Every year, the folks from Football Outsiders put together their list of the 25 best prospects in the NFL for the upcoming year. Their definition of a prospect is largely based on both playing time and where a player was drafted. Here is the full list of their criteria for a player to be deemed a prospect:
- Drafted in the third round or later, or signed as an undrafted free agent.
- Entered the NFL between 2017 and 2019.
- Fewer than 500 career offensive or defensive snaps (except running backs, who are allowed just 300 offensive snaps).
- Have not signed a contract extension (players who have bounced around the league looking for the right spot, however, still qualify for the list).
- Age 26 or younger in 2020.
Their list is behind the great E$PN paywall, but I am happy to report that the Minnesota Vikings landed two of the top ten prospects on the Football Outsiders list, including the top overall prospect.
That player? None other than defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo. Here’s what they had to say about him.
With the Vikings parting with Everson Griffen, it’s a pretty clean projection to assume that Odenigbo will be moving into the starting lineup. But in case you need a reassuring word from Vikings defensive line coach/co-coordinator Andre Patterson, he told Vikings reporters in a conference call: “I’m excited about Ifeadi to continue to improve as a player. He made great strides last year, and he’s a tremendously hard worker. I know he’s busting his tail right now. ... As a matter of fact, I have to talk to him about not overtraining.”
Odenigbo’s roots at Northwestern were as a power player with NFL pass-rush moves and flashes, but he was essentially platooned by the Wildcats. He led the Big Ten in sacks as a senior anyway, with 10, and ran a 4.72-second 40-yard dash at the combine. His performance in our SackSEER projection system was 62.7%, impressive for a low-round pick; Odenigbo had an explosion index of 0.61 and offered a lot of college production.
Over the last five games of last season, Odenigbo notched four of his seven sacks, forced a fumble and returned another fumble for a 56-yard touchdown. He brought down both Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers last season. He might still platoon with a different defender on pure run downs if that section of his game gets off to a poor start, but Odenigbo is on pace to become yet another late-round win on the edge for a Vikings team that already starts 2015 third-rounder Danielle Hunter.
Not to be outdone, running back Alexander Mattison also makes the list, checking in at #9 overall.
Simply put: With Dalvin Cook holding out and on the verge of free agency, there are very few players with a better potential future situation than Mattison. Gary Kubiak’s running backs have been putting up 1,000-yard seasons whether they are good or not since before Football Outsiders even existed. The Vikings picked Mattison in the third round despite a number of pundits not having that high of a grade on him, which suggests they hold him in quite high esteem.
Mattison, like Cook, had a pretty mediocre combine that ended with a faceplant on the 40-yard dash, with a time of just 4.67 seconds at 221 pounds. That’s linebacker speed at defensive back size. But Mattison showed just about everything else you could want from a runner: physicality, quickness, vision and intelligence. It all led to massive production at Boise State, as Mattison even saw the field for all 13 games as a freshman.
In his first season in Minnesota, Mattison finished with a respectable 24 DYAR in 100 totes, despite a relatively low success rate of 38%. Mattison averaged 4.6 yards per attempt, with no real negative split when running zone plays, but SIS charting charged the Vikings with 11 blown blocks during those 100 attempts, and those 11 carries averaged minus-1.2 yards. With enough skill to be a competent receiver as well, the Vikings have the ultimate leverage against a Cook holdout: someone who can do the job just as well without a high price tag.
Yes, I know that Cook isn’t actually holding out. As of now, he’s in Training Camp. But, the rest of the points that FO makes are still valid.
If the Vikings are going to push for the NFC North title, or at least a postseason berth, in 2020, they’re going to need solid contributions from both Odenigbo and Mattison, among others. Here’s hoping that both players live up to the hype that the Football Outsiders folks have for them this upcoming season.