Undrafted Rookie No. 1
Ivan Pace Jr. - ILB (Cincinnati)
- 102 tackles
- 2.5 sacks
- 1 interception
Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah did well with this one.
Ivan Pace Jr. was a guy who was expected to go somewhere in the first three rounds of the 2023 draft.
But he ended up being available after all the picks were made primarily for him being undersized, having short arms, and then having a disappointing workout at his Pro Day.
While his size was a concern, there was never any question about his abilities on the football field.
The dude was a reckless missile during his days at Cincinnati, always playing with his hair on fire and blowing up blockers on his way to destroying the ball carrier.
Many times, game tape is more important than workout numbers, and that was the case for Pace. He stood out immediately in OTAs, and then he was the talk of training camp.
That buzz carried over into the regular season, and Pace accumulated 102 tackles, two and a half sacks, and an interception.
He is in line to be a starter in 2024, and he is one of the few young building blocks on this defense.
Production Grade: A+
Potential Grade: A
Undrafted Rookie No. 2
Najee Thompson - CB (Georgia Southern)
- 7 tackles
- 1 fumble recovery
It's not often that a general manager finds a key contributor as an undrafted free-agent rookie, but Adofo-Mensah managed to land two of them in 2023.
Najee "Flash" Thompson was a special teams ace. The dude showed blazing speed and flew down the field, just drooling at the chance to lay out a returner.
He had plenty of big plays and even recovered a fumble he forced against the Packers in Week 17 that set up the Vikings' only touchdown of that game.
Maybe Thompson will eventually develop into a cornerback who sees the field when the defense is out there, but for now, he's making special teams sexy, and that is more than enough.
Production Grade: B-
Potential Grade: A