One Vikings Position Battle Should Be Particularly Interesting

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings
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The Minnesota Vikings have a number of very important decisions to make throughout the remainder of the offseason.

Of course, the QB1 decision comes to mind as Sam Darnold and J.J. McCarthy duke it out for the starting job this summer. However, this position battle is pretty cut and dry. One of the two will win, and the other will be the backup.

As a result, the QB competition may not be the most interesting Vikings position battle of the offseason. Instead, there is a different battle that could have drastically varying outcomes on the roster. That battle comes at the cornerback position.

The Most Interesting Vikings Position Battle

Vikings Position Battle
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

Looking at the position as a whole, there are 11 names vying for a spot on the roster this year:

CB1: Byron Murphy Jr.
CB2: Shaq Griffin
CB3: Mekhi Blackmon
CB4: Akayleb Evans
CB5: Khyree Jackson
CB6: Andrew Booth Jr.
CB7: Jaylin Williams
CB8: Joejuan Williams
CB9: Dwight McGlothern
CB10: NaJee Thompson
CB11: A.J. Green III

As of now, Byron Murphy likely is the only player of these 11 to have a starting role solidified. First and foremost, the veteran is getting paid like a starting cornerback, set to carry a cap hit of $10.9 million in 2024. He also put together a strong 2023 campaign before getting hurt down the stretch of the year, recording 57 tackles, four tackles for loss, 13 passes defended, and three interceptions in 13 games.

Behind Murphy, though, it’s virtually entirely up in the air as to who will hold the CB2-CB6/7 roles this year. Minnesota brought in Shaq Griffin via free agency, largely because of his prowess as a man coverage player. However, the veteran has been a journeyman in recent years, playing for three different teams since 2022. Can the former Pro Bowler still hold down a consistent starting role at age-29?

Nov 12, 2023; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Houston Texans cornerback Shaquill Griffin (0) reacts after intercepting the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals in the second half at Paycor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, the Vikings also selected Khyree Jackson in the fourth round of the 2024 NFL Draft. Jackson has had an incredible journey to the NFL, but some will wonder about his readiness to compete at the NFL level seeing as he’s only had one true season as a starter at the FBS level.

Still, Jackson is another big-bodied presence at the position and has thrived in man coverage, similarly to Griffin. If this trend says anything about the Vikings’ CB room, it could spell disaster for Akayleb Evans, who was one of the worst man coverage CBs in the NFL during the 2023 season. Among 104 cornerbacks to play 300+ coverage snaps in 2023, Evans had the second-worst man coverage PFF grade at 29.2.

Andrew Booth is also in the midst of a battle for a roster spot this year after failing to garner much of a role in Minnesota’s defense through his first two NFL seasons. The former second-round pick played 143 defensive snaps in 2023, and 78 of them came during the final three weeks of the season without Murphy in the lineup.

Aug 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Keelan Cole (84) is defended by Minnesota Vikings cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. (23) in the first half at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Neither Jaylin Williams nor Joejuan Williams can be ruled out, either. Joejuan was one of the early standout players in training camp during 2023, and he appeared in two games for the Vikings last year, recording a pair of passes defended. Jaylin, on the other hand, played three games and appeared in 24 defensive snaps after joining the practice squad as an undrafted free agent. Finally, NaJee Thompson should be on the final roster again because of his impact on special teams.

Overall, there are about eight players who are truly in the mix for roles at the cornerback position for the Vikings in 2024. It is a large group that seems to be competing in a completely wide-open race at this point in time. It will be fascinating to watch how the battle plays out.


Editor’s Note: Statistics for this article were found via Pro Football Focus and Pro Football Reference.

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.

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