Did Kwesi Completely Whiff?

NFL Executives Were Impressed by the Vikings 2023 Draft
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Back in 2022, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah inherited an aging, underperforming defense.

A major part of the initial response was to sink a ton of draft capital into that side of the ball. Minnesota stepped away from the 2022 NFL Draft after having made ten selections. Five of the opening six selections went toward fortifying Ed Donatell’s defense. How has that turned out?

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and The 2022 Defensive Picks

For starters, Donatell is no longer around. That simple fact underscores how poorly things went in Year 1 for that Minnesota defense.

Thankfully, the tide is turning after Brian Flores got hired. The new defensive coordinator is far more aggressive than his predecessor and has put together a far more sophisticated scheme. Add it all together and Minnesota jumped from 28th in the NFL for points against in 2022 to 13th in points against in 2023.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Oct 15, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores watches his team play against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

The issue, of course, is that the new DC has had a similar relationship with the draft picks from Adofo-Mensah. Put simply, most have become an afterthought, depth pieces with little chance of starting.

Consider who got picked and where they were chosen:

PlayerRD & No.PositionCareer Snaps w/ Vikings
Lewis CineRD1, No. 32Safety10
Andrew Booth Jr.RD2, No. 42Corner256
Brian AsamoahRD3, No. 66Linebacker 155
Akayleb EvansRD4, No. 118Corner1,017
Esezi OtomewoRD5, No. 165Defensive End89
NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings
Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Lewis Cine (6) warms up before the game against the San Francisco 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Some context for the snap counts. Playing 100% of the time will mean a player is clearing the 1,000-snap threshold in a single season. Take, for instance, safety Camryn Bynum. He played 100% of the time in 2022 and was on the field for 1,161 snaps. Fast forward to 2023 and it was 99% of the time for 1,122 snaps.

So, we’re not talking about major playing time for the defenders we’re discussing. Only Mr. Evans — the long and strong corner who got benched down the stretch of the season — has been a large part of the defense.

Keep in mind that Otomewo has been cut. The 3-4 defensive end didn’t survive the switch over to the Flores defense, meaning that one out of the five defenders — 20% — has been cut. If the expected happens, then the number is going to grow.

The word is that Asamoah has been demoted. Ivan Pace Jr. and Blake Cashman are very obviously the top pair since the first name is coming off a stellar rookie season and the second name is coming off a major free-agent deal. But then there’s the Kamu Grugier-Hill addition, an older linebacker who appears to be the LB3.

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

Asamoah, though, still has a shot at getting his career off the ground. He’s aggressive and moves well. Just as safeties are sometimes tasked with doing linebacker things, one wonders if Asamoah, a linebacker, can do safety things.

In other words, Asamoah may need to show himself capable of taking on a tight end one-on-one on passing downs. He may need to show he can hang in slot coverage and also be capable of flying over to the flats to blow up a screen. Basically, do some of the things that Josh Metellus and Harrison Smith do.

Akayleb Evans is the defender who offers the most promise. Last season, the corner started in fifteen games while putting up 65 tackles, 7 passes defended, 1 interception, and 3 forced fumbles. At 6’2″ he can be a matchup weapon and he has the ability to be a strong tackler.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Oct 29, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings corner back Akayleb Evans (21) knocks a pass away from Green Bay Packers wide receiver Christian Watson (9) in the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The problem is that he got benched at the end of the season and his confidence looked to be gone. For a corner, confidence is everything. The upside is that he’s still only 25 and Minnesota won’t be moving on from him. Look for him to be in the running for the CB3 job, which is essentially a starting position in the modern NFL.

That brings things down to the initial pair of picks, Cine and Booth. The two are both trade candidates since neither is assured of a roster spot in Minnesota. Going into the draft, a lot of teams liked Cine and Booth, so one wonders if there would be a taker at this point in time. Does a 6th or a 7th prompt Minnesota to move on from one of their underperforming DBs?

What’s evident at this stage is that both are trending in the wrong direction with the Vikings.

Add it all up and it wouldn’t be fair to say that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah completely whiffed. Cine and Booth look like bad misses; Otomewo is already gone. Evans and Asamaoh have the potential to still hit, if only as LB3 and CB3.

In a lot of ways, then, the defensive component of the Vikings’ 2022 draft looks like a failure even as we acknowledge that we still have to let things play out a bit more.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference helped with this piece.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.