5 late-round picks from 2020 that could impact the Vikings in 2021

(Photo by Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports) Blake Lynch
(Photo by Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports) Blake Lynch /
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Minnesota Vikings
(Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images) Kenny Willekes /

Kenny Willekes – DE

The Vikings landed Kenny Willekes in the seventh round of the 2020 draft and many saw this as a steal in addition to being a player who could potentially crack the final roster. Minnesota’s defensive end depth wasn’t very impressive at the time and it seemed that Willekes had a great shot to beat out Eddie Yarbrough or Jalyn Holmes.

Willekes was having a decent offseason, but then he blew out his ACL in the team’s scrimmage, ending his chance to play in the 2020 season. This isn’t the first time in his football career that he’s suffered a leg injury, having broken his fibula back in 2018. He fought his way back from that injury and he should be able to do with his current one.

Willekes is a player whose drive, desire, and heart are far above his athletic abilities. He was a walk-on at Michigan State who outworked the competition to not just earn a spot on the defense, but to excel on it. He was a long shot to make that team but defied the odds.

His chances of landing on the Vikings’ active roster are even less this year with the return of Danielle Hunter and the additions of Stephen Weatherly, Patrick Jones II, and Janarius Robinson. He’ll need to be extremely impressive every day in practice as well as in his preseason games to unseat an established veteran player or one who was drafted this year.

Willekes’ best bet could be to land on the practice squad with the hope of getting called up to the active roster during the season. All he needs is one shot and with his drive and determination, it would be a smart bet that he’ll make the most of it.