2020 Minnesota Vikings Draft Review: Cameron Dantzler
The Vikings decided to double-down on cornerback when the 89th pick came around. In the third round, they selected Cameron Dantzler to help replenish a cornerback group that lost its three top members in free agency. Standing 6-2, 188 pounds, Dantzler had the frame that head coach Mike Zimmer looks for in his cornerbacks.
No rookie, not even star wide receiver Justin Jefferson, caused as much training camp buzz as Dantzler. He made highlight interceptions day after day. Going into the season, it was Dantzler, not first-round pick Jeff Gladney, who had fans excited about their young secondary.
Then the season started, and the preseason hype was dead. Dantzler exited the season opener with an injury and missed Week Two. In week five against the Seahawks, up 26-21, Dantzler was on the wrong side of a 4th-and-10 conversion where he appeared to lose track of a deep ball down the sideline. The Seahawks would score several plays later.
Dantzler’s play began to even out as the season progressed. However, he struggled to stay on the field. He only played in 11 games and failed to play over 75 percent of defensive snaps in three of those games. This prevented him from really coming into his own as he could never put together a large chunk of good games. Hopefully with a full NFL off-season, Dantzler can add some muscle to his athletic but slim build.
Season Stats (According to Pro Football Reference): Two interceptions, four tackles for loss, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery
Breakout Game: vs. Jaguars (one interception, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery)
The Week 13 matchup against the Jaguars was where Dantzler’s game had turned a corner (no pun intended). Down 9-0 in the second quarter, Dantzler aggressively undercut a slant route and intercepted a Mike Glennon pass. The drive set up a touchdown as the Vikings cut into the Jaguars lead.
Up 21-16 with five and a half minutes left in regulation, Glennon hit receiver Chris Conley on a short pass near the first-down marker. Dantzler closed in and not only forced a fumble but recovered the football as well. The turnover set up a 24-16 lead and the Vikings would win the game 27-24 in an overtime, um, thriller? Anyway, Dantzler’s performance made him Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded cornerback of week 13.
Outside of Jefferson, Cameron Dantzler may have had the most promising rookie season of the 2020 Vikings draft class. He still needs to prove he can stay on the field, but he has shown he not only belongs on the field but can excel. A late interception against the Bears in week 15 gave the Vikings a chance to win, giving him three turnovers in three weeks. If he can become durable and reliable, Dantzler could become a Xavier Rhodes-type. For anyone that scoffs at that, just remember that Rhodes’ rookie season was nondescript. Dantzler already appears to be ahead of Rhodes after one season, and he finally gets a full NFL off-season in 2021.