Report Card Grades for the Minnesota Vikings' Undrafted Free-Agent Signings
The 2014 was one of the deepest in terms of the talent available on Days 2 and 3. That also means a very talented crop of undrafted free agents, as players slip through the cracks.
With undrafted free agents, the goal is always to supplement the bottom of the roster with quality depth and competition. A low hit rate should be expected. Of the immediate undrafted free-agent signings of 2013, only one made a final 53-man roster, and only one made the practice squad. Three of those players are currently on the Minnesota Vikings' roster.
A higher number could make an impact in 2014, though. Mike Zimmer and his staff have preached the importance of competition. If one of these undrafted free agents has the quality of play to merit a roster spot, he will get it. Minnesota brought in a talented group.
Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
Tennessee offensive tackle Antonio Richardson is the most gifted undrafted free agent the Vikings brought in. He's certainly the most physically intimidating. Per NFL.com, Richardson measured in at 6'6", 336 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine. His 35-inch reach is incredible.
The biggest reason Richardson fell out of the draft centers around concerns over his durability. Richardson underwent knee surgery in 2012, and further issues with his long-term health could be the biggest drawback.
On the field, Richardson is a mean blocker with a heavy punch. He gets himself into trouble by lunging into blocks instead of staying balanced. Jadeveon Clowney exposed those issues in the worst way in their battle in 2013. If healthy, Richardson certainly merited a draft pick. That speaks to just how concerned teams were and should temper expectations for him.
Kain Colter, WR, Northwestern
Dual-threat quarterback Kain Colter will be making a switch to the wide receiver position. Even so, he may have the best chance to make the team of any undrafted free agent.
Colter was the playmaker extraordinaire for the Northwestern Wildcats during his time there. He made his biggest dent in opposing defenses as a rusher, so big yards after the catch will be expected. Colter has a slippery elusiveness to him and has a thick enough build to take hits and stay on his feet.
He's still coming around as a receiver, which is to be expected. Colter showed soft hands, physical in his routes and the ability to track the ball at the Senior Bowl. His upside is relatively high for an undrafted free agent considering how little of his new position he has played.
A.C. Leonard, TE, Tennessee State
Past incidents off the field and possibly maturity issues that go further are the assumed reasons for A.C. Leonard dropping out of the draft. It was certainly no lack of athletic ability.
Per NFL.com, Leonard timed in at 4.50 seconds in the 40-yard dash. That is just as fast as most receivers. His 34-inch vertical leap is nothing to sneeze at either. His combine performance only confirmed what he showed on the playing field.
Leonard has both field-stretching ability and big run-after-the-catch ability. Tennessee State featured him underneath, letting him run into space and turn upfield with a head of steam. Leonard made some of the most impressive plays of any tight end in the draft class in 2013, most of which included numerous broken tackles.
This is a player who has the athletic talent and pass-catching talent to make the team, without question.
Zac Kerin, C, Toledo
Toledo's Zac Kerin may be an interesting test case in terms of what makes an interior offensive lineman successful. There are things he obviously does well and things he obviously does not do well.
Kerin doesn't look the part of a center. At a listed 6'4", according to NFL.com, he's on the taller side. He also struggles with lateral movement, a mostly limited athlete.
The silver lining is that Kerin puts in as high an effort as anyone on a football field. He plays with a nasty demeanor, driving opponenets to or even past the whistle. Kerin just has scrappy qualities to him as a blocker. If he makes the team or the practice squad, his effort level will be the reason.
Austin Wentworth, OG, Fresno State
Austin Wentworth played left tackle for the Fresno State Bulldogs. That worked out because their offense featured quick-hitting passes and an inside rushing attack. Wentworth isn't cut out for life at the tackle position and will move inside to offensive guard.
He's so much more suited for guard play. His feet are just too heavy to stick on the outside. At guard, he has guys on each side of him and won't have to cover lots of ground laterally.
Wentworth is a nasty run-blocker fit for a power scheme. He makes a habit of driving opponents into the ground. He's still a bit too much of an all-or-nothing guy and is merely average in pass protection. Making the practice squad is a success for Wentworth.
Matt Hall, OT, Belhaven
The most notable feature to Belhaven tackle Matt Hall is that he's absolutely massive. NFL.com lists him at 6'9", 323 pounds. He's the first guy off the bus, without a doubt.
His height could almost be a detriment at times. He may lack functional strength due to an inability to keep his pads down. Even if he's flexible in the knees, his pads have a long ways to go in order to win with leverage.
Hall is more cut out for run blocking at this stage in his development. Footwork issues plague him in pass protection, and he has issues with power-rushers. With his size profile, he may be only cut out for the tackle position. That lack of versatility decreases his value as a depth offensive lineman.
Donte Foster, WR, Ohio
Donte Foster is listed at 6'1.5", 200 pounds, so the size and build is there to make it as an NFL receiver. His athletic potential and college production just don't inspire me.
Foster has been commended for his ability to climb the ladder and make impressive catches. He isn't a phenomenal athlete in any way. He also plays with an overly finesse style that struggles with press coverage.
With only a season of big yardage as a collegiate receiver in a small conference, I wonder how special Foster is. He did haul in 20 touchdown receptions in his final three seasons, according to ESPN.com. He will have to prove to be an immense red-zone contributor in order to cut it at the NFL level.
Erik Lora, WR, Eastern Illinois
If statistical production in college is a telling sign for NFL success, expect big things from Erik Lora. He caught 123 passes for 1,544 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2013, according to eiupanthers.com. His situation, with a talented quarterback at a low level and a spread offense, played a big part in that.
He's only 5'10", 200 pounds, per NFL.com, so he projects as a slot receiver only. He has some of that short-area quickness, spatial awareness and route-running technique to cut it. Lora also made some very impressive catches on contested situations in 2013.
The biggest problem is that he may never be a better receiver than he is now. He's just an average athlete who cannot stretch the field or make a big impact after the catch. It would be very surprising to see him make the team.
Dominique Williams, RB, Wagner
Dominique Williams is a smaller back at a listed 5'9", 205 pounds. He only rushed for 4.4 yards per carry as a senior and only caught 15 passes. His statistical production, per Wagner Athlethics, is a concern, considering he played at a level far below what he will see in the NFL.
Backfield competition is already fierce, so it's tough to see Williams playing a part. Barring other signings, he could enter camp as the fifth running back. Unseating Matt Asiata or Jerick McKinnon on the roster is hardly possible outside of major injuries. Winning a practice-squad spot would be a big accomplishment for a back who just hasn't shown enough special traits.
Conor Boffeli, OG, Iowa
Physical measurements are a big limitation for Conor Boffeli and could lead to issues playing against NFL defensive linemen. NFL.com lists him at 6'4", 298 pounds, with a reach that only measures 32 inches. Major work will need to be done to add muscle mass to Boffeli in order to build him into an NFL offensive guard.
Boffeli is a project for more than just that reason. He only started a single season for the Iowa Hawkeyes, where most offensive line prospects have started three or four. That lack of experience and quality reps will set him back.
Expect Boffeli to have a difficult time asserting himself on an interior offensive line that has been bolstered by quality players in the late rounds of previous drafts.
Pierce Burton, OT, Ole Miss
Pierce Burton may be the dark horse of the bunch to make an impact in camp and preseason and make the team or practice squad. He only played two seasons at Ole Miss after transferring in but started both at right tackle.
Burton is listed on the wrong side of 300 pounds, but there's adequate time to build up his frame if he gets stashed on the practice squad. He's a high-effort blocker who plays with a chip on his shoulder. That will go a long way toward making a name for himself.
He will have a transition ahead of him. Ole Miss' offense was very friendly to its tackles, negating rushers with play-action and quick throws. His footwork, leverage and technique will all need to be developed.
Jake Snyder, DE, Virginia
Jake Snyder is a unique player at the defensive end position. He's built like a run-stuffing end at 6'4", 272 pounds. The statistics go even further, but not in a positive direction.
Snyder only recorded a sack and a half as a senior, even though teammate Brent Urban should have been getting the bulk of opponents' attention. If he couldn't make his mark as a rusher in college, he certainly won't in the NFL.
Without that pass-rush value, it's an uphill battle for Snyder to make the roster. His character, work ethic and leadership traits pass with flying colors, but it probably won't be enough.
Rakim Cox, DE, Villanova
If Rakim Cox catches the eye of the Vikings' coaching staff, it will be due to his ability to line up at a variety of positions and be somewhat effective.
He's built well enough for a 4-3 defensive end at 6'4", 260 pounds. He started four seasons at Villanova and was one of the Wildcats most impactful defensive players during his last two. Cox isn't a great athlete in terms of speed or quickness, even though he's not a heavy defensive lineman.
It will be tough for Cox and other defensive ends lower on the depth chart to climb up in the right direction. There's just too many names and too much quality depth at the position.
Tyler Scott, DE, Northwestern
Tyler Scott falls into the same category as Jake Snyder and Rakim Cox. They all have a long way to go to make the team.
Scott was at least a more productive rusher during his college career, netting 15 sacks over the course of his final two seasons, according to nusports.com. Unfortunately, a lack of tremendous athletic traits will see that efficiency drop in the NFL. He won't be make his lasting impressions as a rusher.
Overall, he's another base end who lacks the athletic traits of a pass-rusher. Even if he holds his own in run defense, there's only so much to be gained.
Isame Faciane, DT, Florida International
Vikings.com lists Isame Faciane at 6'3", 302 pounds. He may be expected to add more weight if the plan is to use him at nose tackle, otherwise he's where he needs to be.
Faciane has a real chance to make his mark with Minnesota. He likely projects as a 3-technique defensive tackle, where he can play in a gap and let some of his athleticism loose. Faciane is a skilled mover with a quick first step, so he could provide some backfield disruption.
He did that at FIU, recording 11.5 tackles for loss in 2013. The Vikings don't truly possess a highly explosive defensive tackle who can split a gap and chase down ball-carriers. If there's any sense that Faciane can develop into that type of player, his value will go up.
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