Brandon Dillon was a nice story for the Vikings a season ago.
While he didn’t make much of an actual impact during the season, this undrafted tight end defied the odds and made the Vikings’ final 53-man roster a season ago. What was more impressive than just the feat of making the team, is that he did it at a position that was already three players deep, and was widely expected to stay that way.
Dillon had a solid preseason and showed a knack for getting open and caught just about everything that came his way with eight preseason receptions for 95 yards. Many figured he’d be stashed on the practice squad, but the team must’ve figured he’d be sniped by another team if he hit waivers, so they kept him.
The Vikings signed 12 undrafted players this year, and in this article, we will try to predict which one could be the next Dillon and make the team, despite having the chips stacked against him. This season it’ll be even more difficult with the loss of OTAs and mini-camps due to COVID-19 and a potentially shortened preseason.
c Jake lacina
The Vikings are three deep at center, so this will be a tough position to try to land a spot, especially for a rookie who wasn’t even drafted. Jake Lacina, while playing for small school Augustana, has some things going for him. He’s extremely experienced having played in 45 games with 33 consecutive starts. He’s 6’4″ and 305 pounds and won the 2019 Division-II Rimington Trophy given to the nation’s top center.
One other positive in his corner is having his dad, Corbin, be a former Viking. While that doesn’t guarantee him anything, having a father who played for the Vikings means that Jake grew up knowing the NFL. He saw what his father had to do to make the team, and should have an understanding of how the NFL works. This gives him an advantage.
The Vikings have Garrett Bradbury locked in as their starting center for 2020 and beyond. It’ll take an injury for him to lose that job this season. Behind him is Pat Elflein, who despite being the team’s current starting left guard, is also the primary backup at center.
The third man up is Brett Jones. This is who Lacina could beat out. Jones has been with the Vikings for two years but only logged 192 snaps on offense. The team keeps bringing him back, but if Lacina has a strong preseason and training camp, he could force the Vikings to cut ties with the veteran.
dt david moa
David Moa is another Boise State Bronco who has found himself on the Minnesota Vikings. He’s a defensive tackle who has played both the nose position and 3-technique in college. With his size at 6’3″ and 296 pounds, he’ll compete at that 3-technique position for the Vikings this preseason. The “Moa Constrictor,” as he’s known, has shown the ability to create that interior pressure. As a sophomore in 2016, he registered 8.5 sacks. He’s only had two sacks since then but missed the majority of the 2018 season with an Achilles injury. Despite the lack of sacks, Moa did have 6.5 tackles for a loss in 2019, so he clearly has recovered from that injury and can still get in the backfield.
Moa has his work cut out for him if he’s going to make the Vikings’ roster. His primary competition will be James Lynch, Hercules Mata’afa and Jalyn Holmes. Those three are seen as the primary 3-technique defensive tackles on the Vikings’ roster. They do, however, have guys like Jaleel Johnson and Armon Watts who can play both the nose and 3-technique, which only makes things more difficult for the Moa Constrictor. Moa will have to be extremely impressive and look like the disruptive player he was his sophomore season if he has any shot to make the team. It’s not out of the question with solid and consistent play, that Moa could jump guys like Mata’afa and Holmes, but there’s no guarantee those two make the team either, so instead of being on the squad, Moa could just find himself as the first man out.
wr Dan Chisena
The Vikings already have one undrafted rookie wide receiver who is expected to make the roster, and that is Quartney Davis. For another one to crack the 53-man roster would be quite the feat, and while he’s a long shot, Dan Chisena is an intriguing player. Chisena started his football career in 2015 as a member of the Penn State Nittany Lions. He left after his freshman season to focus on track but returned to the team in 2018 and played so well on special teams that he was awarded a full scholarship for his senior season. Chisena was rarely used on offense, as he had just three receptions for 66 yards his entire college career. Where the 6’3′, 202-pound Chisena made his mark was on special teams. He used his great top-end speed to fly down the field to be the first man hitting the returner or downing the punt. He isn’t afraid to put himself in harm’s way to make the play.
While the Vikings’ receiving depth chart lost a big chunk of its overall talent when Stefon Diggs was traded to Buffalo, it is definitely deeper than it was a season ago. While players like Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, Bisi Johnson and Tajae Sharpe are likely locks to make the team, the rest of the depth chart will be a fight in camp. Chisena could have an advantage over some players like Davion Davis, Alexander Hollins and Dillon Mitchell because of his special teams’ prowess. How many receivers the Vikings keep is another major aspect when factoring in Chisena’s chances of making the team. However, Brandon Dillon played so well in camp, he forced the team to keep four tight ends last year, and perhaps Chisena can make the Vikings keep one more receiver than they planned with solid play on offense and special teams throughout the preseason.
te Nakia griffin-stewart
Tight end is one of the deepest positions on the 2020 Minnesota Vikings. It was also that way a year ago when Dillon made the team, so will the Vikings again do what no one sees coming and keep an undrafted tight end despite the depth? Griffin-Stewart is an extreme long shot to make the team, but he does have some intriguing factors to his game.
The first is his size, as he’s 6’5″, 260 pounds. That makes him the second biggest tight end on the Vikings’ roster. Griffin-Stewart is more of a blocking tight end, who only caught 32 passes for 282 yards in college, playing for both Rutgers and Pittsburgh. Being a blocker could actually be an advantage for Griffin-Stewart. The Vikings tight end depth chart is primarily made up of pass-catching type of tight ends, and having a big, physical end who can help the tackles block premier edge rushers could be a benefit to the offensive line.
To make the team, Griffin-Stewart would not only need to have a lights out preseason, but he’d need some dominoes to fall ahead of him. One would be if the team decided that Kyle Rudolph was too expensive to keep. If that happened, everyone on the depth chart would bump up a spot, and if Griffin-Stewart proves worthy to keep, he’d be the fourth tight end. The other scenario that would need to happen would be for both Tyler Conklin and Dillon to regress. If they for some reason take major steps backward in the 2020 preseason, combined with a solid showing from Griffin-Stewart, then the former Panther could find himself on the Vikings’ 53-man roster.
who will be the next brandon dillon?
Which young Viking this season will be the next Dillon? The guy who defies the odds and makes the team despite having a daunting depth chart ahead of him?
There’s one guy on this list who could make the team not for the position he plays, but for his ability on special teams. If Dan Chisena can flash even a little bit as a receiver in training camp and the preseason, and play special teams the way he did in college, that could be enough to make him the next unforeseen player to earn a spot on the Minnesota Vikings.