The ‘CB2 Mystery’ Might Be Solved for Vikings


Vikings to Showcase
Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. Flores was hired in February 2023 to take over for Ed Donatel after Minnesota finished 30th in points allowed.

In the last five months, the Minnesota Vikings said goodbye to five veteran cornerbacks: Patrick Peterson, Duke Shelley, Cameron Dantzler, Chandon Sullivan, and Kris Boyd.

Newcomers Byron Murphy, Joejuan Williams, and Mekhi Blackmon joined the roster.

The ‘CB2 Mystery’ Might Be Solved for Vikings

The franchise ranked 31st in passing yards allowed in 2022, so it made sense that the CB personnel would be wholly renovated — along with the hire of defensive coordinator Brian Flores in February.

Meanwhile, Vikings faithful have wondered for months and ad nauseam who might emerge as the ‘other starting cornerback’ next to the aforementioned Murphy. And if the team’s first depth chart is a reasonable indicator — it should be — the mystery might be solved: Akayleb Evans.

CB2 Mystery
Oct 16, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans (21) after a game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports.

With the release of the Vikings ‘unofficial’ depth chart Monday, Evans lived in the CB2 spot. Here’s the full list:

CB1: Byron Murphy
CB2: Akayleb Evans
CB3: Andrew Booth
CB4: Joejuan Williams
CB5: Mekhi Blackmon
CB6: Kalon Barnes
CB7: Jaylin Williams
CB8: Tay Gowan
CB9: NaJee Thompson
CB10: C.J. Coldon

Be Slept
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marquez Callaway (1) catches the ball as Minnesota Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans (21) defends in the fourth quarter during an NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Saints 28-25. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Of course, Evans could, in theory, play miserably in the preseason, and this CB pecking order could change dramatically between now and the start of the regular season, which is 34 days away. But that isn’t likely to occur, on the whole, and Evans should be considered the odds-on favorite to start opposite Murphy in Week 1 at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

During training camp’s opening week, free-agent addition Joejuan Williams experienced ample snaps with the first team, a situation that outwardly made sense because Williams, next to Murphy, has the most NFL game action on his resume (among active Vikings CBs). Murphy is seemingly guaranteed to start, but after his CB1 role, mystery shrouds the Vikings CB2 plans.

the Top 3 Training Camp
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marquez Callaway (1) catches the ball as Minnesota Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans (21) defends in the fourth quarter during an NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Saints 28-25. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

So, with camp underway for a few days, Williams was perhaps on tap to be ‘the guy’ at CB2, evidenced by his role with first-teamers. But as Week 2 of camp finished, last year’s rookie, Evans, with a side dish of 2023 rookie Mekhi Blackmon, entered the chat. Evans — not Williams — is enjoying most of the CB2 snaps, a change of pace from the first week.

A 4th-Round pick from the 2022 NFL Draft, the Evans suffered a few concussions and ultimately missed seven games last year. But when he played, Evans ‘looked the part,’ especially in a game on the road at the Washington Commanders.

Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Kevin O’Connell introduced new Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores from the TCO Performance Center on February 15th, 2023. Flores coached for the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, and Pittsburgh Steelers before joining the Vikings in 2023.

All told as a rookie, the Missouri alumnus tallied 23 total tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 passes defended, and a forced fumble. Via areas of improvement, Evans fired up a 47.2 Pro Football Focus grade and 110.7 passer-rating-against. The latter two statistics sound more in line with what one would expect from a 4th-Round defender.

Evans possibly snagging a starter’s job at cornerback would be noteworthy for a couple of reasons. Foremost, it will have meant he kept last year’s 2nd-Rounder Andrew Booth at bay on the depth chart. Based on draft placement, Booth should probably win the CB job in question, but we shall see. Too, if Evans starts Week 1, it will prove his rookie performance was not an outlier.

Vikings general manager Kewsi Adofo-Mensah told the Pioneer Press last year he became fascinated with Evans during late-night scouting sessions — with the lights off.

“Evans was a guy I remember watching at night. I’d sometimes watch him in the dark, and you’re looking at his size and say, ‘He’s a big guy. Man, he moves well, plays off.’ You see him doing things in our scheme that translate really well,” Adofo-Mensah declared.

And the pick, despite the bizarre scouting tactic from Adofo-Mensah, is paying off.


Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.





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