Who is going to step-up most for on the Vikings’ defense? It will look massively different after last year’s catastrophic playoff showing and free agent exodus. New addition Byron Murphy will likely be the team’s CB1, and 5th-round draft pick DL Jaquelin Roy is making a splash with the 1’s in OTA’s and minicamp. Don’t count out a different player on roster, though, as 2022 2nd-round pick Andrew Booth Jr. returns from injury. His rookie season was cut short, but he has the tools to be a longterm franchise cornerstone.
To (painfully) recap, the Minnesota Vikings defense was a blemish on an otherwise outstanding 13-4 regular season in 2022. The team even secured a home playoff game. However, usually pedestrian passer Daniel Jones of the New York Giants had a career-defining game. His first playoff win consisted of 68% completion rate, 301 yards, 2 TDs and no interceptions. The no-show Vikings defense helped Jones earn a new contract with $40 million/year. Booth Jr., the 42nd overall selection in 2022, should provide quick reinforcements to keep that from happening in 2023.
Many scouts had him going in the first round of the draft, but his injury history affected that draft stock significantly. Coming into last season recovering from sports hernia surgery, Booth mentioned, “I haven’t played healthy football since like high school.” Injuries will dominate the narrative until he can manage to stay on the field, but when he does play he can be an absolute difference maker.
“Andrew Booth Jr. has everything you’re looking for from an NFL defensive back.”@EddieRoyalWR says the tape tells you all you need to know about @ClemsonFB's @andrewbooth21 🔒 pic.twitter.com/cViI60hAfw
— ACC Network (@accnetwork) April 26, 2022
His play was underwhelming at first. Playing in five games, he amassed less than a dozen tackles. He provided little in coverage, with PFF giving him a 41.7 grade in coverage. With that being said, outgoing DC Ed Donatell did not put most players in positions of strength. There were signs of progress from week to week, but his season ended in November with meniscus surgery. Hopefully the mental reps of watching on the sidelines and understanding NFL concepts and the new offseason help prepare the second year CB for an expanded role. Asked about how his newest injury is healing and how he is physically, Booth responded, “Beautifully.”
Head Coach Kevin O’Connell has made it clear that he expects big things from Booth Jr.. With spring workouts concluded, he should be the starting corner opposite Murphy. After a season with little playing time, Booth will have picked up some tools from departed veterans. Previous Viking and now Pittsburgh Steeler Patrick Peterson had high praise for Booth last year, mentioning, “I like how instinctive he is. He’s very quick at the line of scrimmage. He’s going to be a problem here pretty soon.”
Vikings fans can expect to get a clearer picture with Training Camp coming up in the next few weeks. The Minnesota defense will be unrecognizable from 2022, and Andrew Booth Jr. will play a large role. New DC Brian Flores will implement a new pressure-heavy scheme that will perfectly fit Booth’s skillset. Look for him to have a breakout season, and prove himself to be the Purple’s next long-term lockdown corner that we expected after last year’s draft. As long as he can stay healthy, we will get to see more plays like this:
Can we talk about @andrewbooth21 ⁉️
Sheeeeesh! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/Qijbh0RXI7
— Clemson Football (@ClemsonFB) May 25, 2021