5 defensive prospects for Vikings to watch at the 2023 East-West Shrine Bowl

(Photo by Doug Engle/USA TODAY NETWORK) Brenton Cox Jr.
(Photo by Doug Engle/USA TODAY NETWORK) Brenton Cox Jr. /
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Minnesota Vikings
(Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) Drake Thomas /

 Drake Thomas – LB (North Carolina State)

Linebacker will become a pretty big need for the Vikings this offseason, assuming a couple of cuts end up happening.

It looks like it’s time for Minnesota to move on from Eric Kendricks. The guy has been so good for so long, but age has caught up to him, and he lacks the speed and quickness he used to have. Jordan Hicks could also be let go for some salary cap savings, as he struggled badly in coverage pretty much the entire season.

Brian Asamoah is primed and ready to take over one of those spots, but there will still be a hole next to him. That hole could be filled with a rookie, and one guy who could be an option that the Vikings can watch closely at the game this week is Drake Thomas from North Carolina State.

Thomas was ultra-productive in his career as a member of the Wolfpack. He Had 292 career tackles, 46 tackles for a loss, and 19 sacks. He diagnoses plays quickly and then attacks with no hesitation. Thomas shows the ability to fight through blocks and then closes in on the ball carrier with great speed and tenacity.

Thomas does have some limits athletically, so he could struggle in coverage. He’s probably a good fit on the weakside as opposed to the middle, but his instincts and demeanor will get him on the field quickly in the NFL.