The Minnesota Vikings‘ defensive woes probably cost them a deep playoff run in 2022, and much of this coming offseason will be devoted to upgrading on that side of the football.
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah spent serious capital on the secondary in his first draft as general manager last year, selecting defensive backs with the the Vikings’ top two picks — safety Lewis Cine (No. 32 overall) and cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. (No. 42 overall). Minnesota also drafted cornerback Akayleb Evans (No. 118 overall) in the fourth round with its fifth selection out of 10 total picks.
In his latest mock draft, which was released on Wednesday, January 25, Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN projected that the Vikings would select Emmanuel Forbes out of Mississippi State with their first-round pick in 2023 (No. 23 overall).
Veteran Patrick Peterson was the Vikings’ top corner this season, but he’s a free agent, and even if the team brings him back, it should start thinking about the future in the secondary.
Safety Lewis Cine, Minnesota’s first-rounder last April, played just two defensive snaps before breaking his left leg and missing the rest of the season. He should make a full recovery, but can the Vikings improve on the outside too? Rookie second-round pick Andrew Booth Jr. played in just six games due to injury, and he’s not a lock to start.
Whoever takes over for fired coordinator Ed Donatell needs options. Forbes was an interception magnet for the Bulldogs; he had 14 over three seasons, including six in 2022. He gave up a few big plays, but he has tremendous potential as a cover corner.
Forbes Can Offer Much-Needed Playmaking to Vikings Defense
The run defense was bad, as the Vikings finished 20th in the NFL against opposing rush attacks. The pass defense, however, was considerably worse. Minnesota allowed the second-most passing yards in 2022, surrendering nearly 280 air yards per game, according to StatMuse. The team’s combined struggles added up to the second-worst overall defensive output last year at 389 total yards allowed per contest.
One year isn’t going to be enough time to set all of that as right as Vikings faithful might prefer, but adding a player like Forbes helps in two ways. First, the 6-foot, 180-pound defensive back contributes to the foundation of youthful talent, in which the team has invested in its secondary. Second, and perhaps more importantly, Forbes brings playmaking to the equation on defense.
Not only has he intercepted 14 passes in his three-year collegiate career, but he has scored a total of six defensive touchdowns, per Football Reference. A day of getting hammered on the outside against wide receivers like Davante Adams or Tyreek Hill, which tends to happen to most teams, is quickly erased by a timely pick-six — exactly the type of element a ball-hawking corner like Forbes can provide.
Patrick Peterson Interested in Returning to Vikings in 2023
The Vikings’ current big-play defensive back is Peterson, who Kiper Jr. noted above is bound for free agency yet again in 2023. The good news for Minnesota is that he wants to return to the team for a third season. The question is: at what price?
Peterson did not earn All-Pro or Pro-Bowl honors in 2022, despite producing one of the best campaigns of what is almost certain to be a Hall of Fame career. He recorded 15 passes defensed and five interceptions, both of which rank second among all season totals across his 12-year NFL career, per Pro Football Reference. He also played in all 17 games and made 66 tackles, both of which were career highs.
The improvement season-over-season was relatively staggering for the now 32-year-old cornerback, but that could mean more years and more annual dollars requested in Peterson’s upcoming contract negotiations. He has played on consecutive one-year deals, worth a total of $8 million and $4 million, respectively. After his 2022 renaissance, the eight-time Pro Bowler will look to cash in on what is likely to be the last lucrative multiyear deal of his professional career.