NFL training camps give fans around the league a look at young, up-and-coming players on their respective teams.
Football Outsiders writer Rivers McCown recently ranked for ESPN the top 25 "under-the-radar, young players who could break out" this season. McCown wrote:
This is a list of players who have a real chance to make an impact in the NFL despite their lack of draft stock and the fact that they weren't immediate NFL starters.
Previous editions of the list have hyped George Kittle, Cooper Kupp, Mark Andrews and J.C. Jackson before they blew up. Last year's list led off with Damien Harris, who scored 15 touchdowns during the 2021 season. It had Logan Wilson, who eventually started in the Super Bowl. It also had some solid starters and, well, some misses.
This is the 16thanniversary of the list. We're still relying on the same things we always have: scouting, statistics, measurables, context, ceiling, expected role and what we hear from other sources.
McCown ranked Vikings running back and kick returner Kene Nwangwu 22nd on the list.
You're used to NFL success stories that were overlooked on stacked depth charts from, say, Alabama. How about David Montgomery and Breece Hall's backup at Iowa State? Nwangwu caught eyes by running a 4.31 40-yard dash at the Cyclones Pro Day in 2020. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry in college and added 26.8 yards per kick return.
Somewhat of a surprise pick in the fourth round – some outside publications had him as a priority free agent – Nwangwu spent most of the year behind Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison. He did manage two kick-return touchdowns and averaged 4.6 yards per carry in his extremely limited 13-carry sample.
The path to playing time for Nwangwu is not cut-and-dried in 2022, but the path to playing time in Minnesota is very open in the long term. Cook's cap hit balloons to $14 million in 2023, in his age-28 season, and if he becomes expendable, the Vikings will save cap space releasing him. This is in a front office led by new [General Manager] Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, who has an analytical background. Meanwhile, Mattison will be a free agent after the 2021 season.
Nwangwu has very little chance of making an offensive impact this year beyond injury chaos, but he's so explosive with the ball that we couldn't leave him off your radar.
View the best photos of Vikings RB Kene Nwangwu from the 2021 season.
'Vikings Training Camp Live' to air Monday afternoon
The Vikings are hosting a unique, live broadcast for fans Monday afternoon.
Vikings Training Camp Live will provide an inside look at Vikings Training Camp.
Hosted by Paul Allen, Pete Bercich, Gabe Henderson and Tatum Everett, the simulcast will be live on KFAN 100.3-FM, KMSP FOX 9 and Vikings.com from 2 – 3 p.m. (CT).
Tune in to meet the new faces of the Vikings, discuss key position battles and find out about the new-look Vikings offense.
In addition, Vikings Training Camp Live will feature interviews with Adofo-Mensah and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell.