6 Undrafted Minnesota Vikings Players Who Could Prove to Be Gems
The Minnesota Vikings held their final organized team activities on Thursday, June 13, providing additional opportunities for the front office to assess incoming rookies and returning players vying for a roster spot.
The undrafted free-agent class provides intriguing scenarios in determining whether any within that group of players have the potential to emerge as diamonds in the rough.
The Vikings originally announced the signing of 16 undrafted free agents, then later cut Nicholas Edwards from Eastern Michigan and signed wide receiver Adam Thielen from Minnesota State.
While these players often have the odds stacked against them to make a team's final roster, there have certainly been standouts over the past several years who have teams returning to the well for overlooked players.
Former Viking John Randle didn't let that small fact get in the way of him becoming a feared defensive force who has since been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Even as we look back at the final 53-man roster for the Vikings in 2012, a total of 10 players made the roster who went undrafted out of college. They included McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Matt Asiata, Allen Reisner, Erin Henderson, Larry Dean, Marcus Sherels, A.J. Jefferson, Andrew Sendejo, Chris Kluwe and Cullen Loeffler.
Although some of those Vikings were more role players than huge contributors on Sunday—while others never saw playing time outside of practice—the likes of Henderson, Sherels and Jefferson all had to step up in 2012 for what led to a playoff berth for the Vikings.
Let's take a look at the undrafted free agents for 2013 who have the best chance to emerge as an impact player for the team down the road.
Statistics and combine results courtesy of NFL.com, unless otherwise noted.
DE Marquis Jackson, Portland State
Marquis Jackson has the size at 6'5", 260 pounds to make an impact at the next level, blending pure athleticism and balance to contend for a pass-rushing spot on the Vikings' roster.
Jackson is the twin brother of the Denver Broncos' Malik Jackson, who was selected in the fifth round of the draft out of USC in 2012. While the two share physical gifts, Marquis struggled academically and eventually attended Texas Southern and Portland State.
Considering some of the question marks surrounding Jared Allen entering the final year of his contract, the Vikings would be fortunate to keep Jackson on the practice squad if he fails to make the final round of cuts and passes through waivers.
DT Anthony McCloud, Florida State
Anthony McCloud joins former Florida State teammates Everett Dawkins and Xavier Rhodes drafted by the Vikings last month on the current 90-man roster. The collection of former Seminoles are beginning to compete against the fraternity of Notre Dame players for team representation.
McCloud stands 6'2", 305 pounds, and could play his way onto the third team at defensive tackle behind Kevin Williams and first-round selection Sharrif Floyd. McCloud has good lateral movement and possesses the level of strength required to attack opposing linemen out of his stance to gain leverage.
While the Vikings have depth at the position, including their seventh-round pick Dawkins, the front office could have a solid developmental player in McCloud if he can be kept in the organization.
FB Zach Line, SMU
Zach Line etched his name in the SMU record books by passing Eric Dickerson's college record for all-purpose yardage and tied his record for most rushing touchdowns with 47.
Line also recorded three straight seasons of 1,200 yards, a feat no other Mustang has accomplished in school history.
Line is unlikely to supplant fullback Jerome Felton, who recently signed a three-year, $7.5 million contract with Minnesota. However, the former Mustang could contend with Matt Asiata for the third-string running back position behind Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart.
Posting a 4.77 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, Line does not have the breakaway speed for a No. 1 running back, although few backs will have a fair competition with Peterson in the backfield.
With a strong lower body and constant motor, the standout from SMU complements the Vikings' running game well and could move ahead of Gerhart, depending on what direction the team takes with the fourth-year player.
WR Adam Thielen, Minnesota State, Mankato
Adam Thielen was an offensive powerhouse for Minnesota State in 2012, leading the Mavericks in catches (74), receiving yards (1,176) and receiving touchdowns (8). His best game came against Winona State where he caught 10 passes for 128 yards and three touchdowns, earning Thielen offensive player of the week honors in the division.
Not originally included in the Vikings' signing of undrafted free agents, Thielen impressed the front office prior to rookie minicamp in tryouts that included Cris Carter's son, Duron. Thielen's reliable hands and strong work ethic have kept him in the conversation for a roster spot.
At 6'3", 200 pounds, Thielen ran between a 4.45 and 4.49 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day, leaving many impressed with the Division II prospect. He joins second-year receiver LaMark Brown—also from Minnesota State—although Thielen appears to have the upper hand against his former teammate.
LB Nathan Williams, Ohio State
Nathan Williams was the only linebacker signed by the Vikings as an undrafted free agent, although he technically played defensive end at Ohio State.
At 6'3", 241 pounds, he projects well as a weak-side linebacker in the Vikings' defense, behind fourth-round draft pick Gerald Hodges and veteran Marvin Mitchell.
Williams ran a 4.76 and 4.77 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day. He has the ability to close quickly on ball-carriers and make physical tackles in open space with excellent upper-body strength.
The former Buckeye has excelled as a pass-rusher, but also demonstrated sound skills to drop into coverage with a good backpedal and fluid hips. Given the questionable state of Minnesota's linebacking corps, outside of Chad Greenway, the team could have a gem on its hands by stocking away this talented prospect.
WR Rodney Smith, Florida State
One of the more recognized undrafted signings by the Vikings, Rodney Smith adds an explosive element to the team already primed for the emergence of first-round selection Cordarrelle Patterson.
Smith is a vertical threat on the outside at 6'4", 225 pounds, displaying good speed at the combine with a 4.51 in the 40-yard dash. He has also shown smooth route-running in intermediate situations with the ability to get open in tight spaces.
Having played with Christian Ponder at Florida State, the former Seminole brings some familiarity to the position for the third-year quarterback. If Smith can get stronger and break press coverage, he has a good opportunity to compete for one of the final spots on the 53-man roster and could prove to be a missed opportunity for other teams around the league.
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