66 Days Until Vikings Football: Will James Lynch Start at Three-Technique?

Will Ragatz

As we count down the days until the Vikings' opener against the Packers on September 13th, InsideTheVikings will be previewing every single player on the roster. The amount of days remaining corresponds with the jersey number of the player being examined on that day. Today is July 9th, and there are 66 days until kickoff for the 2020 regular season. That means it's time for our first break from the offensive line in a while.

Countdown to Vikings-Packers on September 13th: 66 Days

Player Preview: James Lynch (No. 66, Defensive Tackle)

USATSI_13432865_168388404_lowres (1)
  • College: Baylor
  • Drafted: 2020 fourth round (130th overall)
  • NFL experience: N/A
  • Age: 21 (Birthday was in January)
  • Size: 6'4", 289
  • 2019 PFF Grade: N/A
  • Notable 2019 stats (NCAA): 41 tackles, 19.5 TFL, 13.5 sacks, 5 pass breakups, 3 FF, 2 FR
  • Notable career stats (NCAA): 100 tackles, 35 TFL, 22 sacks, 7 pass breakups, 3 FF, 2 FR

One of the most interesting selections the Vikings made in this year's draft came in the middle of the fourth round. They had just kicked off Day 3 by selecting D.J. Wonnum, a raw, athletic defensive end prospect from South Carolina. 13 picks later, the Vikings added another pass rusher, but this time went with one with an almost completely different profile. If the Wonnum pick was all about potential, taking Baylor's James Lynch 130th overall was all about production.

The balance between how NFL teams view potential and production is a fascinating one. The most important thing when it comes to prospects is projecting how their game will translate to the NFL level. But it does sometimes feel like teams get overly caught up in prioritizing measurables and testing numbers over actual college performance. Lynch was an elite college player, and the Vikings are hoping that the skills that allowed him to thrive in the Big 12 will help him become a star in the NFL.

A native of Round Rock, TX, Lynch was a three-star prospect who chose to play for Matt Rhule and Baylor over the likes of USC and TCU. As an 18-year-old true freshman, he played in 11 games and recorded three sacks. He increased that production to 9.0 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks as a full-time starter during his sophomore year, and was named second team All-Big 12. In 2019, Lynch exploded for a Baylor team that won 11 games and reached the conference title game. He finished the year with 19.5 TFLs, 13.5 sacks, five passes defended, and three forced fumbles. He was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a unanimous All-American after leading the entire FBS in pressures.

Where Lynch wins is with power, effort, and solid technique. He's nothing special athletically, which was reflected in his combine numbers. Lynch posted solid marks in the short shuttle and broad jump, but the rest of his testing numbers were fairly mediocre. Still, that doesn't mean he can't be successful at the NFL level. He's an intelligent, instinctive pass rusher who plays with good leverage and knows how to find his way to the quarterback. Lynch is powerful at the point of attack and has a variety of moves to get around his opponent. He's got good hands and plays with a red-hot motor while still staying under control.

Lynch played on the edge as a 3-4 defensive end at Baylor, but doesn't have the length, bend, or explosiveness to play outside at the next level. He was drafted as a defensive tackle, where his combination of power and pass-rushing savvy could allow him to thrive.

Even on the interior of the defensive line, Lynch's lack of elite athleticism is a major question mark when it comes to his NFL upside. It's why he fell to the fourth round despite his lofty numbers in 2019. Will he have the explosiveness to penetrate gaps and cause problems for guards? Will he be enough of a force in the running game to ever earn a three-down role, or will he be limited to passing downs? These are questions that Lynch has to answer.

If he answers them in impressive fashion in his first training camp, Lynch has a legitimate chance to play right away with the Vikings. Minnesota desperately needs to replace Shamar Stephen at three-technique next to nose tackle Michael Pierce, and that player will ideally be able to create interior pressure. It'll be a big-time competition between a number of players, with Stephen, Armon Watts, Hercules Mata'afa, Jalyn Holmes, and Jaleel Johnson all potentially factoring in. But don't count Lynch out. He had more college production than any of those players and might actually be the best fit for the 3T job.

Vikings Defensive Tackles Preview: Who Will Emerge at Three-Technique?

This shortened offseason and the fact that Lynch is just 21 years old are two reasons why he may not jump into a major role right away. Whether he does or not, the Vikings believe Andre Patterson can help Lynch continue to develop, and that his talent will lead him to a long, productive career.

Previous DT player previews:

You can find every single player preview to date – plus other offseason content – in this handy spreadsheet.

Join the conversation at InsideTheVikings by clicking the follow button in the upper right-hand corner of this page (mobile users, tap the bell icon – you may have to click ‘News’ first), and follow @WillRagatz on Twitter.