.
The hope is he’ll complement Harrison Smith this season, and eventually take over Smith’s role when his time in the NFL comes to an end.
CAN ED INGRAM MAKE AN INSTANT IMPACT ON THE OFFENSIVE LINE?
It’s no secret that the Vikings’ offensive line has been inconsistent the last several years. They enter the season with Garrett Bradbury, Brian O’Neill, Ezra Cleveland and Christian Darrisaw as returning starters. With a guard spot open, Wyatt Davis didn’t play a single snap as a rookie and the Vikings signed Chris Reed in free agency, as well as Austin Schlottman. The drafted Ed Ingram out of LSU at No. 59 overall in the second round.
Can Ingram do enough in the offseason to win a job?
CAN ANDREW BOOTH JR., AKAYLEB EVANS IMPACT THE SECONDARY?
The Vikings entered the NFL Draft with Patrick Peterson, Cam Dantzler, Kris Boyd and Harrison Hand as the returning veterans in the secondary. They also signed Chandon Sullivan in free agency. The Vikings moved up in the second round to take Clemson defensive back Andrew Booth Jr., then got Missouri defensive back Akayleb Evans in the fourth round. If Booth and Evans can be impact players from Week 1, that bodes well for Ed Donatell in their new 3-4 defense.
WILL BRIAN ASAMOAH WIN A LINEBACKER JOB?
The Vikings’ linebacker room features plenty of names, and it’s led by Eric Kendricks, free agent signee Jordan Hicks, Blake Lynch, Troy Dye and Za’Darius Smith, who will likely play more of an edge rusher role. The Vikings used the No. 66 overall pick in the third round on Oklahoma linebacker Brian Asamoah. He has the physicality to be a run stopper, and the speed to chase down quarterbacks and receivers. He can make an early impact on special teams as he works his way into the defense.
CAN A FORMER GOPHERS STAR EARN A DEFENSIVE LINE ROLE?
Getting to the quarterback and disrupting the offense is the chief goal for the Vikings’ defense under Donatell. It’s their hope that Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith are the main culprits there. The Vikings also signed Harrison Phillips in free agency, and bring back Dalvin Tomlinson. They may also look to a former Gophers’ standout, after drafting defensive end Esezi Otomewo in the fifth round at No. 165 overall.
Otomewo finished his Minnesota career with 81 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in 44 career games. He’ll likely start out in a depth role on the defensive line.