This Undrafted Vikings Rookie Could Make the Team
New Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah drafted ten players in his first draft. After the draft’s conclusion, the big scramble begins to sign the best undrafted players.
It’s still rare for them to actually make the team. If they were any good, why did they go undrafted? Some of them didn’t get an opportunity to showcase their talents because of injuries or the competition of great players. Others play their college ball at a lower level, like Adam Thielen.
Vikings Had Success with Undrafted Players
The Vikings historically signed some great undrafted players. Thielen is just the latest example. The legendary center of the early Vikings, Mick Tingelhoff, was also an undrafted rookie. He moved on to have a Hall of Fame career. The center played in all four Super Bowls with the Vikings, was a five-time All-Pro, and played in 240 games for the Vikings. Of course, all of them were consecutive starts.
John Randle, the defensive tackle, went undrafted in 1990. He tried out for the Buccaneers but was deemed as too small. No defensive tackle plays with just 244 lbs. The Vikings signed him. Before that, however, they required him to weigh at least 250 lbs. He added a few pounds by hiding a metal chain under his sweats. Like Tingelhoff, Randle had a Hall of Fame career. He was a six-time first-team All-Pro.
In 2022, Adofo-Mensah signed multiple undrafted rookies hoping someone could make the roster. The players with the most potential usually get the highest amount of guaranteed money. For the Vikings, those two players are Zach McCloud and Luiji Vilain. Both are edge rushers. McCloud received $250,000 guaranteed, the second most in the league after Eagles QB Carson Strong and a team record for an undrafted rookie. Vilain signed a deal that makes him guaranteed $227,000.
The guarantees are higher than for some draft picks. Sixth-rounders Jalen Nailor and Vederian Lowe and seventh-rounder Nick Muse all get less money guaranteed.
Bleacher Report chose the Vikings undrafted rookie most likely to make the team, and they selected Luiji Vilain.
Maurice Moton from Bleacher Report explained his choice: “On the edge, the Minnesota Vikings need depth behind Danielle Hunter, Za’Darius Smith, and D.J. Wonnum. The Vikings probably won’t give up on 2021 third-rounder Patrick Jones II after one quiet year, though they should add someone to push him and Janarius Robinson for snaps at outside linebacker.”
Indeed, the Vikings need depth at this position. In recent years, Hunter was hurt, and the complete defensive unit imploded. D.J. Wonnum didn’t play at a high level, and his rushing partners looked even worse.
Patrick Jones and Wonnum have the inside track for the backup spots of the star rushers, Smith and Hunter. However, it’s still early in camp, and no preseason game has been played. There’s plenty of time to usurp another player on the depth chart.
Moton continued: “In two terms at Michigan, Vilain didn’t make an impact, but he showed flashes in a pass-rushing role last year at Wake Forest, logging nine tackles for loss and nine sacks. The 6’4″, 252-pounder needs to refine his pass-rushing moves, but he won on the perimeter with the use of his hands and enough quickness to beat offensive linemen in one-on-one situations.”
Vilain had a hard time in Michigan, as Jim Harbaugh’s team always had excellent edge rushers, Kwity Paye, Josh Uche, Chase Winovich, and Rashan Gary, just to name a few. Then he transferred to Wake Forest after his senior year in Michigan, where he finally had the opportunity to show his worth.
Vilain is already 24 years old. However, he possesses great physical tools. He has long arms and his first steps are incredibly explosive. His name didn’t appear much since camp started, but it’s still early in the process for the talented edge rusher. The first preseason game will occur on August 14th, when the Vikings will travel to Las Vegas to face Derek Carr and his Raiders.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt