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Vikings rookies under-the-radar: Devante Downs

I figured I would focus on a defensive player this time. I plan on picking at least three from the offense and three from the defense.

NCAA Football: California at San Diego State Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Watching players rebound from season-ending injuries can always be intriguing to see. There are always questions that arise regarding whether the player will be the same or how the injury impacted the player.

It was last October when the Vikings seventh-round draft pick went down with a season-ending knee injury.

Devante Downs, the six-foot-two, 252-pound linebacker from the University of California will look to pick up where he left off. The injury he sustained in week seven against Washington State interrupted what would have potentially been his best season at Cal.

Before his injury he had already recorded 65 tackles with a pair of interceptions. He forced two fumbles, recovered two and created three sacks. Although Downs missed the final five games of the season he still earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention and finished second on the team for tackles.

He was was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week twice in his first three games of the season. Because of his strong start, he began raising enough eyebrows to be an early-candidate for the National and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. He was also in contention for The Butkus Award, which is given to the best linebacker in the nation.

I’m curious to wonder how Downs would have finished the year. If he finished how he started then he wouldn’t of probably been the Vikings pick at No. 225. If he can recover well and hits the ground running, then he could add some competition among the other linebackers.

He recorded two back-to-back 14-tackle games against Ole Miss and USC. That number tied his career-high. The first game against North Carolina he recorded 13 tackles.

Since he had a shorter season his senior year, let’s look at some of his numbers from his junior campaign. Downs started all 12 games and recorded a team and career-high 84 tackles. He was tied for ninth in the Pac-12 with an average of seven tackles per game.

Just to let everyone know, I’m by no means a football genius. My observations come simply from film and how I personally feel what kind of player a person is. So, if I make you cringe sometimes, suck it up or educate me (I love learning new things).

On that note, he seems to have great vision when on the field, it’s almost like he knows where the ball carrier is going to go even before the snap. He has the ability to be a solid presence for both defending the run and the pass. In his highlights you will find him down field breaking plays up or hustling to tackle a carrier who got away.

Downs had limited participation at the Cal pro day, due to his injury. He participated in the bench press and managed to put up 23 reps of 225 pounds. That would have put him tied for sixth among linebackers at the NFL combine.

Hopefully Downs will be able to participate in training camp and the preseason, because he’ll be exciting to watch when on the field.