The Minnesota Vikings have seen a shift in personnel ahead of the 2020 season. Minnesota lost a handful of key players including Stefon Diggs, Mackensie Alexander, Everson Griffen, and Trae Waynes. The team needs current players to step up more than ever if they hope to return to the playoffs. Here’s a look at potential Minnesota Vikings breakout candidates during the upcoming season
2020 Minnesota Vikings Breakout Candidates
After trading Diggs to the Buffalo Bills, one of the biggest needs for Minnesota was the wide receiver position. In the past, Minnesota had a dynamic duo of Adam Thielen and Diggs to pair with Kirk Cousins. With Diggs gone, that leaves another player to move into that number two position.
The Vikings Vikings selected Justin Jefferson in the opening round fo the 2020 NFL Draft. Jefferson will provide the Vikings another option on the outside of the field for at least a few seasons. While Jefferson hasn’t proved himself yet on the NFL stage, his college career showed a promising future.
During Jefferson’s career at LSU, he had career totals of 165 receptions for 2,415 yards and 24 touchdowns. During his senior year alone, he caught 111 balls and had 18 total touchdowns.
Jefferson could emerge as the second option for Minnesota in his rookie year and could compliment Thielen because he’s a great route-runner and he has the ability to work all over the field.
Irv Smith, Jr.
Breakout candidates that could become part of the larger passing game and the offense throughout the upcoming year include Irv Smith, Jr.
Smith is a young tight end who came into the league before last year. He was selected in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft mainly as insurance to Kyle Rudolph on the depth chart. Because Smith was mainly a backup, fans weren’t able to see him often out of his rookie season. At 22 years old in August, the Vikings could expand Smith’s role during his second year.
Smith wrapped up the 2019 season with 36 catches for 311 yards receiving and two touchdowns. He was on the field for a total of 60 percent of the offensive snaps. Smith is tied for fifth in terms of ranks in NFL history for performance out of rookie tight ends at the age of 21.
Smith proved himself to be a solid red-zone target while providing the Vikings pass protection to open up holes for the running game. It’s safe to assume that Rudolph will likely end his career with the Vikings and you would expect Minnesota would start to incorporate Smith and groom him to take over at the tight end position.
There’s no denying that the Vikings will look different on the defensive side of the ball in 2020 especially with Everson Griffen gone. It’s reasonable to believe that Ifeadi Odenigbo will be taking a step forward this season by replacing Griffen’s position.
Odenigbo will definitely be one of the breakout candidates for the upcoming season. He was able to put up solid numbers with seven sacks, 13 quarterback hits, and 25 pressures according to Pro Football Focus. Let’s compare that to Griffen posting 66 total pressures last season, but he played twice the amount of snaps Odenigbo saw.
While Danielle Hunter has secured himself as a chief pass rusher in the league, the Vikings will need Odenigbo to help production next season.