The period immediately after the draft, right before the rookie mini-camp, is usually when most of us have our highest expectations for the incoming draft of draft picks and UDFA.
Is Kellen Mond a franchise-caliber quarterback? Will Ihmir Smith-Marsette ensure both the return and the WR3 slot? Could Wyatt Davis become an All-Pro level guard who can help mend the inside offensive line?
These are some of the popular questions that have been making headlines surrounding the Minnesota Vikings since the draft. While it’s fair to focus on the 11 players selected in the draft as they are the most likely to have an early impact on the squad, I want to focus on a key UDFA pickup that could compete for a spot. in the list.
If the name Shane Zylstra sounds familiar to you, it should.
His older brother Brandon played for the Vikings in 2018 before being claimed waivers by the Carolina Panthers, where he featured prominently as a special teams player.
Shane follows in his brother’s footsteps by signing his very first NFL contract with his hometown team. He’s also following in Adam Thielen’s path, becoming the second wide receiver to sign with the Minnesota Mankato State Vikings.
Shane Zylstra broke records during his time with the Mavericks. Two years ago, he set several records in one season, recording 81 catches for 1,676 yards and 18 touchdowns in 15 games. He had 227 catches, 4,297 yards and 54 touchdowns in his career, all individual records, en route to a spot on the Second Team of All Decades team for Division II football.
While these numbers for the Spicer-born receiver are impressive, the Vikings are more interested in him as a tight end, announcing their intention to move him to that position for the season. While the move may come as a surprise, it gives him the best chance of breaking through the Minnesota roster.
At 6’5 ”he already has the height to play the position, but he is looking to add to his 215-pound frame that might be a bit undersized for the position.
The Vikings have an opening at WR3 for this coming season, but the competition looks a bit chaotic, with players like Bisi Johnson, Chad Beebe and Smith-Marsette all set to compete for playing time. , the competition for tight third place is much more open.
Since Kyle Rudolph left the New York Giants in the offseason, Irv Smith Jr. and Tyler Conklin are set to inherit bigger roles in an offense that exploits his core staff from a two-ended set. Conklin and Smith have proven to be useful offensive weapons throughout last season, but there’s no solidified third option that could come in if either of them gets injured.
Zylstra will compete with this year’s fifth-round pick Zach Davidson and 2019 UDFA pickup Brandon Dillon. While Davidson probably has the indoor track to get the job done and has more advantages with his 6’7 ″, 245 lbs. executive, Zylstra has a lot more experience as a pass-catcher. Davidson only played the position for two years and only had one season with significant production.
While the transition for Zylstra is difficult, he’s already taken the initiative to learn the job, working with former University of Minnesota and NFL tight end MarQueis Gray to deepen his knowledge of the job.
If there’s a franchise that believes it can turn a 33-year-old quarterback who hasn’t played football in nine years into a tight third end, why can’t the Vikings do the same with a gap of 22 years old? with a record university production?
While yes there will be a significant gap in the level of competition in the NFL, Zylstra was so dominant in college that he will be able to adapt quickly and adjust once he arrives at camp. .
If Zylstra can impress Eagan and the preseason, it’s safe to say the Vikings could look to keep him on the roster as a tight third end while still learning the job and developing as a player.