Last week, we looked at an early prediction of the Vikings’ depth chart heading into 2018. These offseason guesses are fine reads, but often neglect to represent a team’s undrafted free agent (UDFA) class.
Every year, dozens of talented players slip through the cracks to sign as UDFAs. Although many will fail to stick around in September, some may become valuable starters. Here are the five undrafted free agents most likely to make the Vikings’ roster in 2018.
Jake Wieneke, WR, South Dakota State
Wieneke is your prototypical red zone threat. His size (6-foot-4, 221 pounds) gives him an immediate advantage near the goal line. Combine this with his insane high-pointing ability and physicality and Wieneke is a clear threat inside the 20-yard line. He is an impressive route runneri as well.
Wieneke put up insane numbers in college, with over 5,000 career receiving yards and 59 touchdowns. The main knock on the former Jackrabbit is his speed. He does not have great straight-line speed, which could be a major handicap heading into the NFL. Faster cornerbacks will not allow him to gain any separation, no matter how crisp his route running is.
Despite this, he will likely compete with Laquon Treadwell for the team’s fourth receiver spot.
Roc Thomas, RB, Jacksonville State
As a running back, Thomas is relatively small in stature, standing at only 5-foot-10. This brought down his draft stock, causing him to go undrafted. But what he lacks in height he makes up for in work ethic and quickness. Thomas is a very elusive back that can dominate defenders at the next level.
His jump cuts are second to none, but he does need to improve his vision to complete his game. He was impatient at times, jumping to the outside instead of waiting for running lanes to develop. If this can be corrected, Thomas can be a special talent. He has the potential to be a great change-of-pace back and could be the Vikings’ third running back this fall.
Holton Hill, CB, Texas
Holton Hill could have (and should have) been drafted, but his maturity issues forced many teams to push him away. He is long, fast and physical, fitting the mold of coach Mike Zimmer’s ideal cornerback. He also excels in coverage, minus the ball skills that first-round pick Mike Hughes has.
Despite playing cornerback, Hill is not afraid to commit to the run and is an excellent tackler. Based purely on talent, Hill could have been drafted as high as the third round. But after being suspended from Texas for violating team rules, his character came into question.
His perceived immaturity is a major red flag and will dictate whether he stays in the NFL. If Zimmer can set him straight, the Vikings may have found a diamond in the rough.
Hercules Mata’afa, LB, Washington State
Like many undrafted free agents, Mata’afa is a high-production player that may struggle to find a position in the NFL. At Washington State, he was a disruptive force as an interior defensive lineman. His quickness and toughness helped him earn an All-American and All-Pac-12 selection in 2017.
Unfortunately, we will not be able to see Mata’afa play on the defensive line at the professional level. He is far too small (6-foot-2, 254 pounds) to play as a defensive tackle, and does not have the burst needed to play as a 4-3 defensive end. He is currently listed as a linebacker, providing a steep learning curve for the native Hawaiian.
Mata’afa may need another year to develop, but his tenacity will help him compete for a job during training camp.
Garret Dooley, LB, Wisconsin
Like many Wisconsin defenders, Garret Dooley is very technically sound. He displays good hand use and is a solid tackler. Dooley is also a strong competitor who has been raved about by his coaches at Wisconsin.
He fits the mold of a traditional 4-3 middle linebacker, but lacks the athleticism needed in today’s NFL. None of Dooley’s physical attributes “wow” on tape. He is stiff as a runner and pass rusher and is too slow to excel in coverage. However, he only started for one year in college, and will now have an NFL weight room at his disposal.
Right now, he is only a practice squad-caliber player, but with the lack of depth at the linebacker position, Dooley might sneak onto the Vikings’ active roster.
Featured image from fullpresscoverage.com
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