Odds the Minnesota Vikings' 14 Undrafted Free Agents Make the 53-Man Roster
Yes, it does matter.
The Vikings have had an up close and personal experience with what an undrafted player can bring to a franchise. In 1990, Minnesota signed a defensive tackle from Texas A&I Kingsville after the draft. His name: John Randle.
Randle played 11 seasons in a Vikings uniform and recorded 114 sacks during his time in purple. In 2010 he was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Not too shabby for an undrafted free agent.
There are numerous other success stories of undrafted free agents, too: Kurt Warner, Antonio Gates, James Harrison, and Warren Moon, just to name a few.
With that in mind, let's look at Minnesota's 14 newest players and assess if they have what it takes to make Minnesota's roster in 2012.
Chase Baker, Boise State Defensive Tackle
Prior to signing Chase Baker, the Vikings had four defensive tackles on their roster (Kevin Williams, Fred Evans, Christian Ballard and Letroy Guion). With the Vikings likely to have four, maybe five defensive tackles on the opening day roster, Baker will have a tough time making Minnesota's roster.
During his four-year career at Boise State, Baker accumulated 100 tackles and 6.5 sacks. He's known as a hard-working and intelligent football player.
He's not a pass rusher and his best attribute is his ability to plug holes, which is a skill set Minnesota is already overflowing with. The franchise needs pass-rushing abilities from its interior, which Baker is not known to do.
At 6'1" and 292 pounds, he isn't the biggest defensive tackle the NFL will ever see and with limited speed to go with it (he ran a 5.37 second 40-yard dash at Boise State's pro-day), at best he'll end up on Minnesota's practice squad.
Derrick Coleman, UCLA Running Back
Running back was the one position the Minnesota Vikings shouldn't have had concerns about in 2012.
But with Adrian Peterson recovering from an ACL injury (his status for 2012 is unknown) and Toby Gerhart recovering from an MCL injury (he's expected to be ready for the beginning of 2012), the position is a question mark.
It was a position Minnesota could have addressed in the 2012 NFL draft but opted to do so through free agency instead. UCLA's Derrick Coleman is the lone running back Minnesota signed as an undrafted free agent.
Coleman's best season at UCLA was this past fall when he rushed for 794 yards and 11 touchdowns.
He isn't known as a receiving back, with 17 receptions during his four-year career at UCLA, but he is a big back. He's 6'1" and 240 pounds and with that type of size, he could be a valuable goal-line or short-yardage back.
Minnesota has four running backs on its roster in addition to Coleman and two are recovering from injuries.
With bruising backs like Gerhart and Peterson, Minnesota isn't in dire need of a goal-line or short-yardage back, barring major setbacks by Gerhart or AP.
Coleman ran a 4.52 40-yard dash at UCLA's pro day, a time that resembles a fullback more so than a running back. His limited abilities as a pass-catching back and lack of speed lead me to believe he'll have a difficult time making Minnesota's roster.
If Peterson or Gerhart suffer any major setbacks, then the path to the roster would be much easier for Coleman. Expect him to get a practice squad invite.
*Coleman is a hearing-impaired running back. Read the story ESPN Los Angeles wrote last fall.*
Bobby Felder, Nicholls State Cornerback
The defensive backfield needs all the help it can get. Bring on the undrafted free agents.
Bobby Felder has the body of an NFL defensive back at 6'1" and 200 pounds. While he played cornerback at Nicholls State, some NFL personnel believe he's better suited to shift to safety, according to this DailyComet.com piece.
Felder recorded 49 tackles, three blocked kicks, five interceptions, one sack and two forced fumbles in 11 games during 2011.
On Nicholls State's pro day, Felder ran a 4.5 40-yard dash, according to Bleacher Report's Andrew Garda, and with Nicholls State alumnus Lardarius Webb succeeding with the Baltimore Ravens, that certainly doesn't hurt Felder getting a better look despite his small-school status.
If Minnesota doesn't believe in Felder for his defensive-back skills, then it should consider him for his special-teams play.
The two safety positions will be open competitions (up and down the depth chart) and with openings at cornerback, Felder will have a good opportunity to make Minnesota's 53-man roster.
If Felder doesn't make the 53-man roster, then definitely expect to see his name on the practice squad, if another team doesn't scoop him up first.
Kamar Jorden, Bowling Green Wide Receiver
Kamar Jorden was as productive of a receiver as there was in college football over the previous two seasons. In 2011, he caught 78 passes for 1,089 yards and 12 touchdowns, and in 2010, he caught 96 passes for 1,109 yards and four touchdowns.
Jorden benefited from Bowling Green's pass-heavy system, but that doesn't change the fact that he still had to make the plays.
He's a sure-handed receiver with limited burst (he ran a 4.67 40-yard dash, according to Sports Illustrated). He possesses good size for a wide receiver (6'1", 196 pounds) and can win battles for jump balls.
Minnesota's concerns at the wide receiver position have been well-documented. The Vikings selected Jarius Wright and Greg Childs in the 2012 NFL draft, re-signed Devin Aromashodu, signed Jerome Simpson and have Michael Jenkins and Percy Harvin returning.
There will be roughly one wide receiver spot open with Jorden, Bryan Walters, Emmanuel Arceneaux and Stephen Burton in competition to earn it.
Eric Latimore, Penn State Defensive End
Eric Latimore looks like an NFL defensive end. At 6'6" and 280 pounds, he stands out from the crowd. But his play at Penn State did not.
During his senior season, he had 18 tackles, three sacks, five tackles for loss and one forced fumble. That doesn't scream, "I'M AN NFL PLAYER!" But the physique is there.
The defensive end position is Minnesota's most stable with 2011 NFL sack leader Jared Allen and Brian Robison manning the two posts. Minnesota also drafted Trevor Guyton and still has Everson Griffen.
Latimore is better suited for the 3-4 defense, according to Walter Football, which begs the question: Why did Minnesota sign him?
I don't like Latimore's odds of making Minnesota's roster at all. It seems like there's potential, which should give him the opportunity to make the practice squad, but I would expect him to use Minnesota as a launching pad for a different opportunity.
Ernest Owusu, California Defensive End
If one is good, more is better, right?
Minnesota drafted California defensive end Trevor Guyton in the seventh round of the 2012 NFL draft and has since signed his Cal teammate Ernest Owusu after the draft.
Owusu impressed with his showing at Cal's Pro Day by running a 4.7 40-yard dash and bench pressing 225 pounds 39 times. Had he done both at the 2012 NFL Combine the bench press mark would have been the third most overall and the 40-yard dash would have been the fifth best time among defensive ends.
With Owusu's size (6'5" and 270 pounds) and speed he should have produced more than 4.5 sacks during his senior season at Cal. The disappointing sack totals left many scratching their heads.
Owusu will have to compete with fellow rookies Eric Latimore and Guyton for a reserve role on Minnesota's defensive line. Owusu is more likely than Latimore to make the roster but less likely than Guyton because Guyton was one of Minnesota's draft picks.
If Owusu greatly outperforms Guyton in camp, then he could earn that roster spot.
I think Owusu has a legitimate chance to make the roster.
Tyler Nielsen, Iowa Linebacker
Tyler Nielsen is another player who has a legitimate opportunity to make Minnesota's roster.
Pro Football Weekly projected Nielsen as a fourth- or fifth-round pick in the draft, which means (by Pro Football Weekly's standards) he should have the talent to earn a roster spot.
At 6'3" and 238 pounds, Nielsen has good size, and with his 4.74-second 40-yard dash, he has adequate speed for a linebacker.
Minnesota is expected to start Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson at outside linebacker, but beyond that, there are many question marks.
The Vikings selected Audie Cole in the seventh round of the 2012 NFL draft (he has experience at outside and middle linebacker), Everson Griffen could see time at outside linebacker, and Tyrone McKenzie spent 2011 on Minnesota's practice squad but saw field time with Tampa Bay in 2010.
Beyond that, the current roster is filled with practice-squad players.
Nielsen has the talent to be a backup linebacker and special teams contributor on this team. It's up to him to force the coaching staff to do it.
Austin Pasztor, Virginia Guard
It doesn't feel right saying this, but Minnesota is in good shape relative to its offensive line, at least compared to last season.
With the selection of Matt Kalil, Minnesota will move Charlie Johnson from left tackle to left guard. The Vikings signed Geoff Schwartz from Carolina this offseason and has Joe Berger and Brandon Fusco returning. That's four offensive guards for two positions.
There just isn't much room for an undrafted free agent like Austin Pasztor to make the 53-man roster. He would really have to impress during training camp to overtake any of those four men.
At 6'7" and 305 pounds, Pasztor will garner attention for his size. Walter Football wrote that he's better known for his skills as a pass blocker but improved as a run blocker in 2011.
I like Pasztor's chances at the practice squad, but I just don't see him making the 53-man roster.
Tydreke Powell, North Carolina Defensive Tackle
This is the second of three defensive tackles Minnesota signed after the draft.
Tydreke Powell earned honorable-mention All-ACC in 2011 with 46 tackles and 4.5 sacks. He's a 6'3" 310-pound underachiever.
National Football Post proclaimed Powell a "naturally talented kid" who "doesn't play up to his skill set" but is "worth a flyer in camp."
That same report says he loses leverage against his blocker too easily and isn't a very strong pass rusher.
A CBSSports report said "(w)ith better conditioning and knee bend, Powell would project quite well in the NFL. As he was in his senior season, Powell does not bend well enough to succeed in the NFL."
With Powell's natural abilities, anything could happen, but Minnesota is set at the position, for the most part, and I do not expect Powell to make the 53-man roster but will get an invite onto the practice squad.
Terrell Resonno, Missouri Defensive Tackle
Another defensive tackle.
The 6'3" and 295-pound Terrell Resonno recorded 19 tackles and two sacks in 11 games in 2011. He has the ability to make plays outside of the box but is controlled by a single lineman too often.
In order to make it at the NFL, he needs to improve his overall strength, according to a Sports Illustrated report.
The only way any of the three undrafted defensive tackles make the roster is if they have good pass-rushing skills, which is something Minnesota has lacked from the defensive tackle position in recent years, or with a phenomenal camp.
I don't see Resonno as providing either of those and see him as a practice-squad player in 2012.
Quentin Saulsberry, Mississippi State Center
I mentioned earlier that Minnesota was in pretty good shape at the guard position. It's very similar at the center position.
Joe Berger and Brandon Fusco, two players I mentioned as candidates for the starting guard position, also have the capability to play center. Their versatility will make it difficult for a player like Quentin Saulsberry to find a spot on the 53-man roster. It will lead him to Minnesota's practice squad or to another team.
Saulsberry started 50 straight games at center, both guard positions and right tackle. He's 6'2" and 304 pounds, which should project him at the guard or center position in the NFL.
He was a successful college player but struggled against elite talent and is not overly strong. With time, he could become an average NFL starter or solid backup.
Darrion Weems, Oregon Offensive Tackle
While the center, guard, and left tackle positions have taken form, there's still the concern at right tackle with Phil Loadholt. The man has all the talent in the world but has failed to live up to his talent thus far in his NFL career.
Now, Loadholt isn't terrible, but he doesn't inspire confidence that he's the solution at that position long-term. He's on notice this season.
With Patrick Brown as the only backup tackle with any NFL experience on the roster, and he doesn't have much, it's not out of the question that Darrion Weems could make Minnesota's roster.
But I don't expect Weems to make the 53-man roster because he is an undersized NFL tackle. Minnesota went with an undersized left tackle (Charlie Johnson) last season, and Johnson struggled mightily at the position.
Weems should be in relatively good shape because of the fast-paced offense he played in during his time at Oregon. But the Vikings don't play in that kind of offense. They need bigger tackles that can overpower defensive ends.
Tyler Holmes, Tulsa Guard
Tyler Holmes started all 33 games he played in during his four-year career at Tulsa. While at Tulsa, he played offensive tackle but his size, 6'4" and 301 pounds, doesn't translate into an offensive tackle in the NFL.
Holmes is a versatile lineman who should project as a guard in the NFL, a position the Vikings have depth at.
I see Holmes as a practice squad player at best and will add to the competition for Minnesota's backup offensive line positions.
Corey Paredes, Hawaii Outside Linebacker
The 5'10", 242-pound Corey Paredes enters Minnesota's training camp after recording 107 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, and one interception. He is also Hawaii's seventh-leading tackler in program history (312).
But scouts obviously have concerns about how his stellar collegiate play will translate at the next level; otherwise, he would have been drafted at some point.
His small frame and inability to shed blockers stands out for most, as documented by this Sports Illustrated report. He does most of the little things well, which put him in position to make plays on the ball.
It'll be difficult for Paredes to make the roster. Audie Cole and undrafted rookie Tyler Nielsen project as better outside linebackers than Paredes.
This means Paredes will either have to overwhelm Minnesota's coaching staff into a roster spot, accept a practice squad position or pursue his NFL career with a different team.
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