5 Vikings UDFAs That Fans Should Be Paying Attention To

Quarterback Cephus Johnson throws a pass as the Louisiana’s Ragin Cajuns take on Southeastern Louisiana Football at Cajun Field. Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. Cajuns Vs Southeastern Football 7002

Over the past few weeks, there has been plenty of hype surrounding the Minnesota Vikings 2023 Draft class. This is well-deserved as Jordan Addison should be an immediate contributor on offense, and there are at least a few very intriguing pieces on the defensive side of the ball as well in Mekhi Blackmon, Jaquelin Roy, and Jay Ward.

However, these are not the only young Vikings to fans should be paying attention to over the coming weeks and months. The team also signed 15 undrafted free agents following the conclusion of the draft. Here is a look a five Vikings UDFAs that should be on every fan’s radar heading into the summer.

EDGE Andre Carter II

Dec 10, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Army Black Knights outside linebacker Andre Carter II (34) reacts after a play against the Navy Midshipmen during the first half of the 123rd Army-Navy game at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA Today Sports

We can’t go through this list without talking about the guy that was rumored to be a potential Day 2 draft selection while also landing an extremely lucrative contract to sign with the Vikings.

Andre Carter II has all sorts of talent as a pass-rusher, with outstanding length at nearly 6’7. He recorded 15.5 sacks for Army in 2021, and Pro Football Focus tied Carter and Aidan Hutchinson for the best pass-rusher in college football among players with at least 100 pass rush snaps that season.

However, 2022 was a steep fall off for Carter in terms of production. After putting together 59 pressures in 13 games during 2021, the pass-rusher only had 23 pressures in 10 games. He battled through injuries but also seemed to struggle with added attention given to him by opposing offenses.

Carter’s path to the NFL is a bit of an unorthodox one, but he joins the Vikings at a position of need and should compete for a roster spot this summer.

LB Ivan Pace Jr.

New Vikings Defender
Nov 5, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. (0) reacts after sacking Navy Midshipmen quarterback Xavier Arline (not pictured) in the second half at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings interestingly made very little attempt to grab a top linebacker in free agency after cutting ties with longtime starter Eric Kendricks this offseason. They signed Troy Reeder, who started 10 games for the Rams during 2021, but he was largely a depth piece for the Chargers in 2022.

However, the signing of Ivan Pace Jr. should be one that fans are rather excited about. He is another player that was widely expected to land a spot on a team during the draft, but he slipped through the cracks, signing with the Vikings.

Pace is a very physical linebacker with the athleticism to impact a play anywhere on the field. He certainly has that bulldog mentality in him that you love to see in players trying to earn a roster spot as well.

With both Brian Asamoah and Pace set to try and establish themselves on this Vikings defense, this could be a very interesting position battle to keep an eye on this summer.

WR Malik Knowles

5 Vikings UDFAs
Kansas State senior wide receiver Malik Knowles (4) celebrates a touchdown over Kansas during the first quarter of Saturday’s Sunflower Showdown at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

Malik Knowles’ production at Kansas State won’t blow anybody away, catching 127 passes for 1867 yards and 14 TDs over five years with the Wildcats. However, he is a very sure-handed receiver, dropping just two of 76 targets during the 2022 season.

With the Vikings depth at wide receiver, he may not have much of an impact as a pass-catcher, particularly right away. However, Knowles’ value comes in his ability to impact plays all over the field.

The receiver had 36 carries for 440 yards and 4 TDs over his collegiate career, making him a threat in the backfield, and he is an explosive playmaker as a return man. Knowles returned 61 kicks for 1691 yards (27.7 yards per return average), and he brought three kicks all the way back for touchdowns.

Knowles can be a Swiss Army knife type of player for the Vikings, so it will be interesting to see if he can carve out a role on the roster this year.

K Jack Podlesny

Jan 9, 2023; Inglewood, CA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs kicker Jack Podlesny (96) kicks from the hold of quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) against the TCU Horned Frogs during the CFP national championship game at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

This kicking competition feels a little different than last year when the Vikings brought in Gabe Brkic. In that battle, Greg Joseph quickly emerged as the clear favorite, and Brkic was cut a month later.

This time around, the Vikings have brought in Jack Podlesny, who has spent the past two years making kicks for the back-to-back champion Georgia Bulldogs. He is a battle-tested player, nailing kicks under the brightest lights of college football.

Over his career at Georgia, Podlesny made 61/74 field goals and 182/184 extra-point attempts. With Joseph’s struggles on XP attempts and field goals of 50+ yards, this could turn into a real position battle over the summer.

WR Cephus Johnson III

Quarterback Cephus Johnson throws a pass as the Louisiana’s Ragin Cajuns take on Southeastern Louisiana Football at Cajun Field. Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. Cajuns Vs Southeastern Football 7002

We already talked about one Swiss Army knife for the Vikings at the wide receiver position in Knowles, and Cephus Johnson III is one of these as well but for very different reasons. Johnson spent the majority of his collegiate career as a quarterback, completing 64.3% of his passes for 1518 yards, 10 TDs, and 6 INTs this past season at Southeastern Louisiana.

However, he has displayed some great mobility throughout his collegiate career as well, rushing for 1344 yards and 17 TDs over the course of his four years playing college football, including 608 yards and 8 TDs in 2022.

Now, he joins the Vikings listed as a wide receiver, and Minnesota’s hope likely is that Johnson, at 6’5 and 220 pounds, can eventually turn into their own Taysom Hill-esque ‘gadget’ player that can fill a multitude of needs across the field. With Kevin O’Connell’s creative offensive scheme, there may be a role for Johnson in the coming years for the Vikings.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.