My favorite part of training camp is the undrafted free agents. Many are relatively unknown players who are fighting for a livelihood over the course of 4 weeks. They compose Sleeper Central. And some General Managers strike gold with their UDFA’s. Some current undrafted stars include Arian Foster, Wes Welker and Antonio Gates. The Vikings themselves have had some success in the past with undrafted free agents, namely John Randle. We’ll first take a look at who the Vikings have signed in the past several years and how they’ve done.
Vikings UDFA History
2013: In 2013, one undrafted player out of 15 made the team. Zach Line had a strong training camp and was seen as a fill-in for Jerome Felton at fullback during Felton’s 3-game suspension. He did just that, playing well for the first 3 games of the season. In week 4, he was placed on Injured Reserve with some sort of tweaked knee MCL injury, probably exaggerated by the Vikings so they could clear a roster spot for Felton. It’s telling that they didn’t release Line, though. He could fit in to future plans.
2012: In 2012, no undrafted free agents out of the 15 originally signed made the roster. However, Boise State defensive tackle Chase Baker spent all of 2012 on the practice squad. In 2013, with the departure of Christian Ballard, Baker made the roster as a backup. He played sparingly, appearing in 5 games. Baker will compete for a job this summer against the likes of Kheeston Randall, Tom Johnson and Fred Evans.
2011: In 2011, 1 UDFA made the roster out of 14, Allen Reisner. Reisner was a back-up for a couple years before signing with Jacksonville last year. He is back with the Vikings this summer and will compete for a backup spot once again. Matt Asiata, like Baker, spent 2011 in the practice squad, then slowly worked his way up to actually starting a game last year. He figures to be in the mix for the third running back position.
The Vikings signed 15 undrafted free agents, a familiar number the past two years. Below are the three with the best chance of making the roster.
AC Leonard: If any 2014 UDFA should make the roster, it is Leonard. An athletic pass-catching tight end out of Tennessee State, he was dismissed from Florida after he was charged with battery in 2o12. While his off-field problems are a concern, there is a huge upside on the field. Leonard posted a 4.5 second 40-yard dash at the combine, fastest at his position. He reminds many of Aaron Hernandez, who was practically a wide receiver lined up at the tight end position. He is not a good blocker, though. If he were to make the roster, Rhett Ellison would be the only blocking tight end. With Ellison’s injury concerns, that could prove dicey. Leonard will compete with Reisner and Chase Ford for a spot. Chance he makes the roster: 70%
Antonio “Tiny” Richardson: Many analysts gave Richardson a Top-3 round grade in the pre-draft rankings. Knee problems caused him to fall all the way out of the draft, surprising many. However, if Tiny can stay healthy, he could be a steal. The Vikings already have two established, young tackles, so a starting spot won’t come easy or soon for Richardson. His best prospect would be to make the team as a backup to both Kalil and Loadholt. I think he would be an upgrade to Troy Kropog, who has backed up the past couple of years. Richardson could probably eat Mike Remmers and Kevin Murphy, the two other tackles with a legitimate chance of making the team, for dinner. Chance he makes the roster: 50%
Dominique Williams: The reason Williams made this list is because the Vikings have one of the most constantly changing backfields in the NFL. The loss of Toby Gerhart to Jacksonville was offset by the selection of Jerick McKinnon in the draft. The many comings and goings of Bradley Randle (who probably still deserves another shot) and the short stints of Joe Banyard and Lorenzo Booker highlight a rocky tenure for the Vikings third running back. Currently, Matt Asiata holds the position. Asiata is basically a goal-line back, good for one or two yard. Williams, of Wagner, is small at 5’9″. Weighing 205, he doesn’t have blinding speed but is quick and elusive, a quality Asiata does not possess. However, the experienced Asiata will most likely relegate Williams to the practice squad. Chance he makes the roster: 20%
This probably the best undrafted free agent class the Vikings have had in five years. Leonard and Richardson are recognizable names who could develop into starting NFL players, and Williams is a dark horse.