PFF Names Vikings’ Most Underrated Player

Use Unusual Tactic
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It might be an odd choice because of his loudly announced breakout season in 2023, but don’t tell that to Pro Football Focus.

PFF Names Vikings’ Most Underrated Player

PFF named an underrated player from each NFL team this week, and for the Minnesota Vikings, linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. got the nod. He’s pretty well-known around the Twin Cities by now, but maybe his national profile is still lowkey.

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Zolton Buday tagged Pace Jr. with the underrated label and explained, “Pace burst onto the scene as an undrafted rookie in 2023 and was the third-highest-graded linebacker in the entire NFL after three weeks. While his performance tailed off a bit and his playing time was reduced, he remained very productive on pass plays. Pace was one of just two linebackers to earn PFF grades over 77.0 for both coverage and pass rush, the other being Fred Warner.”

At this time last year, Pace Jr. was about three weeks removed from joining the Vikings’ roster as an undrafted free agent, and the hype train was just getting off the ground. The Cincinnati alumnus curiously didn’t get drafted in 2023, though most draft heads forecasted him as a mid- or late-round pick. He fell out of the event altogether, allowing Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to scoop the defender immediately after the draft.

2 Vikings Snatch
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The rest is history.

Folks began whispering, basically right away, that Pace Jr. would make the league pay for the draft snub. Then, that’s what he did as soon as the regular season got rolling. Teammates like Harrison Smith warned fans that Pace Jr. was the real deal, and of course, the rookie backed up the praise. In fact, Pace Jr. earned a starter’s job out of the gate in 2023 — and never relinquished it. The rookie was even named the defensive playcaller for four games during Jordan Hicks‘ absence late in the season. He was that good, that ready, for the bright lights of the NFL.

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Most Vikings fans wouldn’t call Pace Jr. underrated, probably because his hype train has choo-chooed for over a year. Still, the man delivered as a rookie and is on tap for a much-anticipated second act.

Pace Jr. also switched jersey numbers this offseason from No. 40 to No. 0. Marcus Davenport wore his collegiate No. 0 in 2023, but Davenport vamoosed for the Detroit Lions in March.

How Crazy Was
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In total as a rookie, Pace Jr. notched 102 total tackles, 9 QB hits, 2.5 sacks, and an interception.

He’ll turn 24 in December.

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