Though Not Mentioned, The Vikings Have Sophomore Breakout Candidates

Dec 20, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) and Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings were shutout in a recent piece that covers 15 sophomore breakout candidates. A piece that constrains itself to just 15 players is necessarily incomplete. That’s not a criticism but, rather, an acknowledgement of reality; every NFL team is bringing back several sophomores whom they’re hoping can take on more prominent roles. Not everyone can be listed. Nevertheless, it’s surprising to see that Minnesota doesn’t have any of their players mentioned.

Before getting to the Vikings, it’s worth bringing up a great point from the beginning of the piece. Second-year players get a lot more opportunity in the NFL, as evidenced by the snap count numbers from last season: “The 2020 draft class played a total of 59,509 snaps last season, while the 2021 rookie class saw 8,985 fewer snaps.” In other words, sophomores played more than 6 times as much as rookies. So, it’s clear that sophomores, as a whole, tend to get more opportunity.

Some of the names on the list make a ton of sense. Seeing Trevor Lawrence at #1 should surprise no one. Jaycee Horn, Rashod Bateman, and Travis Etienne are also good picks.

One wonders, though, if some Vikings players should have been included among the breakout candidates. Christian Darrisaw showed an awful lot of promise as a rookie. He finished the year with a 71.9 PFF grade, and his 77.3 run blocking score was 15th overall among tackles. He accomplished these lofty grades after overcoming an injury that kept him sidelined for the first several weeks of the year.

Perhaps the next main name to consider is Camryn Bynum. There’s a legitimate competition for the starting safety spot opposite Harrison Smith. Lewis Cine is a first-round selection who looks like he’ll have a great NFL career. The fact that he may not be a starter points to how much upside Bynum showed in 2021. He didn’t have enough snaps to get an official ranking, but his 78.3 score is actually higher than Smith’s.

Though I’m not sure they get to the level of being among the breakout candidates, the Vikings will also be leaning on Kene Nwangwu, Jaylen Twyman, and Ihmir Smith-Marsette to step up. If a few sophomores can reach their potential, Minnesota will have a good chance to put together a winning season.

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