Get Ready to Re-Live the Ivan Pace Jr. Ride with a Different Guy

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No one is too sure how they keep doing it. But they keep doing it.

Get Ready to Re-Live the Ivan Pace Jr. Ride with a Different Guy

In back-to-back-to-back offseasons, the Minnesota Vikings have grabbed headlines by onboarding the top undrafted free agents after the NFL draft, and 2024 was no different. In 2022, it was Luiji Vilain, and he stuck around the depth chart until midseason last year before getting scooped off the practice squad by the Carolina Panthers. The following year, 2023, Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah rushed to the UDFA wire and signed Ivan Pace Jr., and all he did was start out the gate as a rookie and garner fringe Defensive Rookie of the Year attention.

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Now, Gabriel Murphy is the next in line, somehow landing in Minnesota right after the draft. His scouting report is akin to Pace Jr.’s — a genuine mystery regarding his undrafted status, probably due to size and strength, which accompanied Pace Jr. one year ago.

Murphy lived on Thor Nystom’s Top 500 draft big board at No. 144, a placement that should’ve fetched a 4th-Round draft selection for the UCLA Bruin. No cigar. Every general manager in the gridiron world passed on him. If that sounds familiar, that’s because it happened to Pace Jr. 12 months ago. Nystrom compared Murphy to Kansas City Chiefs defender Leo Chenal, a pretty sweet comp, as Chenal fired up a 76.5 Pro Football Focus grade in 2023.

Ivan Pace Jr
Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores chatting with Tatum Everett on February 15th, 2023. The Vikings hired Flores from the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he was a linebackers coach for one season.

USA Today’s Doug Farrar tweeted about Murphy soon after the draft, “UCLA EDGE Gabriel Murphy may be undersized, but he’s big and quick enough to knife through double teams. The Vikings got a larcenous steal with Murphy as a UDFA.”

And these were the kinds of tweets that circulated about Pace Jr in 2023. There’s very little difference between the two per draft snub and eventual landing spot. Both men will now work with Brian Flores, a man known for extracting the best from all defenders.

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The Draft Network‘s Damian Parson described Murphy a couple of months ago: “His athletic ability makes him a potential QB spy candidate against the talented dual-threat and scrambling QBs in the NFL. This alignment versatility will fit well with creative defensive coordinators who prioritize various fronts to confuse the OL and QB.”

He added, “In all, Murphy is a juiced-up and polished pass rusher, who projects as an eventual starter as a 3-4/odd front edge rusher. His quickness, hand-fighting skills, and pressure effectiveness make him a solid starter at the next level.”

At 6’2″ and about 250 pounds, Murphy doesn’t quite have prototypical EDGE size, but that’s what the world said about Pace Jr. as an off-ball linebacker. The man has time to put on beef and develop.

2 Vikings Snatch
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Murphy shouldn’t be expected to start like Pace Jr. as a rookie — the Vikings are somehow suddenly deep at outside linebacker — but he’ll be in the mix this summer and likely earn a 53-man roster spot.

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).

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