A Pair of Vikings that Could Revive Their Careers in 2022

Oct 26, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers defensive lineman Jaylen Twyman (97) looks on from the sidelines against the Miami Hurricanes during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Miami won 16-12. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

When the third day of the 2021 NFL Draft wrapped up, there was one pick that stood out to me the most for the Minnesota Vikings. That pick came in the sixth round when Minnesota got, what I thought, was the steal of the draft at No. 199 overall. They of course took Jaylen Twyman out of Pitt with this pick; a player that many projected as high as the second round.

Of course, it made some sense that Twyman would fall a little in the draft considering he did not play during the 2020 season. It didn’t seem plausible that he would nearly fall out of the top-200, though. In 2019 with Pitt he recorded 10.5 sacks, second in the ACC only to Gregory Rousseau. Given the Vikings need for a presence in the middle of their defensive line, this seemed like a draft selection that would pay dividends. We all know how that ended, though. Twyman was shot four times over the summer while visiting his aunt in D.C. He never saw the field in 2021.

He was not the only Day Three pick that had a disappointing result in 2021, though. Florida State defensive end, Janarius Robinson, was a prospect that seemed like he always had the potential to put up big numbers, but it just never really culminated in anything. He never recorded more than three sacks in a season with the Seminoles. This pick felt like a reach when it happened, and the results over the course of training camp and preseason backed that up. Robinson was never able to crack into the defensive rotation, even after Danielle Hunter’s injury and Everson Griffen’s departure. These are two players that need a reset going into the 2022 season, but what will their roles look like?

Janarius Robinson in a Loaded DE Room

The Minnesota Vikings have gotten some much needed superstar talent off the edge after the acquisition of Za’Darius Smith in free agency. On top of that, it seems Hunter is on track to return to the field at 100% in 2022. Those two will undoubtedly take the two starting OLB spots in Ed Donatell’s new 3-4 defense. This is fine for Robinson though as he’s more suited to play a role with his hand in the dirt.

At FSU, the one area he really was able to thrive in was stopping the run. This makes him an excellent candidate to take some snaps at 5-tech; one of the two defensive end spots opposite the nose tackle on the defensive line. I

It’s unlikely he will crack into the starting rotation without a spectacular training camp and preseason, especially with the likes of Armon Watts, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Harrison Phillips up front. However, there is absolutely potential that he could at least take rotational snaps here.

The Florida State program is notorious for being unable to develop defensive prospects, so it’s not extremely surprising that despite all his physical gifts, Robinson was unable to shine there. The rookie year is always tough for raw prospects too, especially when you take into accounts the COVID headaches that the past two years have caused. Given a full offseason, we could see a big leap from the fourth-round pick.

The Vikings Wild Card

If the regular season were to start today, I would assume it would be Harrison Phillips lining up in the middle of the defensive line, with Dalvin Tomlinson and Armon Watts on either side. This leaves guys like DJ Wonnum, Kenny Willikes, Robinson, and others fighting for rotation snaps at those DE spots. I think we have a different role for Jaylen Twyman, though. Twyman played in a 4-3 at Pittsburgh as a 3T defensive tackle.

He was an extremely effective pass-rusher from the middle of the defensive line, using explosivity off the line of scrimmage and some quick maneuvers to get past interior o-linemen. The biggest problem with Twyman is a lack of size, but assuming he stays motivated going into 2022, he should be able to put on some more muscle.

If the Vikings do get a motivated Twyman, the sky is limit for this young man. He was a second-round projection for a reason, and while it may take a little extra time to get him up to speed, the dividends could come soon. With a strong training camp and preseason, there’s a good chance he comes into 2022 as the backup at NT behind Phillips. That said, there’s an equally high chance that he doesn’t make the roster at all if the work has not been put in during the offseason. In my opinion, Twyman goes into 2022 as the biggest wild card for Minnesota.