As we look ahead to the 2022 NFL season, which players are set for a big step forward in their second pro season?
Analytics site Pro Football Focus tabbed its top 10 "second-year breakout candidates," and included Vikings tackle Christian Darrisaw. Minnesota drafted Darrisaw 23rd overall last spring. PFF's Michael Renner wrote:
Darrisaw's NFL career did not start off the way the Vikings had hoped — surgical recovery complications caused him to miss the first four weeks of the season. While he took his lumps, Darrisaw was a decidedly different player toward the end of the campaign. His five highest-graded games (out of 11) came in his final six games of the season. That's a pretty clear and encouraging sign of growth heading into 2022.
Darrisaw staying healthy and showing consistency certainly creates excitement around the former Virginia Tech standout's future in the NFL.
Renner topped his list with a pair of quarterbacks who share the same initials: Jacksonville's Trevor Lawrence and San Francisco's Trey Lance.
Also included in the list are three players the Vikings are scheduled to face during the upcoming season: Jets receiver Elijah Moore, Patriots defensive tackle Christian Barmore and Colts edge rusher Kwity Paye.
The Vikings will host the Jets, Patriots and Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium in 2022.
Renner noted that Paye also experienced a slow start but totaled 31 pressures over the final 10 games.
Minnesota could have its hands full with Barmore, whom Renner said is a player "who could technically be considered to already have broken out."
Still, he often got lost in the shuffle of the rookie class and was a sub-package player. His 48 total pressures quietly tied DeForest Buckner for the second-most we've ever charted from a rookie defensive tackle.
Barmore is one of just seven defensive tackles to record 40-plus pressures as a rookie.
Will Darrisaw, Davis, Bynum make leaps in 2022?
And speaking of second-year breakout candidates, Sports Illustrated's Will Ragatz tackled a similar topic but specifically focused on the Vikings roster.
Like Renner, Ragatz expects Darrisaw to take a significant step forward in Year 2. He additionally took a look at guard Wyatt Davis and safety Camryn Bynum. Ragatz wrote:
When the Vikings landed Davis with the 86thoverall pick, it seemed like a steal. The Vikings needed a guard, and the two-time First-Team All-American was not only a great fit for their zone blocking scheme, he would also bring some much-needed power to their offensive line. There were certainly reasons why Davis fell to the third round, but one assumed he'd have a pretty good chance to see the field right away at right guard because of the Vikings lack of proven options at that position.
Instead, he never played a snap on offense. Dakota Dozier and Olisaemeka Udoh were clearly ahead of Davis throughout all of training camp, with Udoh winning the starting job at RG. When Udoh needed to slide over to left tackle for a few games late in the season with Christian Darrisaw injured, it was Mason Cole who filled in at RG. It was clear that the Vikings coaching staff didn't view Davis as an option for playing time as a rookie.
Will year two be different? With a new coaching staff that includes [Head Coach] Kevin O'Connell, [Offensive Coordinator] Wes Phillips and offensive line coach Chris Kuper, maybe it will be. Davis has a clean slate to work with, and he's apparently working hard this offseason — including spending over a month in Dallas working with offensive line guru Duke Manyweather — to get ready to compete for a starting spot.
While Davis barely saw the field in 2021, Bynum made the most of his opportunities when thrown into the fire.
When Harrison Smith landed on the COVID list right before the Vikings played the Ravens in Week 9, Bynum was thrust into action. He played all 98 defensive snaps in an overtime loss, recording 11 tackles, a diving interception, and earning a 90 PFF grade while lining up all over the field. The following week against the Chargers, Bynum had a sack and a pass breakup. He didn't see major playing time again until the second half of a Week 17 blowout in Green Bay, but those two games were enough to create plenty of hype for Bynum's future upside.
If Xavier Woods isn't brought back in free agency this year and the Vikings don't go out and add a proven starting safety, Bynum could be in line to start opposite Smith in his second season. That opportunity — plus the skill set we saw in his first taste of NFL action — lands him on this list.