Prediction No. 8
Ivan Pace Jr. will play the most snaps of any Vikings linebacker
In the moments after last April’s draft, there was a lot of excitement surrounding Ivan Pace Jr. The Cincinnati linebacker had just gone undrafted, but there were plenty of teams vying for his services as an undrafted free agent. After several hours, Pace announced he had signed with the Vikings and gave the rest of the league a warning message.
“Y’all done f****d up.”
Pace did his best to back those words this offseason, and he may be starting the season as the Vikings top linebacker. Pace’s physicality and ability to take on bigger blockers raised eyebrows, but so did his intelligence, which quickly endeared him to the coaching staff.
Pace wore the green dot on his helmet – which indicates the ability to communicate with the coaches and make calls at the line of scrimmage – in each of the first two preseason games and got more first-team reps as the season went along.
Those reps may have been a product of Brian Asamoah’s undisclosed injury, but it also may not be a fluke. Asamoah had flashes but never seized a starting spot a year ago, and Jordan Hicks was one of the league’s worst linebackers in coverage which could lead him to be a subpackage player this year.
It would be extreme to think that Pace will be contending for awards by the end of the year, but he could definitely wind up being the Viking’s top linebacker and a piece of the defense for years to come.