PFF Tabs Young Vikings Linebacker as a Breakout Candidate in 2023

PFF Tabs Young Vikings Linebacker as a Breakout Candidate in 2023
Sep 25, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Brian Asamoah II (33) in action against the Detroit Lions during the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Every year, young NFL players burst onto the scene in their second NFL seasons after spending time as depth roles throughout their rookie years. In 2021, we saw K.J. Osborn take a big step towards becoming a major contributor in the Vikings offense. In 2022, Christian Darrisaw went from a solid starter to a budding superstar at left tackle.

Though the 2022 season still hasn’t ended yet, Pro Football Focus put together a list of breakout candidates for all 32 teams heading into 2023. For Minnesota, this list includes young Vikings linebacker Brian Asamoah as a candidate for a breakout season this upcoming fall. Here is what they had to say of the Vikings speedy linebacker:

“The Vikings need to get younger and more athletic on defense, and that’s a cue for linebacker Brian Asamoah to take on a bigger role in 2023. The rookie played just 121 snaps this season but flashed playmaking ability during those snaps — he single-handedly created a turnover with a forced fumble and recovery against the Giants in Week 16.”

PFF’s Sam Monson on Brian Asamoah’s role in 2023

Asamoah was selected in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft by the Vikings after playing three seasons of collegiate ball with the Oklahoma Sooners. This past season in Minnesota, the linebacker spent his rookie year buried on the depth chart behind free agent acquisition Jordan Hicks and longtime starter Eric Kendricks.

This reality limited Asamoah’s impact in 2022, and while he played in 16 of the 17 regular season games, the rookie only saw defensive snaps in 10 of them with his first defensive appearance coming in Week 5 against the Chicago Bears.

Though Asamoah was behind the two starters for much of the season, his impact and role on the defense grew as the season went along. He played 10+ defensive snaps in every game from Weeks 14-17, and the rookie seemed to grow ever more comfortable in his role as he saw more playing time. As Sam Monson of PFF points out in the piece, his growing confidence in his abilities allowed him to force a key turnover against the New York Giants.

Dec 4, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Brian Asamoah II (33) leaps over the celebration pile late during the fourth quarter after an interception by safety Camryn Bynum (24) off New York Jets quarterback Mike White (5) sealed the victory at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

One of the key problems with the Vikings defense in 2022 was that they simply couldn’t keep up with faster offenses, especially faster wide receiver groups. Isaiah Hodgins and Darius Slayton torched the Vikings for a combined 12 catches, 193 receiving yards, and a touchdown in the Wild Card round. In that game, Asamoah played zero snaps on defense because of a concussion that forced him to leave early on.

Game-breaking speed that Asamoah possesses could be crucial for the Vikings in 2023. At the NFL combine, the linebacker tested out at a 4.56 in the 40-yard dash, slightly faster than Kendrick’s 4.61 when he was going through the draft process in 2015.

Now, this doesn’t mean that we should expect Asamoah to step onto the field in Week 1 of the 2023 season and look like one of the best linebackers in the NFL. Minnesota is still looking for a new defensive coordinator to replace Ed Donatell and based on some of the first few interviews they’ve conducted, it seems that the Vikings want to change scheme to create a faster, blitz-happy defense.

Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Brian Asamoah. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

It will certainly take some time for Asamoah to adjust to what is likely going to be his starting role in 2023. This is especially the case if the Vikings not only move on from Jordan Hicks but also Eric Kendricks. If that happens, it likely leaves Asamoah and a rookie like Trenton Simpson in the middle of the Vikings defense.

There will be bumps in the road, no doubt, but if Asamoah continues to be a playmaker like he was down the stretch of the 2022 season, there’s very little reason to believe that he can’t blossom into a quality player for the Vikings defense.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. He also earned minors in History, Human Biology, and Journalism. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys marathon training, playing video games, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. For more of his opinions, check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.