Earning Snaps Is Easy for 1 Vikings Rookie

Levi Drake Rodriguez
Levi Drake Rodriguez. Image Courtesy of lionathletics.com. The Vikings drafted Drake Rodriguez in Round 7 of the 2024 NFL Draft, and he'll compete for a roster spot this summer.

The two stars are the headlines of Minnesota’s 2024 draft class. Both first-rounders, quarterback J.J. McCarthy and pass-rusher Dallas Turner, have the opportunity and the talent to be franchise staples for the purple team, although patience is required. While Turner should get snaps early in his career, McCarthy might need more time to enter the starting unit, as the team wants to give him until he is ready to carry that burden.

Earning Snaps Is Easy for 1 Vikings Rookie

Earning Snaps Is Easy for 1 Vikings Rookie
Drake Levi Rodriguez. Undrafted free agent added by Minnesota Vikings after the 2024 NFL Draft from Texas A&M-Commerce. Rodriguez will compete for a roster spot this summer.

All eyes are on the two players selected on the draft’s Thursday, but one guy picked on Saturday could get a shot to step onto the field with Turner in Week 1.

Despite his draft status, interior defender Levi Drake Rodriguez has a serious chance to make noise in the next four months and claim a role in Brian Flores’ defensive front. The defensive coordinator worked with a shaky defensive line in 2023 following Dalvin Tomlinson’s departure in free agency.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Although it was high on the wishlist, the Vikings failed to acquire any quality starters to improve the line. The two additions were former Rams defender Jonah Williams and former first-rounder Jerry Tillery. Neither should be expected to be a difference-maker next to run-stopper Harrison Phillips.

There lies another problem. Phillips, the top defensive lineman, is an excellent defender in the running game but can’t rush the passer. Veterans Jonathan Bullard and Williams are run defenders. Besides Tillery, that skill set is absent.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

That’s why Rodriguez has a chance. There’s not much competition besides many rotational players, and the defense needs another interior pass-rusher.

The rookie played the first three seasons at SAGU (Southwestern Assemblies of God) in the NAIA’s Sooner Athletic Conference in Texas before transferring to Texas A&M Commerce, an FCS program. His arrival collided with their elevation from D2 to D1 FCS level. Following his final collegiate season, Rodriguez was named FCS All-American.

After the draft, Vikings Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Ryan Grigson said about the new defender:

He’s quick, he can get underneath the pads of the offensive lineman. He can yank him, throw him; there’s just a lot in his body and I feel like once our coaches get their hands on him, I think Kwesi would even tell you he has a lot of savvy already as a pass rusher. That’s not very common from where he’s been.

Ryan Grigson

The Vikings may have started to focus on the defender when he dominated the FBS competition at the Tropical Bowl.

He plays with the heart required to make a splash as a late-round pick who has only played at lower-level competition. Pro Football Focus ranked him third among all FCS interior defenders in defensive grade and first in pass-rush grade.

vikings gm
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

After the draft’s conclusion, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah talked about a potential trade he turned down because he wanted to acquire the defender later.

We had a chance to maybe trade up and lose a pick. and we were thinking, ‘Well, we want to get both of our targets.’ And we ended up getting both of them, and the person was like, ‘Well, we can’t lose out on Levi Drake’ […] We think he’s a talented player, growth mindset player, I can’t wait to get him in this building.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah

Getting onto the field as a late-round rookie is mostly about opportunity, although he must still perform well in training camp to win a roster spot.

If he can showcase his talent, Rodriguez has an easy path to see the field early in his career.

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