The Vikings are expected to sign two of the five tryout players who attended their rookie minicamp this weekend: former Wake Forest cornerback Amari Henderson and former University of Buffalo offensive tackle Evin Ksiezarczyk. The news was first reported by Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. Both players are 2020 undrafted free agents who briefly spent time on NFL rosters last year.
Minnesota's active roster is up to 85 players out of a possible 90, leaving five more spots for flexibility going forward.
Signing Henderson makes a lot of sense because the Vikings are so thin at cornerback. After trading Mike Hughes, they only have seven currently on the roster, and one of those is Jeff Gladney, who remains in a serious ongoing legal situation that has not yet been resolved. Henderson will become the eighth member of that position group.
A four-year starter at Wake Forest, Henderson has a good frame at 6'1", 180, and has some ball skills to go with it. He intercepted seven passes in his college career, including four as a senior in 2019. More impressively, he had 48 passes defended during his time at Wake. Henderson spent time with the Jacksonville Jaguars last year but didn't make the team, and he has apparently added 10-15 pounds since that time.
Here's the scouting report on Henderson from Dane Brugler's 2020 draft guide for The Athletic:
Henderson has terrific awareness from zone coverage and does a great job feeling routes around him, driving downhill or floating underneath throws. He has a natural feel for playmaking angles, but must improve the balance in his pedal and transition. Overall, Henderson is a gawky, finesse cornerback with unimpressive play strength, but his length, route recognition and ball skills will give him a fighting chance in training camp
He'll compete with players like Harrison Hand, Kris Boyd, and Dylan Mabin for a roster spot at corner behind the expected starting trio of Cameron Dantzler, Patrick Peterson, and Mackensie Alexander.
Unfortunately, the circumstances surrounding Henderson finding out the Vikings will be signing him are tragic. His older brother died in a car accident at age 34 last Thursday, one day prior to the start of minicamp, per Tomasson. Henderson will be away from the Vikings for a bit this week while he attends his brother's funeral, but will be signed after he returns. For him to be able to go out and earn a roster spot at minicamp while still processing the immediate shock and grief of losing his brother is simply amazing. My thoughts and condolences are with Henderson and his family.
Ksiezarczyk (pronounced Ki-ZAR-zack) is someone I highlighted a few days ago after he tweeted that he was heading to Vikings minicamp. The 6'6", 311-pound tackle was a first team All-MAC selection after his senior season at Buffalo in 2019 and spent training camp last year with the Atlanta Falcons. He also got looked at by the Packers last fall. Ksiezarczyk was set to play in a developmental league called The Spring League, but that will obviously no longer be the case.
A three-year starter at left tackle for the Bulls, Ksiezarczyk's combination of size and athleticism make him an interesting developmental prospect. He played right tackle at Vikings minicamp but could theoretically kick inside to guard as well. Ksiezarczyk's clearest path to a roster spot would be beating out Oli Udoh, although he'll be competing against the entire offensive line and players like Mason Cole, Blake Brandel, Dakota Dozier, Kyle Hinton, Dru Samia, and Zack Bailey as well. The Vikings will have 13 offensive linemen on the roster when Ksiezarczyk signs.
Here's what his 2020 pro day numbers looked like:
And here's Brugler on Ksiezarczyk last year:
Ksiezarczyk stays square in his pass sets with the efficient footwork to mirror mid-kick slide. However, he plays too narrow, which leads to inconsistent body angles, especially when climbing to the second level. He is more of a pusher than a latch-and-control drive blocker in the run game, falling off balance and allowing defenders to wriggle free. Overall, Ksiezarczyk has next-level smarts and good-enough lower body movements, but he needs to be more forceful with his upper half, specifically his hands, to have any shot of making an NFL roster.
The Vikings reportedly aren't planning to sign former NDSU and DeLaSalle HS (Minneapolis) CB Marquise Bridges, former Tennessee C Brandon Kennedy, or former Southern Miss S Ky'el Hemby at this time. Those were the other three tryout players of the maximum five allowed.
Veterans report to OTAs on Monday, meaning the Vikings will have their full roster together — or close to it — for the first time this offseason. Some players might not show up, but Mike Zimmer seems to be anticipating good attendance.
"It's voluntary, so if guys don't show up, they don't show up, but I don't think that's going to be the case," Zimmer said on Saturday. "The communication that I've had and heard through the guys, I think they like being here and they like being around each other, they like coming to work and trying to get better. If they don't show up, we'll coach the guys that are here."
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