Canadian EDGE Has a Chance of Sticking Around Vikings’ Roster

Oct 9, 2021; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange quarterback Garrett Shrader (16) runs with the ball past Wake Forest Demon Deacons defensive lineman Luiji Vilain (2) during the second half at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

After the draft concluded, teams began to quickly scoop up talented players who didn’t hear their name called. Minnesota brought in eight new players, one of whom being Canadian EDGE Luiji Vilain. Since I’m from Canada, I always enjoy seeing a fellow Canadian find success. The hope, of course, is that Vilain’s journey is just beginning, that he can turn his potential into strong on-field play.

Dane Brugler – one of the preeminent draft experts – highlighted the young EDGE in his article about the best remaining players. Take a look at how he describes Vilain:

Vilain has excellent upfield burst, with flexibility and bend at the top of his rush. He looks the part with long arms and large hands to fight his way through the shoulder of blockers, but he must develop his pass-rush plan and counters to keep his rush alive. He tends to be a half-second late tracking the ball in the run game. Overall, Vilain doesn’t have the established résumé of a draftable player, but his physical traits are NFL worthy, and scouts believe there is untapped talent there.

More recently, Nick Baumgardner (also from The Athletic) published a piece detailing every team’s best UDFA signing. Unsurprisingly, he highlights Vilain:

A former top-60 recruit who never got healthy enough to contribute at Michigan, Vilain finally had his moment in 2021 with a nine-sack year at Wake Forest. Vilain’s get-off at the line of scrimmage (1.57-second 10-yard split) is elite and his burst/agility combination is very good. He’s thin, injuries have been an issue — but he can bend the corner.

It’s this potential that gives Luiji Vilain a shot of not only sticking around but also becoming a contributor for the Vikings.

In the NFL, money is what’s most important. The fact that the Vikings were willing to guarantee so much for Luiji Vilain suggests they think very highly of him. Clearly, the UDFA was a priority.

Before his one and only season at Wake Forest, Vilain played for Michigan. While there, he didn’t get onto the field very much. Last year, he played in 12 games for Wake Forest, putting together 34 tackles and 8 sacks. He also had 9 tackles for a loss.

In his rookie season, Vilain won’t have to confront unreasonable expectations. Even sticking around the practice squad can be a notable accomplishment for an UDFA. Being able to stay in the building to continue practising alongside Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith is a win.

The above descriptions and statistics suggest that Vilain is still raw. He didn’t get a ton of snaps in his college career. The Vikings will thus be tasked with polishing the diamond in the rough. If successful, then perhaps Minnesota will get a steal. Adam Thielen, C.J. Ham, Anthony Harris, and Eric Wilson are merely a few recent examples of UDFAs who found some purple success. In a few years, perhaps we’ll be able to add Vilain’s name to the list.

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