Vikings UDFA Class Is Loaded with Absurd Superfreaks

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Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, the general manager of the Minnesota Vikings, entered the draft with five selections, and when it was all set and done, he added six players to the roster. Because of a couple of trades, he received an extra pick.

Kevin O’Connell’s offensive unit got a new weapon. First-rounder Jordan Addison is certainly the top guy in the 2023 Vikings draft class. He also has a new QB project, fifth-rounder Jaren Hall is a talented player and a new running back. DeWayne McBride was incredibly productive in his college career. Brian Flores’ defense got a new defensive tackle in Jaquelin Roy and two talented defensive backs. Both Mekhi Blackmon and Jay Ward are competing for starting jobs, and the two guys are players Flores would pound the table for.

Vikings UDFA Class Is Loaded with Absurd Superfreaks

Vikings UDFA Class Is Filled With Incredible Superfreaks
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But not only the six draft picks can be future impact players. After the draft, a whole new event begins for GMs. They call athletes and agents to bring the best undrafted players to their organization. There are no rules. Teams can go all-in on players and pay them a lot of money. Just last year, the Vikings paid a lot for Zach McCloud and Luiji Vilain. The latter made the 53-man roster. The former did not. The 2023 Vikings UDFA group has some really talented players.

Kwesis’s two most notable additions are the defenders Ivan Pace Jr. and Andre Carter II.

Both were expected to be drafted, but not just drafted. They were expected to be selected well ahead of the seventh round. Linebacker Pace was the 153rd-ranked player in Arif Hasan’s consensus big board, and edge rusher Carter was 101st, the highest undrafted player. Adofo-Mensah is always preaching the word value, and bringing in two excellent players without even having to spend a pick for them, is outstanding value.

Pace was a regularly requested player among Vikings fans. They wanted him in the third or fourth round. After the initial disappointment, the fans can now be happy that their GM did the right thing, drafted a different player, and still found a way to add him.

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Why did he fall? Who knows. Pace is an undersized linebacker and doesn’t possess high-end athletic ability. He still ran a 4.6 40-yard dash and was an insanely productive player in college. In the last two years, Pace recorded 261 tackles, 33.5 tackles for loss, and 13 sacks. Bad players don’t do that.

He is only 5’10” and 231 pounds, one of the smallest linebackers in the league. He had no chance in the NFL a decade ago, but nowadays, linebackers look like safeties. Pace has phenomenal quickness and has a nose for the football. He always seems to know where the ball is. The term flying around and making plays is perfect for Pace. In addition to that, his motor is always running. He doesn’t take plays off. That’s why he is collecting stats at an impressive rate. Pace will be a special teams ace at the very least, but it wouldn’t be shocking if the Vikings find a place for him on defense at some point.

Carter is a different story than Pace. Nobody knows why he fell. He isn’t undersized. The opposite is the case. The edge rusher is a huge player — 6’6″ and 256 pounds. Carter’s athletic testing at the combine was a mixed bag. The agility numbers were fantastic. The explosiveness numbers were not. Overall, he is a good athlete.

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Carter made last year’s list of Feldman’s freaks, a list of the 100 most freakish athletes in college football. He wrote about the 13th-ranked Carter:

What a gem Army found at Connecticut’s Cheshire Academy in Carter, at the time a two-star tight end prospect. Now a 6-7, 260-pound senior with a 6-10 wingspan, Carter piled up 18.5 TFLs, 15.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in 2021. Carter’s length is only more amazing when factoring in that he also blazed a 4.2 in his pro agility test this offseason. Army coaches say that when Carter’s doing change of direction work in the summer, he finishes in the top three with their skill guys. They also say his reaction time and processing speed is unmatched.

The new Vikings defender is a pass-rush specialist. He won’t be great against the run, especially early in his career. Playing for Army, Carter recorded 14.5 sacks in 2021 and 19 in his college career. He also produced 25.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, and forced 5 fumbles.

Carter needs to work on his body, but he could be a disruptive edge rusher in a year or two. He could benefit from a redshirt year.

In addition to the two standout college stars, the Vikings added 13 more UDFAs. Here is the full list:

  • OL Alan Ali, TCU
  • DT Calvin Avery, Illinois
  • ILB Abraham Beauplan, Marshall
  • OLB Andre Carter II, Army
  • OL Jacky Chen, Pace
  • CB C.J. Coldon, Oklahoma
  • ILB Wilson Huber, Cincinnati
  • WR Cephus Johnson, Southeastern Louisiana
  • WR Malik Knowles, Kansas State
  • ILB Ivan Pace Jr., Cincinnati
  • K Jack Podlesny, Georgia
  • TE Ben Sims, Baylor
  • WR Thayer Thomas, N.C. State
  • CB NaJee Thompson, Georgia Southern
  • CB Jaylin Williams, Indiana
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

Cephus Johnson is listed as a wide receiver, but he can be used as a gadget player. He has some experience as a dual-threat QB. He 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.

Linebacker Abraham Beauplan is also a physical freak. Like Carter, he made last year’s list of Feldman’s freaks. Feldman wrote about him:

The 6-2 235-pounder from Florida showed off his speed when he ran the 40 in the high 4.5s and made 133 tackles at Navarro JC in Texas. Beauplan had little trouble transitioning to FBS football, leading the Herd in tackles with 110 and 11 TFLs. This offseason, he vertical-jumped 37 inches, squatted 565 and benched 385. His strength and athleticism really translated onto the field.

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

Illinois nose tackle Calvin Avery is a large human, weighing 343 pounds at 6’1″. He didn’t produce big statistics, but people with that size don’t come around often. The defensive tackle group in Minnesota is thin. He might be able to sneak onto the roster.

The goal is to find a couple of players who can find a way to make the 53-man roster and contribute to the team, and this is the team that found Mick Tingelhoff, John Randle, and Adam Thielen. UDFAs are valued in Minnesota, and Adofo-Mensah found some intriguing players.

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