Coming off a super disappointing 7-9 season in the NFC North, the Minnesota Vikings were on the outside looking in for the playoffs, even with the emergence of rookie wideout Justin Jefferson and continued development of running back Dalvin Cook. But entering into this season, especially after their 2021 NFL Draft class haul, things certainly are looking up.
This year’s draft class for the Vikings was very strong, even without having had a second-round selection due to their acquisition of defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (who was shipped out to the Baltimore Ravens only two months later). Having taken advantage of how the board fell, Minnesota was able to address important elements on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, including offensive line with OT Christian Darrisaw at 23rd overall.
But their draft class is not the only area where they were able to upgrade their team – their crop of undrafted free agents has a lot of potential attached to it too. While facing an uphill climb, this group certainly has the intangibles to become members of the roster heading into the season.
Here is the one undrafted option that will make this year’s roster for the Vikings.
Linebacker – Ohio State
Athleticism be damned – Tuf Borland belongs in the NFL.
Having played all four years at collegiate powerhouse Ohio State, Borland produced big-time numbers as a member of the Buckeyes. Having become only the second member of the Ohio State football program to be named a three-year captain (QB J.T. Barrett was the other), Borland’s leadership skills were evident on the field as much as they were off.
Borland recorded 229 total tackles, 6.5 sacks, and 3 pass defenses across his five-year collegiate career. Even though Borland slotted in as the Buckeyes’ third-best LB this past season (behind Pete Werner and Baron Browning), he still was able to showcase his skills on a weekly basis.
A frequent knock on Borland’s game is his lack of athleticism, especially seen when he was, for some reason, matched up with Alabama’s DeVonta Smith in this year’s National Championship. While Borland should not have been matched up with the speedster that Smith is, he was not able to even remotely hold his ground against one of the best receivers in this year’s draft class.
Having held down a big role with the Buckeyes, Borland would be able to be fit into a role for Minnesota that was vacated by departed LB Eric Wilson, who signed with the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason.
The lack of speed and athleticism is met with physicality and acumen, as Borland is a strong tackler and can help diagnose the directions of motions and plays. Directly filling into the role that Wilson once held is not a fair corner to paint him into, but he certainly can help fill in some of those snaps.
Chazz Surratt, a 3rd-round LB out of UNC, projects to directly fill Wilson’s role for the Vikings – with that being the case, it is highly unlikely for Borland to earn a lot of time in his first season (unless an injury occurs). But if he can help this team out, it would be in likely running situations, potential goal-line work, or even in special teams coverage.
Being a sure tackler helps get unathletic LBs into the NFL – a category that Borland fits perfectly. While he certainly has his limitations and justifies why he went undrafted, Borland has a solid chance to help replace departed talent in the LB room for the Vikings, who are looking to find solid depth behind Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr.