The Vikings entered the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft with two picks: Nos. 157 and 168 overall.
Vikings Select Iowa WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette with 157th Overall Pick | By Eric Smith
The Vikings added a wide receiver in the fifth round Saturday, taking Iowa's Ihmir Smith-Marsette with the 157th overall pick.
Smith-Marsette will join a receivers group that includes Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Chad Beebe, Bisi Johnson and others in Minnesota. He also has plenty of potential on special teams, too.
A senior who is listed at 6-foot-1 and 181 pounds on his NFL.com bio page, Smith-Marsette was an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten in 2020 as both a wide receiver and return specialist.
He led the Hawkeyes with 345 receiving yards and four scores, and was second on the team with 25 receptions. He also averaged 22.0 yards on eight kickoff returns.
"I always view myself as a receiver first, that's excellent at returning kicks. I can do punt return, too," Smith-Marsette said. "I definitely see myself as a wide receiver first and then a return man after that, but I'm somebody that takes pride in the return game, too.
"It's not just something that I like to do, I love to do it and I feel like taking on that challenge is going to be one of the better things for me," Smith-Marsette added. "Being able to excel at that at the highest level is going to be good for me."
He said a diverse background of playing multiple sports growing up honed the different skills needed to play wide receiver.
View photos of Iowa WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette who was selected in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
"Water polo and track — being a hurdler you have to have tremendous body control when you're approaching an obstacle and being in control of your environment so you can move the way you want to when you need to," Smith-Marsette said.
"It's a praise to everything I've done in life and all the sports I've played and just being able to learn different things and how to use your body in different ways," Smith-Marsette added. "Just being able to focus in when it's that time and excel in the moment."
Smith-Marsette notched a pair of kickoff returns for touchdowns at Iowa.
"I feel as though I was the best player in the draft when it comes to returning the ball," Smith-Marsette said. "That's another strong suit of mine. I feel like I'm coming in there and I'm going to make an immediate impact in the return game and then work my way into the offense."
Smith-Marsette finished his junior season in 2019 in a big way as he was the Offensive Most Valuable Player in the Holiday Bowl, scoring a rushing, receiving and kickoff return touchdown against Southern California.
He had two receptions for 46 yards and a touchdown and added two carries for 15 yards and a score. Smith-Marsette also found the end zone on a 98-yard return.
He became the second player in school history with a rushing, receiving and kickoff return touchdown in a single game.
"It put me on the radar big-time," Smith-Marsette said. "A lot of people commented about my performance that game. That's not something that you can just do on the regular, I would say.
"Especially going against USC, a highly-touted five-star-player team, they got these prospects, those prospects, but little old Iowa not supposed to be beating USC," Smith-Marsette added. "When I get in those games … that's just the mentality I have. When people overlook you, you just go out there and show them what you're really made of."
Vikings Select Central Missouri TE Zach Davidson with 168th Overall Pick | By Lindsey Young
The Vikings have added to their tight ends room.
With their second pick in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, Minnesota tabbed Central Missouri's Zach Davidson at No. 168 overall.
Davidson, a redshirt senior who is listed at 6-foot-7, 245 pounds on his
NFL.com bio page, has excelled in quite the unusual double-duty role over the past three seasons: Davidson has been the Mules punter since his redshirt freshman season, when he averaged 44.3 yards per kick, in addition to playing tight end.
"Fun story. I was a punter and kicker in youth football but didn't take it too seriously just because it was a position on the field where I had a natural kicking ability," Davidson told Twin Cities media members. "I didn't become the starting punter until my sophomore year [of high school] where the JV kid kind of got into a situation and we needed somebody to step up. Coach asked me if I had kicked in the past and I told him, 'Yes.'
"I ended up kicking a 50-yarder and 45-yarder in the first three kicks, and from that day forward I was the team's punter," Davidson laughed. "It just kind of grew into my niche in high school since we were a limited offense. I was a vertical-threat tight end in high school but tall and scrawny, so I stayed in my lane punting, and it ultimately got me to the Division II in college."
Despite his unique skill set, Davidson assured that his focus at the pro level is tight end. But you know what they say: the more you can do.
"Punting is in my back pocket. I was drafted as a tight end and have full attention on being in the tight ends room and being involved early. It's definitely something in my back pocket, having experience with the specialists group," Davidson said. "I have OK skills at long snapping. I'd say average skills at long snapping and place holding.
"I can make an impact there as a backup, that's kind of how I'm using that," he added. "But my main focus is tight end early on and staying focused there."
The Central Missouri football team didn't play in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Davidson garnered plenty of attention at tight end during the 2019 season. He played 13 games (12 starts) and recorded 40 catches for 894 yards (22.4 average) and 15 touchdowns. His touchdown total tied for seventh-most among D-II schools.
NFL.com's Lance Zierlein described Davidson as "gangly," calling him an "enigma as a one-year wonder with mega production seemingly coming from nowhere."
View photos of Central Missouri TE Zach Davidson who was selected in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
"He's a towering figure with slender body composition, offering a desired combination of speed and athleticism to work all three levels of the field with a natural advantage in the catch-radius department," Zierlein said. "While he has the tools to become a better route runner, he is in the developmental stage currently."
Davidson will join a Vikings tight ends room with Irv Smith, Jr., Tyler Conklin and Brandon Dillon. The group this spring saw the departure of Kyle Rudolph, who was released and signed with the Giants, and Hale Hentges, who announced his retirement from the league.
"It will be a great opportunity for me to get in and learn," Davidson said. "I think Brandon is a smaller-school guy, so it's a great opportunity to have a guy that's been through a similar path coming from a small school with a lot of learning points.
"It even expands further than the tight ends group. The receiving room is outstanding with a veteran like Adam Thielen and a young, outstanding star in Justin Jefferson," he added. "It will be a great learning experience for me as a player."