A Vikings Rookie Is Emerging as a Playmaker

Nov 12, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Mekhi Blackmon (5) intercepts a pass from New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (not pictured) in front of wide receiver Chris Olave (12) during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past couple years, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has taken a lot of scrutiny for some of his draft decisions.

Some of this criticism is warranted (the Lewis Cine pick remains a red flag), but much of it has been overreaction before letting things fully play out.

For the 2023 Vikings draft class, it seems that Adofo-Mensah has nailed a few of his selections. Jordan Addison is turning into a star at the wide receiver position, and another Vikings rookie, CB Mekhi Blackmon, has begun emerging as a playmaker in Minnesota’s secondary.

A Vikings Rookie Is Emerging as a Playmaker

Vikings Rookie
Oct 29, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Mekhi Blackmon (5) breaks up a pass intended for Green Bay Packers wide receiver Christian Watson (9) in the game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Tork Mason-USA TODAY Sports

Blackmon was selected in the third round of this spring’s draft by Minnesota after a strong career at USC. It seemed like he would be buried a bit on the Vikings depth chart with players like Akayleb Evans, Byron Murphy, and even second-year player Andrew Booth competing for snaps at the cornerback position.

That was the case early on in the season, but it has changed recently. After playing fewer than 20 defensive snaps in each of the first three games of the season, Blackmon has now played 20+ in five of the past seven weeks.

Not only has the rookie been getting on the field more over the past month and a half, but the snaps he’s playing have been very productive as well. Following the conclusion of Week 10, there have been 22 rookies to play at least 50 snaps in pass coverage. PFF has graded Blackmon as the fourth-best coverage CB in this group with a pass coverage grade of 74.1.

Nov 5, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Van Jefferson (15) tries to make a catch over Minnesota Vikings cornerbacks Mekhi Blackmon (5) and Byron Murphy Jr. (7) on the final play of the game during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Blackmon only trails a trio of top-32 picks in this department, being a few points behind Christian Gonzalez (79.3), Devon Witherspoon (77.3), and Joey Porter Jr. (76.1). He is also well ahead of first-round picks Emmanuel Forbes (55.4) and Deonte Banks (39.2).

The production from Minnesota’s third-round pick is equally as impressive when we look at it from a league-wide standpoint. Among all 121 cornerbacks in the NFL with at least 100 coverage snaps this season, Blackmon’s opposing passer rating of 64.8 ranks 13th.

Blackmon’s 5 pass breakups tie him for 15th at CB as well despite playing fewer coverage snaps than anyone else in that top-15. In many cases, he has played fewer than half as many snaps as his competition.

Aug 10, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Mekhi Blackmon (11) and Minnesota Vikings cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. (23) talk during warmups prior to the game at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Last weekend was the best example of Blackmon’s instant playmaking ability. After Akayleb Evans went down with a calf injury, the rookie was relied upon to step up and play a large chunk of the defensive snaps against the Saints.

Blackmon responded by allowing two receptions for only 11 yards while also intercepting a Jameis Winston pass, which helped Minnesota stave off a New Orleans comeback.

For the past couple seasons, the secondary has been a big weakness for the Vikings. However, that is no longer the case. With the emergence of Blackmon alongside the growing pedigree of Andrew Booth and the hard-hitting Akayleb Evans, Minnesota suddenly has a very intriguing trio at the cornerback position to build around.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.