Don’t Sleep on the Undrafted Vikings

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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

Undrafted players are in the DNA of the Minnesota Vikings. Adam Thielen came out of nowhere and became one of the league’s best receivers in his heyday. John Randle tried some tricks to make the roster and turned into a Hall of Fame defender, and center Mick Tingelhoff is one of the all-time greats in the franchise’s history.

Don’t Sleep on the Undrafted Vikings

Training camp begins with the arrival of the rookies on Sunday. In the upcoming weeks, players will try to earn a highly-coveted spot on the roster. There will be new storylines daily about players that shine and disappoint. Some of them are undrafted rookies – every fan roots for them, and there are some fascinating athletes in this year’s undrafted group. No team spent more guaranteed money on undrafted rookies than the Vikings.

Sleep on the Undrafted Vikings
Nov 5, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. (0) reacts after sacking Navy Midshipmen quarterback Xavier Arline (not pictured) in the second half at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports.

Ivan Pace is the best-known UDFA signing in Vikings’ circles. He had an outstanding senior season as a linebacker at Cincinnati, functioning as a pass-rushing linebacker. That leads to an intriguing but rare skillset. He will be an off-ball linebacker with the ability to rush the passer. His play style drew some comparisons to the star linebacker from the Cowboys, Micah Parsons. Of course, he doesn’t possess his talent but could be used similarly. Defensive coordinator Brian Flores could use Pace in some packages as an additional rusher. He is limited because of his height, and he doesn’t possess high-end movement skills.

Nov 26, 2022; Amherst, Massachusetts, USA; Army Black Knights outside linebacker Andre Carter II (34) warms up before a game against the Massachusetts Minutemen at Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports.

Pass rusher Andre Carter played for Army and produced 14 sacks in 2021. He needs to get his body right for the NFL after years of Army training without the ability to fully focus on football like the college athletes. He must show enough promise to take a roster spot from one of D.J. Wonnum, Patrick Jones, or last year’s undrafted player Luiji Vilain. A Danielle Hunter trade could also be helpful. Head coach Kevin O’Connell raved about his rookie months ago.

Defensive tackle Calvin Avery is an intriguing player, as humans usually don’t come at that size. He’s 6’1″ and 343 lbs. Dalvin Tomlinson left the team, and if the coaching staff wants an additional big defender as a depth option on the line, he could be their guy.

Linebacker Abraham Beauplan is another physical freak. Standing 6’2″ and 235 lbs, he ran a 4.58 40-yard dash and has an enormous wingspan. He can bench press 385 pounds and squat 565. Beauplan has difficulties in the agility department, which could be a limiting factor, but his physical tools are enticing.

Quarterback Cephus Johnson throws a pass as the Louisiana’s Ragin Cajuns take on Southeastern Louisiana Football at Cajun Field. Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. Cajuns Vs Southeastern Football 7002

Wide receiver Cephus Johnson might be the most fascinating player in the group. He has experience as a dual-threat QB and has close to no receiver experience but passed 214 times last year for 1,527 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions as a quarterback. Johnson is 6’5″ and 220 pounds and ran a 4.5 40-yard dash. He added 8 scores on the ground and rushed for 611 yards. If the Vikings try to find someone for Taysom Hill-like packages, he’s their guy. In addition to his potential gadget play work, if a player with his athletic profile can learn the fundamentals of the receiver position, the upside is endless.

Johnson is far from the only undrafted rookie WR at Vikings training camp. Thayer Thomas was a walk-on at North Carolina State and recorded 215 catches for 2,484 yards and 24 touchdowns in addition to starring as a kick returner. Malik Knowles drew first-team All-Big 12 honors in 2021 and was named to the second team in 2022. 6’4″ Garett Maag is trying to go the Adam Thielen route, joining the Vikings as an undrafted rookie as a Minnesota native.

Jan 10, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Georgia Bulldogs kicker Jack Podlesny (96) against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2022 CFP college football national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

Kicker Jack Podelsny starred at Georgia, winning back-to-back national championships. He will face Greg Joseph in training camp, who showed his skills in clutch situations last season, hitting five game-winning kicks but struggled to hit extra points.

Trying to find a way to make the active roster are also cornerbacks C.J. Coldon from Oklahoma, Jaylin Williams out of Indiana, and Georgia Southern’s NaJee Thompson, who is known for his special team prowess. Their advantage is that Minnesota’s cornerback position is a mystery as many unproven players try to claim a roster spot.

Various reports will come out of Vikings training camp in the upcoming weeks about starring players, and fans always root for some surprise undrafted guys stealing the show.

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