5 Surprises from the Vikings First Depth Chart

Kick Returns
Aug 27, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Kene Nwangwu (26) during the second half against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings released their first unofficial depth chart of the 2023 season on Monday. This Thursday, they will begin their preseason schedule by heading to Seattle and taking on the Seahawks.

Prior to that first preseason game, here are 5 surprises from the Vikings first depth chart to keep an eye on as the preseason opener approaches.

1. Kene Nwangwu Above Ty Chandler

5 Surprises
Dec 26, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Kene Nwangwu. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Alexander Mattison is obviously the favorite to be Minnesota’s starting running back when the regular season begins. However, the battle for the RB2 spot could be fierce between Ty Chandler, Kene Nwangwu, and DeWayne McBride.

For now, it appears that Nwangwu is winning the battle despite totaling just 28 touches during his first two NFL seasons. Even going back to Nwangwu’s collegiate days at Iowa State, he has largely been a career special teams player, so it will be interesting to see if the RB can take on a larger offensive load this year.

2. Blake Brandel to Guard

Vikings Activate Blake Brandel Off IR
Aug 27, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Blake Brandel (64) stretches before the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

In 2022, Blake Brandel started three games at left tackle while Christian Darrisaw dealt with injury. He filled in well at the position, particularly against the New York Jets. In 68 snaps, Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of 78.8 for his performance versus New York.

As a result, it is a bit surprising to see Brandel swap over the the right guard spot in the latest depth chart. The Vikings offensive lineman has played exactly one snap at right guard over his NFL career, and he played almost exclusively at the left tackle spot during his career at Oregon State.

3. Akayleb Evans at CB2

Can Brian Flores Unlock the Vikings Cornerbacks?
Oct 16, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans (21) after a game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings could go in many different directions at corner, so any result is a surprise at this point. For now, it seems that Akayleb Evans is winning the battle for that second starting spot next to Byron Murphy.

Evans started two games during his rookie season of 2022, but concussion issues prevented him from finishing out the year. Funny enough, he still has the second-most starting experience on the Vikings roster at the CB position, so going with Evans would be choosing the “veteran.”

4. Cam Bynum at Free Safety

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Dec 4, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Camryn Bynum. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Cam Bynum played every defensive snap in 2022 for the Vikings, so maybe it shouldn’t necessarily be surprising to see him as a starter in the depth chart. However, with Lewis Cine on the road back from his compound leg fracture, all the attention went to the 2022 first-round pick. It seemed that Cine may have become the favorite in that room for awhile, but Bynum appears to be holding off the youngster for now.

5. Jalen Nailor Listed Alongside Jordan Addison at WR

Jalen Nailor Stock Continues to Rise
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor (83) celebrates after making a stop against the New England Patriots during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Jalen Nailor is one of the most common names when discussing potential breakout players for the 2023 Vikings. His speed makes him a terrific deep-threat in the passing game, and he displayed that throughout his collegiate career at Michigan State, averaging 18.8 yards per reception during his final season with the Spartans.

Heading into the second year of his NFL career, Nailor seems to have garnered plenty of faith in the Vikings coaching staff because he was listed in the top backup WR group alongside Jordan Addison. Meanwhile, Justin Jefferson and K.J. Osborn took up the starting spots.

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.