The Vikings’ Corner Churning is Going to Lead to Talented Players Being Cut

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Atlanta Falcons
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past little bit, I’ve been unveiling a position-by-position roster projection for the Vikings. As the focus shifts to defense, we move back to corner, one of the sport’s most difficult and important positions.

It didn’t take Kwesi Adofo-Mensah very long to completely overhaul the Vikings’ corner position. Patrick Peterson and Cameron Dantzler were notable carryover players, but they’ve been gone for a little while. Minnesota is moving ahead with a new batch of CBs plucked out of free agency, the draft, and the UDFA clusters. Does this roster question mark turn into a strength in 2024?

The Vikings’ Corner Competition and the Cut Candidates

Undoubtedly, Byron Murphy Jr. is the top option.

The CB1 has been in the NFL for five seasons and yet is still only 26. Last season, Murphy played along the outside quite a bit but the plan is to move him into the slot with greater regularity. Having Shaq Griffin and Khyree Jackson* — alongside ongoing growth from some of the others — will allow Brian Flores to do so.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Minnesota Vikings
Oct 8, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. (7) pressures Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) in the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Akayleb Evans stands out as a wild card. The 25-year-old defender has great size and has the potential to be a strong CB2/3. The issue, of course, is that he ended the season very poorly, with his confidence looking low as he got benched.

In the end, Evans got dinged with allowing 70.4% of passes into his coverage to be completed to go alongside a 13.7 yards-per-reception average and 6 touchdowns. Not ideal. The PFF score finished off at 54.9, 99th among the 127 corners who qualify for the ranking. If the final month of the season was shaved off, Evans’ numbers would likely look much better.

Evans has the potential to be a matchup weapon who is disruptive in coverage and who is a strong supporter in run defense. Don’t write off the third-year corner. The final chapter hasn’t been written for Mr. Evans after starting fifteen games as a sophomore. His cap charge is sitting at a modest $1,175,269.

Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans (21) tackles Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Deven Thompkins (83) in the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The wild thing is that there are still so many others to consider. Andrew Booth Jr. is both a trade and cut candidate. Does he sneak onto the team as the CB6?

And what about Mekhi Blackmon? His roster spot is safe as a soon-to-be sophomore who was Minnesota’s 3rd-Round selection from 2023. His rookie season involved pretty steady play, finishing with a 71.8 PFF grade (32nd). Despite being 5’11”, Blackmon lined up along the outside for 382 snaps and in the slot for just 18. Look for that trend to continue as the 25-year-old corner battles for a starting spot.

Griffin looks like a safe bet to start with Murphy. The veteran free agent addition has good size and good confidence. Flores is going to lean on him, especially early on. He’s carrying a medium-sized cap hit: $4,430,000.

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

A final word before the prediction.

Khyree Jackson (read more) and Dwight McGlothern (read more) are worth keeping an eye on. The rookies have some hurdles to clear before getting onto the field with regularity, but they each offer potential. Look for the former to make the team while the latter hits the practice squad.

In the end, the Vikings keep six corners: Murphy, Griffin, Evans, Blackmon, Jackson, and Booth.

* Editor’s Note: This article was published prior to the tragic news about Khyree Jackson passing away. Everyone at PurplePTSD and Vikings Territory sends along their sincere condolences to Jackson’s family, friends, and to the Vikings organization.

Before training camp arrives, I’ll be doing a position-by-position roster projection in an effort to understand what the final 53-man roster could look like. Once training camp and the preseason unfold, we can swing back around to the projections to see about any adjustments. Entries: Quarterback, Running Back, Tight End, Wide Receiver, Offensive Line (Complete Offense), Defensive Line, Edge Rusher, and Linebacker.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference, PFF, and Over the Cap helped with this piece.

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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.