This will be the second-to-last edition of our Dead Tree Media Draft Review for the Minnesota Vikings’ draft class of 2017. Neither Ifeadi Odenigbo nor Jack Tocho got any ink in either of our pre-draft magazines, and our final installment will take a look at some of the undrafted free agents that the Vikings wound up signing in the post-draft frenzy.
However, in this installment we’ll be taking a look at Kansas State linebacker Elijah Lee. Lee was the third of the Vikings’ four seventh-round picks last month, being selected at #232 overall. Both the Lindy’s Football guide and the Athlon Sports guide have pretty solid grades on Lee, and the fact that he fell almost completely out of the draft means the Vikings got a pretty good value.
We’ll start with the Lindy’s Football guide, which had Lee ranked as their #10 linebacker overall (they have the inside and outside linebackers combined in their ratings). They have a fourth-round value on Lee in their guide.
In Our View: A basketball star in high school who grew into a love of football, Lee declared for the NFL Draft after his junior season in which he had a team-best 110 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. The 2016 first-team All-Big 12 pick earned second-team honors as a sophomore in 2015.
Lee should transition nicely into the evolving linebacker position in the NFL, where smaller quicker players are becoming vogue. He possesses a unique skillset with quickness and athleticism that should draw plenty of attention from teams employing either a 3-4 or 4-3 front.
Strengths: Compact frame. Extremely athletic and plays with the intent to punish the ball-carrier. Athletic with great size, ability to stream sideline-to-sideline and has immediate read-and-react skills. Speed and coverage ability exceed expectations for the position. Flashes effective blitz skills. Shows up in all phases of the defense — stopping the run and dropping into coverage. Quick learner who is proven adaptable and might fit multiple schemes.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal strength and size for the position. Rarely takes blockers on and uses speed to avoid. Must learn to disengage. Aggressive style of play can lead him to over pursue the football and gets hung out. Looks maxed out physically.
The Lindy’s guide does list Lee at 6’3”, 220 pounds, which might be a little on the small side for an NFL linebacker. We don’t know what an offseason in an NFL strength program will do for him, but it sounds like Lee is a pretty solid athlete.
Now, we’ll move on to the Athlon guide. They have their linebackers divided up between inside and outside, and Lee is listed as their #8 outside linebacker prospect.
Strong Points: An undersized but explosive athlete, Lee is a sideline-to-sideline playmaker. He’s a fluid mover who reads, reacts, and accelerates quickly. He takes proper angles and shows impressive closing speed. He’s also outstanding in space and is one of the best coverage guys in this class. Lee has the fluid hips and long arms to turn and run with tight ends, as well as excellent range when dropping into zone coverage. He has ability as a blitzer, with the length and flexibility to get around the edge.
Weak Points: Lee is on the small side and struggles to slip blocks; he’ll need to be covered up in order to make plays. He doesn’t have much room on his frame to add weight, and he lacks the upper-body strength to be a stack-and-shed linebacker. He’s more of a grab-and-drag tackler who could stand to be more violent as a hitter.
Summary: He’s not the most physical linebacker, but Lee has the range and coverage skills to contribute on third down. While he might need a year to adjust to the physicality of the NFL, he has the skill set of a quality starting 4-3 Will in today’s NFL.
Final Grade: 3rd/4th round
Both of the scouting reports sound pretty similar. Lee isn’t the biggest guy, but he’s got some serious coverage skills and athletic ability. Given that the weakside spot that was vacated by Chad Greenway’s retirement is where the Vikings have an open, Lee could potentially be in play to be a contributor sooner rather than later.
Once again, our final Dead Tree Media Draft Review installment will come out in the next day or two, and will be focused on the Vikings’ class of undrafted free agents.