Vikings Undrafted Rookie Has Been ‘Incredibly Impressive’

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Undrafted players have a tradition in Minnesota like nowhere else in the league. Adam Thielen was a recent example of great talents finding their way to the organization without costing draft picks. John Randle and Mick Tingelhoff are both Hall of Famers despite going undrafted. Center Tingelhoff is one of only six Vikings players with their jersey numbers retired.

Vikings Undrafted Rookie Has Been ‘Incredibly Impressive’

After every draft, the signing of the latest UDFA class is almost more interesting than the selection of the seventh-round pick, especially in Minnesota. The Vikings invest big money into their group. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah spent big on pass-rushers Zach McCloud and Luiji Vilain in 2022 and repeated that approach in 2023. Signings Andre Carter and Ivan Pace were viewed as fabulous moves as both were fully expected to be drafted.

incredibly Impressive'
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The two rookies had a fairly different path to begin their first training camp in the professional league. Pass rusher Carter hasn’t practiced because of a soft-tissue injury, but Kevin O’Connell expects him to return soon. Inside linebacker Pace, meanwhile, is drawing praise for his performances on the practice field.

NFL Network’s Steve Wyche was the latest individual praising him while recapping his long talk with defensive coordinator Brian Flores during Saturday’s practice.

He was saying that the undrafted rookie out of Cincinnati, Ivan Pace, looked really good, he was a stud at the Senior Bowl and has been incredibly impressive. They want to see him with pads on. That’s somebody to really look out for.

Steve Wyche

Pace had an outstanding final season at Cincinnati after transferring from Miami (Ohio), where the linebacker started his college journey and spent the first three seasons of his career. 2021 was his only full season, and he recorded impressive 125 total tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble in 13 games. That was good enough to be named first-team All-MAC.

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After that season, Pace transferred to Cincinnati, his hometown, where he joined his brother on the team. Once again, the raw numbers were impressive, as he produced 136 total tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. Pace made first-team All-AAC and was a unanimous All-American choice after his fantastic season.

Pace is an outstanding pass rusher and blitzer from the linebacker position. Interstingly, new defensive coordinator Brian Flores likes to be aggressive. He wants to blitz and put pressure on the offense, so Pace is perfect for that. The linebacker mainly fell because of his size and some question marks in the quickness department. He is only 5’10 1/2″ and 231 pounds. The height is in the one-percentile of players at his position and might limit his ceiling.

Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports.

The intriguing part is Pace’s truculent mindset, combined with his skills as a pass rusher from the linebacker spot. Flores certainly tries to find a spot for his rookie. Interstingly, he is running with the second team in training camp, apparently having a real chance to beat out veterans Troy Dye and Troy Reeder as one of the top backups of starters Brian Asamoah and Jordan Hicks.

Brentley Weissman from The Draft Network described Pace as a “heat-seeking missile who has a nose for the football” and the promising summary, “Overall, Pace has everything you want in an inside backer. He has instincts, toughness, and good burst/speed, he just lacks the requisite size and length to excel in the NFL.”

Pace now has six weeks and three preseason games to continue to show his coaches enough to earn a roster spot and a spot in Flores’ defense as a rotational player in some packages and as a backup for the starters. His first week of training camp has been impressive.

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