This undrafted Vikings rookie could make the squad
June 7, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Luiji Vilian. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.
New Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah drafted ten players in his first draft. After the conclusion of the draft, the big scramble begins to recruit the best undrafted players.
It is still rare that they are part of the team. If they were good, why weren’t they drafted? Some of them have not had the opportunity to show their talents due to injuries or competition from great players. Others play their college ball at a lower level, like Adam Thielen.
The Vikings have had success with undrafted players
The Vikings have historically signed great undrafted players. Thielen is just the latest example. Legendary early Vikings center Mick Tingelhoff was also an undrafted rookie. He moved on to a Hall of Fame career. The center played in all four Super Bowls with the Vikings, was All-Pro five times and played in 240 games for the Vikings. Of course, all were back-to-back starts.
John Randle, the defensive tackle, was undrafted in 1990. He tried out for the Buccaneers but was deemed undersized. No defensive tackle plays with just 244 pounds. The Vikings signed him. Before that, however, they required him to weigh at least 250 pounds. He added a few pounds by hiding a metal chain under his tracksuits. Like Tingelhoff, Randle had a Hall of Fame career. He was a six-time first-team All-Pro.
In 2022, Adofo-Mensah signed several undrafted recruits hoping someone might make the roster. Players with the most potential usually get the highest amount of guaranteed money. For the Vikings, those two players are Zach McCloud and Luiji Vilain. Both are cutting edge rushers. McCloud received a guaranteed $250,000, second most in the league after Eagles QB Carson Strong and a team record for an undrafted rookie. Vilain signed a deal that guarantees him $227,000.
The guarantees are higher than for some draft picks. Sixth-rounders Jalen Nailor and Vederian Lowe and seventh-rounder Nick Muse all receive less guaranteed money.
Bleacher Report chose the Undrafted Vikings rookie most likely to make squadand they chose Luiji Vilain.
Maurice Moton of Bleacher Report explained his choice: “On the edge, the Minnesota Vikings need depth behind Danielle Hunter, Za’Darius Smith and DJ Wonnum. The Vikings likely won’t give up 2021 third-rounder Patrick Jones II after a quiet year, though they should add someone to push him and Janarius Robinson for snaps at outside linebacker.
Indeed, the Vikings need depth in this position. In recent years, Hunter has been injured and the entire defensive unit has imploded. DJ Wonnum didn’t perform at a high level and his rushing partners looked even worse.
Patrick Jones and Wonnum have the inside track for the star rushers, Smith and Hunter’s backup spots. However, it is still early in the camp and no pre-season games have been played. There is plenty of time to usurp another player on the depth chart.
Moton continued, “In two terms at Michigan, Vilain didn’t make an impact, but he showed flashes in a pass-rush role last year at Wake Forest, recording nine tackles for loss and nine sacks. . The 6’4″, 252-pounder needs to refine his passing moves, but he’s won on the perimeter with the use of his hands and enough quickness to beat offensive linemen in one-on-one situations.
Villain has struggled in Michigan, as Jim Harbaugh’s team has always had great rushers, Kwity Paye, Josh Uche, Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary, to name a few. Then he was transferred to Wake Forest after his senior year in Michigan, where he finally had the opportunity to show his worth.
Villain is already 24 years old. However, he has great physical tools. He has long arms and his first steps are incredibly explosive. His name hasn’t come up much since the start of camp, but it’s still early in the process for the talented top rusher. The first preseason game will take place on August 14, when the Vikings travel to Las Vegas to face Derek Carr and his Raiders.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who loves numbers and statistics. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their then-quarterback Christian Ponder. He is a walking football encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms and classic rock is his favorite genre of music. Follow him on Twitter if you like Vikings: @JanikEckardt