Camryn Bynum’s time as a starter was over before it even began the moment NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced the Minnesota Vikings had selected safety Lewis Cine with the No. 32 overall pick of the 2022 NFL draft.
In a league where depth charts change like the seasons, it initially looked like the second-year defensive back would be the odd man out.
Cine is a wrecking ball in a helmet and shoulder pads, and he was the first draft selection of first-year general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. The new regime was never going to reach that high for a player just to watch him ride the bench.
But the timing was just awkward.
Not long ago, Bynum talked about his desire to be the greatest player of all time on offense and defense. He was speaking with the conviction of a man that knew — or at the very least felt like — he was going to start for the Vikings in 2022.
And why wouldn’t he feel that way? Xavier Woods, Minnesota’s ironman in 2021, signed a deal with the Carolina Panthers in the offseason. So outside of six-time Pro Bowler Harrison Smith, Bynum was literally the team’s only viable option left as a starter — until the 2022 NFL draft happened.
The safety depth chart will have Smith and Cine listed as the top-two players on the roster. That’s one early prediction you can take to the bank. But that doesn’t mean Bynum won’t have a significant role on defense.
When resetting the depth chart at the safety position, I touched on the possibility of having Bynum fill in as a nickel corner in defensive packages that utilize three safeties on the field at the same time. Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell was a longtime defensive backs coach, and he has a tendency of getting creative with his personnel in the backfield.
A nugget from The Athletic’s Chad Graff in his recent post-draft notes backs up that line of thinking when touching on a meeting between Donatell and head coach Kevin O’Connell.
“One of the topics they discussed was how they can play three safeties – Harrison Smith, Cam Bynum and Cine – on the field at the same time. Bynum was a collegiate corner and is someone they could try out in nickel at times. Another option would be to have Cine play near the line of scrimmage, given his tackling prowess, with Bynum and Smith deep. ”
The Vikings are expecting to have much more versatility given the unique skill sets of all three players. Cine is an absolute thumper with good coverage skills, while Smith is a jack-of-all-trades on the field — a sure-handed tackler with incredible passing defense.
Meanwhile, Bynum has starting experience at safety with a background at the corner spot. These are all moveable pieces on a chessboard for Donatell to checkmate opposing offenses.
Bynum won’t be left out in the cold with Cine on the roster. It simply means the Vikings will get even more creative when thinking up ways to get him on the field.