Skip to main content

News | Minnesota Vikings –

Presented by

Lunchbreak: PFF Highlights Vikings Rookie Free Agent to Keep An Eye On

It seems every season, teams find diamonds in the rough via undrafted free agents added to their roster.

Analytics site Pro Football Focus recently took a look at UDFAs around the league and highlighted 12 to keep an eye on as voluntary Organized Team Activity practices start to wrap up and mandatory minicamps get underway.

PFF's Austin Scott included Vikings linebacker Ivan Pace, Jr., in his list of potential standouts, calling him a "2023 NFL Draft Twitter darling." Scott wrote:

Cincinnati Bearcat Ivan Pace, Jr., seemed primed to hear his name called in what appeared to be a weaker off-ball linebacker class. Despite his somewhat diminutive stature for the position, he posted an elite 93.0 defensive grade, supplemented by 50 run stops and 46 total pressures, in 2022. Pace consistently made his presence felt as a gap plugger and blitzer, showcasing a great feel for navigating traffic and working off blocks with good change of direction and contact balance.

While Pace lacks coverage instincts and sideline-to-sideline athleticism, there is certainly a role in the Vikings linebacker room behind Brian Asamoah II, Jordan Hicks and Troy Dye for a physical sparkplug with a nose for the football.

View photos from the Vikings OTA practice which took place on June 5 at the TCO Performance Center.

Minnesota is slated this season to face a handful of the UDFAs on Scott's list, including Lions cornerback Starling Thomas V, whom the Vikings could see twice if he makes Detroit's 53-man roster.

A first-team All-Conference USA cornerback, Thomas feels like one of the easiest inclusions on this list. Landing in Detroit gives him an opportunity to stick as a core special teamer with the potential to provide depth both at outside cornerback and in the slot. Thomas' explosiveness and long speed stand out as he mirrors receivers downfield with relative ease or quickly recovers from off coverage before showing good instincts and timing to play through a receiver's hands to force incompletions at the catch point, as evidenced by his 17 forced incompletions in 2022.

If he can play a bit more under control at the catch point and parlay some of those ball skills into turnovers (zero interceptions in 2022) during summer camp, he may be a roster lock behind Emmanuel Moseley, Cam Sutton and former UDFA success story Jerry Jacobs.

Also, keep Chargers defensive lineman Jerrod Clark on your radar when the Bolts visit U.S. Bank Stadium Week 3.

A hulking presence on the interior at 6-foot-4 and 337 pounds, Clark did not post gaudy numbers in his three years as a starter on the Coastal Carolina defensive front but showed consistent improvement year to year as a space eater and pocket pusher from the interior, capping out at a 79.5 defensive grade last season.

Despite his frame, Clark shows a solid first step and good pad level to win the leverage battle at the point of attack, with the necessary strength and length to split combo blocks or disengage and swallow ball carriers. Clark steps into a Chargers defensive interior that has added talented bodies yet has struggled mightily against the run over the past couple of years, a facet that may see him pop this summer from a 0- or 1-technique alignment.

Click here to see Scott's full list.

Cousins' checkdown rate among NFL's lowest, says Sports Illustrated

Will Ragatz of Sports Illustrated recently delved into a storyline that has oft been attached to Kirk Cousins: "that he's one of the NFL's checkdown merchants, meaning he's quick to rely on his underneath options and safety nets."

But is that really the case? Ragatz wrote:

Although there may have been some truth to that idea at times, it really hasn't been the case during Cousins' recent years with the Vikings. When he has had to check it down — like the infamous pass to T.J. Hockenson that sealed last season's first-round playoff loss — it's typically been due to elevated pressure rates allowed by his offensive line.

In fact, Cousins had the seventh-lowest checkdown rate among QBs last season, according to a new PFF article, with 38 checkdowns on 643 attempts for a rate of 5.9 percent. Of the six QBs with lower rates — Jalen Hurts, Trevor Lawrence, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, and Justin Fields — three ran for at least 760 yards in 2022. All six finished in the top 10 in rushing yards among quarterbacks. Cousins finished 26th, with 97 rushing yards.

Ragatz noted that Cousins' checkdown rate was "slightly higher" on third downs at 6.5 percent, which is the 15th-highest among quarterbacks.

Cousins finished third in third-down yardage (1,205) and led the league in third-down TD passes with 14. He was also third in sacks taken on third down with 21. On the season, Cousins finished near the middle of the pack in time to throw, sack rate, and throwaway rate.


The idea that Cousins is a "Checkdown Charlie" who is hesitant to throw the ball downfield just isn't based in truth.