Picking 53: A Competition Behind Danielle & Za’Darius

6 Big Storylines for Lions at Vikings
Dec 8, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports.

Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith will be the two starting outside linebackers (or edge rushers, if you prefer the more general term). After those two, it’s going to be a competition. It’s still possible that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah brings in a vet to push the young guys, but it’s currently a race between DJ Wonnum, Janarius Robinson, Patrick Jones II, Luiji Vilain, Andre Mintze, and a few others.

Picking 53: Vikings Edge Rusher Options Beyond Top 2

If Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith both stay healthy in 2022, they’ll take a run at combining for 30+ sacks. Each will demand a ton of attention from opposing offenses. As a result, they’ll be able to help each other get home. Simply loading up on one dominant edge rusher won’t be an option against these Vikings.

The only major concern with these two is health, or lack thereof. If they’re out there, Danielle and Za’Darius will be dominant. The strong group of DTs will only make things even more formidable.

DJ Wonnum is the current favorite to be the OLB3. At 6’5, 258, Wonnum possesses the size & length that NFL DCs like along the edge. He isn’t as explosive as Hunter, though, and many have criticized his inability to consistently win his pass rushes. Despite the concerns, Wonnum put together 8 sacks last season. PFR also indicates that he piled up 15 hurries, 7 QB knockdowns, and 30 pressures. He’s still only 24.

Patrick Jones II and Janarius Robinson generated some positive hype coming out of the draft. Unfortunately, neither were able to shine in their rookie seasons. Robinson was hurt during the offseason, ending his year before it began. Jones, meanwhile, got in on a few snaps, but didn’t play particularly well. Both have somewhat of an advantage insofar as both are recent draft picks. Mind you, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah isn’t as attached to these players as Rick Spielman would have been. Each will really need to earn their spot.

The other player who many are excited about is Luiji Vilain, the Canadian who offers pass-rush upside. There’s a reason he was an UDFA, and yet the guaranteed money suggests the leadership thinks highly of him. It’s possible they see enough potential to keep him around. Every year there are at least a couple UDFAs who force their way onto the roster. It may be Vilain’s turn.

The Send Off

It’s possible that edge rusher is the most important position apart from QB. They can overcome various other deficiencies on a defense since they’re capable of disrupting a QB’s ability to run the offense. As a result, Minnesota will likely be looking to ensure they have ample edge rusher depth.

Hunter and Smith are basically guaranteed their spots. Wonnum will make the team since he offers the most experience and production from the young guys. After that, it’s a toss up between Robinson, Jones, Vilain, and a few others. I think they lean Jones and Vilain.

Editor’s Note: This piece is part of a larger roster prediction series. The previous pieces have covered QB, RB, WR, TE, OL, DT, and DE.

Purple PTSD Also Read: J.C. Tretter is Still a Free Agent

[brid autoplay=”true” video=”1037338″ player=”26281″ title=”EXCLUSIVE%20Where%20do%20the%20New%20York%20Giants%20stand” duration=”1468″ description=”Founder of Empire Sports Media, Alex Wilson, joins Carolyn Manno to discuss all things New York Giants. Detailing what must Daniel Jones improve upon to succeed next season, whether Giants fans can trust the offensive line, how Brian Daboll is approaching the team, Saquon Barkley projections for 2022 and much more!” uploaddate=”2022-06-21″ thumbnailurl=”undefined” contentUrl=”https://cdn.brid.tv/live/partners/17660/streaming/1037239/1037239.m3u8″ width=”16″ height=”9″]