Writer & Editor
The 2023 NFL season will be here before you know it.
Minnesota will hold its mandatory minicamp next week, then players will have a break before hitting the ground running for training camp.
In looking ahead at this year’s rosters, Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports highlighted “under-the-radar” players for each NFC team “who can be stars” in 2023.
For the Vikings, Kerr tabbed running back Alexander Mattison, who signed an extension earlier this offseason.
Kerr pointed out at that as Dalvin Cook’s backup over the past four seasons, Mattison rushed for 1,670 yards and 11 touchdowns. Thus far, he’s been getting the lead-running back reps during Minnesota’s Organized Team Activity practices, joined in the position group by Kene Nwangwu, Ty Chandler, DeWayne McBride and fullbacks C.J. Ham and Zach Ojile.
It’s also worth noting who Kerr is keeping an eye on throughout the rest of the NFC North. He spotlighted wide receiver Christian Watson in Green Bay, calling him “one of the maligned rookie receivers on the Packers roster” in 2022.
Watson ended up becoming one of the top deep-ball wideouts in the league. Watson finished with 611 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in his rookie year (14.9 yards per catch) but had the most receiving touchdowns (seven) and sixth in yards per catch (16.9) over the final eight games of the year.
Even with a new quarterback in Jordan Love, there’s no denying Watson’s talent. As the No. 1 wideout in Green Bay, a 1,000-yard season may be on the horizon.
Looking at Chicago and Detroit, Kerr pointed to a pair of defensive backs: Bears safety Jaquan Brisker and Lions cornerback Cameron Sutton.
Who led the Bears in sacks last season? That would be Brisker, who finished with 4.0 sacks on the year – becoming just the third defensive back in franchise history to record four-plus sacks in a season (and the first one since 1986).
Brisker finished with 103 tackles (five for loss), two passes defended and an interception in his rookie season. While Brisker can improve in coverage (four pass touchdowns and 88.7 passer rating allowed), he’s on the verge to be a fixture in Chicago’s defense for years to come.
The Lions signed Sutton, who spent his first six seasons in Pittsburgh, in free agency this spring. Kerr opined the 28-year-old “could be a star” in the Motor City.
Sutton allowed just a 54.6 passer rating in coverage last season with three interceptions, also having a career high in passes defensed (15).
Sutton allowed the eighth-lowest passer rating in coverage last season among players targeted a minimum of 50 times, so he’s already one of the top cover corners in the game. If the Lions make a deep playoff run, Sutton will become a well-known name.
ESPN looks at Vikings evaluation of QB Jaren Hall
Behind starting quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Vikings currently have Nick Mullens, whom they re-signed in free agency, and 2023 draft pick Jaren Hall.
ESPN’s Kevin Seifert recently recounted a story told to media members by Vikings Director of College Scouting Mike Sholiton:
“We set up a play for him where we knew his receiver ran the wrong route. We were trying to give him a chance to say, ‘This player was wrong.’ All he was willing to say was, ‘I’ve got to make it right.’ “
Speaking at a recent OTA practice, two months after the Vikings drafted him in the fifth round, Hall said he didn’t realize in the moment that his accountability aptitude was being tested. He knew that he could have provided a detailed and honest explanation for what went wrong on that play, one that would have made clear he was not at fault. But he credited BYU [Head Coach] Kalani Sitake for instilling a basic tenet that served him well in that instance: Never sell out a teammate.
Seifert said Hall’s answer, “and the nature of his subsequent interactions, helps explain why the Vikings targeted him in the draft.”
Hall’s arrival in Minnesota provides a revealing look at how the Vikings, and other NFL teams, evaluate draft-eligible quarterbacks beyond the handful of prospects who are usually off the board midway through the first round. Those remaining all have physical flaws or other résumé challenges – in Hall’s case they include a 6-foot-1 frame and a relatively advanced age of 25 – so teams hunt for superlatives in other relevant areas.
The Vikings found Hall’s “attitude scores” on their psychological tests to be “off the charts,” Sholiton said. Those results were confirmed in his combine interview and in some nontraditional observations the Vikings made.
Hall acknowledged that, like any prospect, he was “coached up” on how to handle combine interviews. His primary goal, however, was to be “organic” because otherwise “they are going to sniff it out pretty quickly.”
That basic feature of Hall’s personality stood out to [General Manager] Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, who scouted him in person last season but also scoured YouTube to watch his postgame news conferences and other public interactions. Adofo-Mensah said he wanted to assess Hall’s “presence,” along with his responses to winning and losing. He concluded that Hall is an “outstanding young man” he would want leading any team or organization he was a part of.
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Writer & Editor