2 Vikings underrated sleepers who could break out in 2024 NFL season (2024)

The start of training camp for the Minnesota Vikings is within sight and the 2024 season will present a myriad of challenges for head coach Kevin O'Connell and his players.

The Vikings made major changes throughout the offseason, and many of the league's primary observers believe that the moves the team has made will pay off in the long run, but may leave the team in a fight for third place in the division with the Chicago Bears during the 2024 season.

The Detroit Lions are the defending NFC North champions and that team has legitimate aspirations to earn a spot in the Super Bowl for the first time in team history. The Green Bay Packers were a Wild Card team a year ago because they surged at the end of the regular season.

Once they got to the playoffs, the Packers were a major force. Quarterback Jordan Love improved dramatically as the season went along and he led the team to a one-sided road victory over the Dallas Cowboys. The Packers nearly won again the following week against the San Francisco 49ers but they fell short in the fourth quarter.

It will be hard for the Vikings to get past those two teams, but try telling O'Connell that his team is doomed to a third- or fourth-place finish.

Vikings made major moves in the offseason

The Vikings had a chance to stay on the same path they had been on the last few seasons if they had decided to bring back quarterback Kirk Cousins and sign him to a new contract. However, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and O'Connell went in another direction even though Cousins had solid passing statistics and was extremely well-liked in the locker room.

Throughout his six-year tenure with the Vikings, Cousins had repeatedly had issues when facing high-quality opponents or when performing in prime-time, stand-alone games. They weren't all failures, but the decision was made to move on from Cousins and bring in two new quarterbacks.

The quarterback of the future is likely to be first-round selection J.J. McCarthy from Michigan. He led the Wolverines to the national championship last year and he excelled in games against elite opponents. That's exactly what the Vikings would like to see from him once he is deemed ready to become the team's QB1.

That could happen at some point in the 2024 season, but the Vikings signed veteran Sam Darnold to serve as the team's starting quarterback until McCarthy is fully prepared. Early reports have indicated that Darnold had looked sharp in the team's offseason minicamp, but the true test won't begin until the Vikings start their season with a road game against the New York Giants.

Vikings bring in RB Aaron Jones

O'Connell would like to see the running game give Darnold and McCarthy a major assist. That area let the team down last year and the Vikings have signed ex-Packer Aaron Jones to give the ground game a jolt.

When healthy, Jones combines speed and power and can be the team's home-run threat. Jones was limited to 11 regular-season games last year and he was held 656 yards on 142 attempts, but he still averaged 4.6 yards per carry. However, he was dynamic in the postseason. He had 21 carries for 118 yards and 3 TDs in Green Bay's 48-32 triumph over the Cowboys and he followed that up with 18 carries for 108 yards against the Niners.

Prior to 2023, Jones rushed for 1,000 yards or more in three of the previous four seasons. Perhaps his best year came in 2019 when he had 236 carries for 1,084 yards with 16 rushing touchdowns and also caught 49 passes for 474 yards and added 3 more touchdowns.

Underrated Ty Chandler and Shaq Griffin can make key contributions

2 Vikings underrated sleepers who could break out in 2024 NFL season (1)

The Vikings don't want to wear Jones down or abuse him. They believe that Ty Chandler can also provide some punch in the running game.

Chandler is a running back who made a contribution to the Vikings last year. He was a fifth-round draft choice in 2022 and he was barely used in his rookie season. However, he was given a chance last year to show off his talent, and his contribution was solid.

Chandler had 102 carries for 461 yards and 3 TDs and he also caught 21 passes for 159 yards. In addition to the numbers, Chandler displayed an aggressiveness and a finishing ability that should make him viable in 2024.

The Vikings want a 1-2 punch at the running back slot, and it appears that the Jones-Chandler combination could be quite effective.

The Vikings are also hopeful that cover man Shaquill Griffin can step in as a starting cornerback slot and provide a significant upgrade to defensive coordinator Brian Flores' unit.

This is Griffin's eighth year in the NFL, and he was at his best in the 2019 season with the Seahawks. He had 65 tackles, 13 passes defensed and 2 tackles for loss. He made the Pro Bowl that season.

While he has not been back since, he was the picture of confidence at the Vikings minicamp and should be a solid contributor this season.

2 Vikings underrated sleepers who could break out in 2024 NFL season (2024)
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