The Minnesota Vikings added 12 more new faces to the roster this week in undrafted free agency, bringing the week’s total to 27 rookies combined between the draft and post-draft process.
College free agency and, by extension, rookie tryouts have been bountiful for the Vikings over the years, producing contributors like Adam Thielen, Anthony Harris, Holton Hill, C.J. Ham, Chad Beebe and Mike Boone. Minnesota has routinely invested more resources and dollars than most teams into the UDFA process, and even though the COVID-19 pandemic affected the Vikings’ ability to collect as much information as usual, they remained aggressive in trying to identify useful pieces outside of the draft.
Reporters spoke to 11 of the 12 undrafted free agents on Thursday as they engaged in their first week of virtual meetings with the team. Here’s what fans should know about the newest acquisitions.
Brady Aiello, T, Oregon
The Vikings already drafted tackle Blake Brandel from Brady Aiello’s college rival Oregon State in the sixth round. Aiello will join Brandel in competition for the team’s depth spots behind Riley Reiff, Brian O’Neill and second-round pick Ezra Cleveland.
Aiello played all over the line at Oregon: both tackle positions, guard, even a little tight end. The Ducks played a zone scheme like the Vikings, so Aiello should have preexisting knowledge of what to do at multiple positions in Minnesota’s offense.
“Coach Dennison and Phil [Rauscher], the assistant O-line coach, that’s something that they really like about me, my versatility,” Aiello said. “So I think it’ll help out a lot, just in case I have to play somewhere where I haven’t played a lot. I have experience playing different positions, and I can definitely transition well.”
Aiello joins fourth-round pick LB Troy Dye, WR Bralon Addison, WR Dillon Mitchell and RB Tony Brooks-James as former Oregon Ducks on the Vikings’ roster.
Dan Chisena, WR Penn State
It’s not often that a player with three career college receptions gets at look at receiver in the NFL, but that’s the case with Dan Chisena. The Penn State product chose to pursue track and field after initially attempting to play both sports as a freshman. Chisena successfully ran the 4×100 and 4×400 meter relays for the Nittany Lions but asked to rejoin the football team in 2018. After acting primarily as a special teamer his first year back, Chisena saw the field as a receiver in 2019, making three receptions for 66 yards.
“I’d been running straight for three years and hadn’t run any routes or anything like that the entire time,” Chisena said of the transition from track to football. “It was difficult at first, but it was great that first season back.”
Chisena’s speed was the biggest appeal to the Vikings. He reportedly can run a 4.32 40-yard dash, and that speed could make a quick impact on special teams, where Chisena worked as a gunner at Penn State. He also stands at a healthy 6’3″.
Nevelle Clarke, CB, Central Florida
The man who was tasked with filling Mike Hughes’ shoes at Central Florida now rejoins Hughes in the Minnesota secondary. Nevelle Clark, a 6’1″ corner, had four interceptions in the previous two seasons at UCF and reportedly was given a generous $115K guaranteed by the Vikings to join the team. Clarke chose the Vikings over the Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Chargers.
“I didn’t even know that three corners were gone,” Clarke said, referring to Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander and Xavier Rhodes. “I thought it was only two corners. So when they told me a third one was gone, that kind of gave me an eye-opening, ‘It’s here. Opportunity is here. I’ve just got to grasp it. I’ve just got to take it. I’m going for it.'”
Clarke was also drawn to a possible reunion with Hughes, the former first-round pick. His former teammate said he’s been watching Hughes with the Vikings and felt like they were running familiar concepts on defense.
The corner also ran an impressive 6.88 3-cone drill at the NFL Combine, third-best at his position.
Quartney Davis, WR, Texas A&M
Quartney Davis compiled 11 touchdowns and over 1,200 receiving yards in his two years contributing at Texas A&M. The 6’1″ receiver played a mix of slot and outside positions, though he said he prefers playing on the boundary.
Davis opted to leave for the NFL a year early to make sure his daughter was taken care of financially. He says he took his undrafted status in stride.
“I wouldn’t say disappointed, but it definitely gives me more of a drive,” Davis said. “I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed. Everything doesn’t go how you want it go. You just got to make the most of your opportunity, and that’s something that I understand in this situation.”
The former Aggie will wear Stefon Diggs’ old No. 14 with the Vikings.
Check out Zone Coverage’s draft profile on Davis.
Myles Dorn, S, North Carolina
The Vikings once took undrafted ACC safety Anthony Harris and turned him into a star. Dorn hopes that he is next in line.
Dorn comes from an all-UNC family with both parents attending the school before him. Dorn’s father, Torin, played for the Raiders and Rams in the NFL. In his own UNC career, Myles Dorn picked up six interceptions and played in 43 games.
The younger Dorn said he’s a big fan of watching Vikings safety Harrison Smith operate in the secondary.
“He’s really smart, just knowing how to disguise the coverage,” Dorn said. “He’s not in a rush or any hurry. Some players are really ansty to get here and there. He’s really patient in what he does. He can tell he has a great feel for the game and he knows where he’s supposed to be, and he’s ahead of the offense, as well as disguising and being able to get to where he has to be without being in a hurry.’’
Dorn should have the opportunity to compete for a depth job behind Smith and Harris. The Vikings drafted safeties Josh Metellus and Brian Cole II in the sixth and seventh rounds to provide competition.
Jordan Fehr, LB, Appalachian State
Jordan Fehr might be one of the most athletic players to come out of college this year. With a reported 4.45 40, 40.5-inch vertical and 415-pound bench, Fehr wound up on Bruce Feldman’s “Freaks” list, which showcases the athletes with the most impressive measurables. Fehr’s inability to hold a traditional pro day likely hurt his draft stock and forced him into the UDFA ranks.
Fehr worked alongside fourth-round pick Akeem Davis-Gaither at Appalachian State. The two worked interchangeably as blitzers as Fehr finished his career with eight sacks. He recorded over 100 tackles as a senior.
The former Mountaineer has done his research about the Vikings history and says he’s excited to join such a “prestigious program.”
“The Vikings are known historically and recently for being a great defense,” Fehr said. “I can’t wait to get in that room and learn from Coach Adam Zimmer and to have guys like Barr and Kendricks being All-Pros, being able to learn from them. I’m very excited and fortunate for the opportunity to be able to learn from great experience.”
Nakia Griffin-Stewart, TE, Pittsburgh
The Vikings made a quality find last UDFA period when they brought in NAIA star Brandon Dillon, who made the initial 53-man roster and could make another strong bid at a roster spot in 2020. In Nakia Griffin-Stewart, they’re looking for another under-the-radar pick-up. After releasing David Morgan in March, Minnesota has room for another piece, potentially a blocking type. At 6’5″, 260 pounds, Griffin-Stewart — who didn’t put up big offensive numbers in college — could fit that blue-collar role.
Griffin-Stewart made 13 receptions in three season at Rutgers before transferring to Pittsburgh for his final season, ending the year with 19 grabs, 185 yards and one touchdown. During his five total college seasons, Griffin-Stewart operated under five different offensive coordinators.
“We did pro-style my freshman year, a no-huddle, hand-signal, Air Raid-type offense my sophomore year … did a pro-style mixed with spread, went to pro-style again,” said Griffin-Stewart, recounting the different systems. “So I had a mix of everything, and it really helped me progress as a player mentally. I also matured as a player because every year I had a new task to do.”
Tyler Higby, G, Michigan State
The Vikings declared open competitions at both guard spots after the draft. That’s music to the ears of a UDFA like Tyler Higby, who played all five line positions in college but prefers the inside. He fell out of the draft following an injury his senior year.
“I think that’s what I can bring to the table with this team, my versatility,” Higby said. “I know that helps me, being able to move around [to] all five spots. I think that will definitely help me during camp if guys go down or if they need someone to step in for a couple reps or whatever.”
Higby was roommates with Vikings seventh-round pick Kenny Willekes at Michigan State.
Jake Lacina, C, Augustana (D2)
Like father, like son. Jake Lacina’s father, Corbin, played for Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, proceeded to Division-II Augustana in Sioux Falls and made the jump to the NFL, where he played for four franchises including the Vikings. Now Jake Lacina is following in his footsteps from Cretin-Derham Hall to Augustana to Minnesota.
Lacina toyed with playing tight end in college but was ultimately a center his entire career with the Augustana Vikings, the alma mater of current Minnesota fullback C.J. Ham. Some of Lacina’s first football memories are of his father running out of the tunnel at the Metrodome. Corbin Lacina played in Minnesota from 1999-2002.
“I do remember going into the locker room and seeing those facilities out in Eden Prairie and the practice fields and stuff like that,” Lacina said. “I remember going to the Metrodome and seeing him run out of the tunnel and thinking that was really cool. I remember being around it, but maybe not much specifics about it.”
The Vikings were the only team to offer Lacina a UDFA deal.
Blake Lynch, LB, Baylor
Apparently one Baylor defensive player named Lynch wasn’t enough for the Vikings, who selected defensive tackle James Lynch in the fourth round. Now they’ve signed his teammate in undrafted free agency, a converted wide receiver who spent time as a defensive back and now plays linebacker.
Lynch was actually a rather effective receiver as a freshman with over 400 yards, but he was called upon to move to defense due to teammates’ injuries as a sophomore — occasionally playing both ways. In two years of full-time defense Lynch totaled five sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss and three interceptions.
“Other coaches have told me, as well, that I have tremendous upside just because I have only been playing linebacker for a year and a half. It’s something I’ve enjoyed doing, and I just want to learn from guys like Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks. And Coach Zimmer is a great coach, so I’m just trying to learn everything I can.”
At 6’3″, 225 pounds, Lynch may be a bit undersized for a three-down linebacker but has the potential to excel in coverage.
David Moa, DT, Boise State
As a sophomore, Moa moved inside as a lightweight 250-pound nose tackle and used his agility to put up 8.5 sacks. The former teammate of Alexander Mattison and Ezra Cleveland then started putting on weight to get a point where his size could translate to the next level.
Moa added around 60 pounds over the next three years, but he wasn’t able to duplicate his breakout campaign. He recorded just two sacks over the next three seasons, one of which was cut short by an Achilles injury.
“Right after I had my Achilles tendon surgery in January 2019, I put on a lot of weight, and for six months I was still in that healing process and just getting on my feet, getting healthy, and then jumping right into fall camp and into the season,” Moa said. “With all this time now being at home, being with my trainer, all this time to fully recover and getting back to 100 percent, I’m excited to be playing at a weight, at this 295-300 range, being the healthiest I could possibly be.”
Jake Bargas, FB, North Carolina
Bargas was a little-used tight end during his time at North Carolina, amassing 21 receptions over four years. Reportedly, the Vikings are looking to make the 6’2″, 250-pound Bargas their backup fullback behind C.J. Ham. With Ham signing a long-term extension in March, Bargas isn’t likely to make the roster unless Ham gets hurt, but he could do what Khari Blasingame did a year ago — stand out in the preseason, earn a practice squad spot and get called up to another NFL roster.
Bargas was not made available to reporters.