One of my favorite things about this part of the off-season is speculating on what we can expect from the new rookie class. This year, the Minnesota Vikings have an absolutely huge rookie class, a product of Rick Spielman’s shrewd use of trade backs in the draft. Currently, the Vikings are carrying 27 rookies, 15 draft picks and 12 undrafted free agents.
Although most of the success will likely come from the draft picks, there are several intriguing players in this UDFA class. My personal favorite to watch will be Dan Chisena, a wide receiver out of Penn State University.
Chisena’s college stats aren’t impressive. In fact, he only played in 16 games in two years. He made three catches for 66 receiving yards. He did play special teams where he recorded four total tackles and a fumble recovery.
So, why am I so intrigued by this guy? Speed. Chisena ran track at Penn State from 2016-18. During the pre-draft process, Chisena reportedly ran a 4.32 40-yard dash, which would be the fastest of any current Viking. This means that he should be on par for straight line speed with pretty much anybody in the NFL who isn’t Tyreek Hill. Think of him like Jeff Badet, although maybe not as Badet never got his chance to see the field.
However, where Badet was a slight, shorter guy, Chisena has the size to play with the big boys in the NFL. Standing at 6’3” and 202 lbs, he’s more like a faster and slightly taller Adam Thielen. I obviously mean that in a physical manner, not talent wise.
Chisena is an incredibly long-shot. However, he’s in the best situation for a guy like him. He gets to learn under Adam Thielen, one of the longest-shot players and stars in the NFL today, and he’s in a situation where the wide receiver position is wide open after Thielen, newly drafted Justin Jefferson, and second-year man Olabisi Johnson.
His special teams potential can’t be ignored either. The Vikings have lost their two best coverage men in Jayron Kearse, who signed with Detroit, and Kris Boyd, who will presumably not play as much special teams as he’ll need to be one of the Vikings top cornerbacks in a completely reworked secondary. That leaves opportunities on the table for guys like Chisena whose straight line speed should serve him well as a gunner on both punt and kick coverage.
Speaking of kicks, Chisena should be given the chance to return some in the preseason. I don’t think he has what it takes to return punts, he lacks a shiftiness to operate in tight spaces, but give him a chance to hit seems like Cordarrelle Patterson and see what happens.
Now, I’m being really romantic with a guy who only caught three passes and played just over a full year in college. In reality, it’s highly unlikely that Chisena makes it unless he can really adjust to the NFL game and he learns how to run routes like Thielen and catch the ball reliably. However, that is what’s fun about this time of year, thinking of the possibilities for guys who likely will never pan out. Guys who have one crazy trait that you think “if he could just put it together.”
The fact of the matter is that there’s very little that separates players in the NFL except having a complete game. They all are freak athletes and at that point, it all becomes about how you execute. That’s what separates Thielen and guys like Chisena. So, the question becomes “is he a good football player, not just a good athlete?” The jury is obviously still out on that one, but it should be fun to find out.