Harrison Smith Was Right about the New Guy

The Vikings Final Injury Report: Week 14
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Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith has been with the franchise for 12 seasons, so when he talks, folks listen.

Harrison Smith Was Right about the New Guy

Smith predicted about the Vikings young players, and Ivan Pace Jr. in particular, before last Thursday’s preseason game, “That Thursday game, we’ll see some stuff against Seattle. But always, if you look at the draft, you look at some of the top picks, obviously [Jordan Addison], Mekhi [Blackmon] in the secondary is doing some good things. There’s a lot of guys, but I don’t want to name names. I’ll give you one under the radar: Ivan Pace, I think, will show up on the Seattle tape and next week.”

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Unsurprisingly, Smith was right.

Pace Jr. splashed onto the scene Thursday night, proving his recent emergence at Vikings training camp wasn’t just a fluke or summer hype. The undrafted free-agent rookie linebacker looked the part on Lumen Field. Here’s one example:

The Cincinnati alumnus is creating an almost unprecedented climb up the Vikings depth chart, running with second-teamers to start training camp and even intermixing with first-teamers in the last two weeks.

Harrison Smith Was
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Pace Jr. tabulated 6 tackles in about half the game at Seattle, a commendable first showing against the Seahawks reservist personnel. The 22-year-old was supposed to be drafted anywhere from Round 3 to 5 in April, but NFL general managers were evidently turned off by his size — Pace is about two inches shorter than a normal off-ball linebacker.

Expressing bewilderment about teams not signing on his dotted line until after the draft, Pace posted to Instagram a picture of himself with the Vikings logo and a caption for the rest of the world, “Y’all done f-cked up.”

The message implied front offices were silly for passing on him and that they’ll presumably pay for their deeds. Of course, Pace still has to make the team at the end of the month — but that seems like an absolute no-brainer at the moment.

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If Pace Jr.’s recent awakening continues, he will accrue meaningful regular season snaps. It is not uncommon for a rookie linebacker to achieve such a feat. They do it frequently. Undrafted rookies, however, don’t make huge headlines at training camp and in preseason games. The process should take at least a year or more. It took former Vikings WR Adam Thielen about two years.

On the whole, Smith was correct; he saw it coming. Pace Jr. is trending for a spot in the Vikings 2023 defense and might even battle Jordan Hicks and Brian Asamoah for playing time inside Brian Flores’ new system.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.