November 14, 2021; Englewood, California, USA; The Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle James Lynch (92) returned the Los Angeles Chargers to Austin Eckler. Compulsory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA Today Sports.
The Vikings need some contributions from players who have only had backups in recent years. In the last years of Rick Spielman’s tenure as Minnesota general manager, many players have been drafted, especially along the defensive line.
Pass-Rasha’s DJ Oneam was drafted on the same day as former Michigan State Kenny Wilkes in the fourth round of the 2020 draft. Both defensive edges got some playing time, but the level of play was not always nice.
According to the PFF, Onem is ranked among the worst edge defenders in the NFL in 2020 and 2021. The part-time starter recorded eight sacks in his second season. Wilkes, meanwhile, had some impressive exhibits. But for some reason he did not get much time on the field. Both of these guys could end up in the last days as weird people and as meaningful contributors to defensive coordinator Ed Donatel’s unit.
Similar to the 2020 draft, Rick Spielman chose a two-way defender in the draft. Patrick Jones was one of four picks in the third round, and Genrius Robinson was the fifth rounder. Jones has played about 100 snaps, mostly without much impact. Janrias Robinson missed his entire rookie season in the injured reserve. Like OneName and Wilkes, Jones and Robinson could end up in the practice squad and as meaningful contributors. It is difficult to predict who will go ahead and win in the initial backup roles of Star Pass Ruser, Daniel Hunter and Jadarias Smith.
Jaylen Twyman was an internal defensive lineman outside Pittsburgh when Rick Spielman selected him in the sixth round during his last draft. Twiman was his last election as GM of the Vikings. He has modeled his game after another former Pittsburgh defender, Aaron Donald. Sadly, he was shot while visiting his family in Washington DC, and Tyman missed his Rocky expedition. He is fully recovered and ready to compete in 2022.
A year before the Twiman election, Spielman chose another defensive lineman – a true college star in the fourth round.
Could James Lynch be the Vikings X-Factor?
Lynch was born in Round Rock, Texas, where he grew up. While in Round Rock High School, he played punter and defensive line. In his last two seasons there, he was named Lineman of the Year in his district.
Texas Native had a turbulent time as a recruiter. Lynch committed to TCU and then changed his mind to play at USC. However, in his senior season, he reconsidered once more and decided to play for Baylor. The three-star recruit has played all three seasons of his college career for Matt Rule, now head coach of the Carolina Panthers.
In his first two seasons on Baylor campus, Lynch played a rolling role as an internal defensive lineman. He was named Freshman All-American by ESPN after making 20 tackles, five tackles for loss and three sacks. No other Big 12 newcomer had more sacks than this. His five-and-a-half sacks as Sophomore were the most among all Baylor defenders. For his play, he was named in the AP First Team All-Big 12.
In his third and final college season, Lynch rose to stardom. Matt Rule took him out of the defensive line. He became a full-time Edge Rasha. Lynch recorded 16 sacks, 19 run stops and 13 quarterback hits. Incredible statistics have resulted in a large collection of prizes First team All-Big 12, Unanimous All-American, Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
During the drafting process, the parties were not sure if he was an Edgeman or an internal lineman. His play outside the tackle opened his eyes. However, there is no 295-pound edge race in the NFL, a league that is trying to get faster in every position and is therefore lighter. Lynch is a twin and needs a creative defensive coach to find the right place for him.
Prior to the draft, NFL analyst Lance Jirlein said the following about the Big 12 defensive player of the year:
“There are still some moldable upsides with active, strong defensive linemen. The teams that see him as the front three-technique may not see his decent, high-impact production as translatable to professionals, but his speed and ability to displace during an attack are key features of internal success. Lynch played in a team-based upfield scheme and showed the potential to handle read-and-react responsibilities when asked to slide out in five-tactics. As a scheme-independent, rotating defender he should come into the league with the tools to challenge him as a final starter.“
Lance Jirlin about James Lynch
The Vikings need to unlock these tools. If the coaches can build him to reach his potential, he could be a big influential player for the team – the same effect he had in his 2019 Baylor defense.
The 130th pick of the 2019 draft played 304 snaps in defense. He recorded 30 tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss. However, the Vikings played 4-3 defense. Following the appointment of defensive coordinator Ed Donatel, the team switched to 3-4 defenses amid many changes. This is notable because the 3-4 defensive end is probably his best chance to improve in the NFL. He initially played nose tackle in 2021 but did not have the size for that role. Lynch is much more suitable to be a defensive finish.
Matt Miller of the Bleacher Report says in a draft profile of James Lynch:
Lynch Baylor was influential on the defensive line and stood up weekly against the Big 12 offense. He may be tagged as a twiner, but we see him as a typical 3-4 defensive end with tools to kick inside while rushing. He may not be a rookie starter, but Lynch should be a rookie contributor and future anchor.
Matt Miller about James Lynch
Lynch was a contributor in 2021, but it’s time to slowly turn him into the anchor that Matt Miller was talking about. James Lynch is extremely talented for his productions so far. He has to find a role for Ed Donatel to reach his potential and if that happens he will have a significant impact. At the very least, he should be an important rotating player on the defensive line as he is the only player on the roster with a combination of his size and athleticism. He is suitable for new schemes and can be an X-factor in defense.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who has a myth of numbers and statistics. Despite Christian Ponder being a quarterback at the time, he chose the Vikings as his favorite team. He has a walking football encyclopedia and his favorite music genre of classic rock. Arguing about the Vikings on Twitter is one of his favorite things. If you like Vikings, follow him on Twitter: িকJanicEcard