Can the Heaviest Viking Make the Roster?

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Iowa junior center Tyler Linderbaum battles Illinois junior defensive lineman Calvin Avery during a drive in the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. 20211120 Iowavsillinois

Jordan Addison is currently the youngest player of the Vikings, as he turned 21 on January 27. Long snapper Andrew DePaola is 35 and the oldest athlete. He signed a three-year deal earlier in the offseason. He is now under contract through the 2025 season. Brandon Powell is the smallest Viking at 5’8″, while offensive tackles Brian O’Neill and Blake Brandel are listed at 6’7″. In terms of weight, Addison is the lightest guy at 175 pounds. While he has a roster spot secured, the heaviest player on the squad hasn’t.

Can the Heaviest Viking Make the Roster?

Can the Heaviest Viking Make the Roster?
Iowa running back Tyler Goodson (15) gets tackled by Illinois defensive back Kerby Joseph (25) and defensive lineman Calvin Avery (93) during an NCAA Big Ten Conference football game, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. 211120 Illinois Iowa Fb 018 Jpg

The price for the heaviest Vikings player goes to Calvin Avery, a defensive tackle who signed with the organization as an undrafted rookie coming out of Illinois. He is listed at 6’1″ and 345 pounds, and fellow lineman Khyiris Tonga is the only player rostered within 20 pounds of Avery. His relative athletic score is a disaster at 3.12, but moving that much mass is just hard to do.

Avery is a proper nose tackle, and those tend to be on the slower side, but they require power, and the rookie has plenty of that. His testing numbers compare slightly favorably to Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison, one of the best nose tackles of the last decade who also entered the league undrafted in 2012.

Of course, having a decade-long career in the NFL with an All-Pro nomination is a longshot for most prospects, and to have those kinds of expectations for an undrafted player is absurd. However, his first goal towards stringing together a solid NFL career is to make the roster of his first team, the Vikings.

Avery entered a defensive tackle room without a real star in it. Dalvin Tomlinson left in free agency and, subsequently, a void in the middle of the line. Veteran Harrison Phillips, the 2022 signee, should claim the leadership role on the line. He is certainly a decent player and can play both nose tackle and defensive end.

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Phillips will be flanked by Khyiris Tonga, who was signed from the Falcons practice squad in October of last season and made a wonderful impact on the rushing defense as a backup and part-time starter for the purple team. He is now expected to slide into the starting unit full-time to showcase that his excellent play in 2022 wasn’t just because of the low sample size.

But behind those two, the room is wide-open. There is veteran James Lynch in the final year of his rookie deal. He has been a career backup so far. Last year’s practice squad players, T.J. Smith and Sheldon Day, are also in the mix, just like sophomore Esezi Otomewo.

It will be interesting to see if the new defensive coaching staff wants to keep Otomewo around, a player who was titled as a project after undergoing a position change from college. Brian Flores could move on in theory as he doesn’t have a connection to him, but he could also embrace him as one of his own. He must show enough promise and growth to warrant a roster spot.

Then there is the reclamation project Ross Blacklock who the Vikings traded for last year. The former second-round selection didn’t do much in his first season with the team and had to agree to a pay cut to stay with the team — which might not be a great sign for his future with the Vikes.

Vikings Run It Back
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Last year’s starter Jonathan Bullard re-signed with the team but for a bargain salary which implies that he doesn’t have a roster spot secured, other than Dean Lowry. The free agent addition is a sure thing to make the team. In addition to those players, the Vikings selected Jaquelin Roy in the fifth round of the draft, and he has already taken some snaps with the first team in practice.

The Vikings kept six defensive linemen last season after trimming down the roster to 53 players.

Phillips, Tonga, Roy, and Lowry will take four of those spots, but behind them, the room is open for competition. Avery must beat out all but one of Day, Bullard, Smith, Lynch, Blacklock, and Otomewo. Still, winning a roster spot as an undrafted rookie is always unlikely.

Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. Flores was hired in February 2023 to take over for Ed Donatel after Minnesota finished 30th in points allowed.

So how does he make the team? Well, it is relatively easy. He must hope that the team wants to carry an extra nose tackle. If Flores is happy with Tonga, Phillips, and to some extent, Roy at that spot, Avery won’t have much of a chance. However, if he views Roy (who is 40 pounds lighter than Avery) as a defensive end and wants another big guy to stop the opposing run, Avery is his guy.

Flores’ defense stands for versatility. Lining up safeties as linebackers or slot cornerbacks will be an option, just like having edge rushers play on the defensive line. Nevertheless, some opponents require more big players on the field, and the Vikings play three of those opponents in their own division. The Bears, Lions, and Packers will all have a dangerous running attack, and the Vikings must find a way to stop it. Having the option to bring in an enormous human being like Avery is a chance to do that. The prospect of doing that is another possible addition to Flores’ versatile concept.

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It should also be noted that there is a chance that Avery either stinks or is great. The Vikings wouldn’t care about counting nose tackles in that scenario and simply decide based on his skills.

Ian Cummings from Profootballnetwork wrote in his scouting report about Avery:

Avery might ultimately fall into the PFA pool, but he has a draftable grade on my board and is in my top 200 of prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. Especially at a specialized position like nose tackle, Avery has exciting raw traits and is quietly one of the better nose tackles in the class when it comes to handling double-teams.

Avery is well-leveraged, massive, and stout. On top of that, he brings legitimate explosiveness off the snap. He has the lateral burst to track outside runs, and the vertical burst to invade gaps as a pass rusher and channel power and torque with his length. He’s a true nose at 0 and 1-tech, who’d be a very wise high-upside investment for odd-front teams.

Ian Cummings, PFN

The Vikings run one of those odd fronts, and Avery appears to have the potential to make the roster. It will come down to his performance in training camp and the preseason. He is a different type of player than the other guys on the team, and it could open the door for him to claim a ticket for a roster spot.

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