clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Ivan Pace Jr., Mekhi Blackmon named to PFF All-Rookie Team

A nice accolade for the rookie

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Detroit Lions v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Despite finishing the 2023 NFL season with a record of 7-10, there were at least a few members of the Minnesota Vikings that had standout performances, and a couple of those performances were recognized recently for a pair of young players who likely have many more accolades in their future.

Pro Football Focus has named their All-Rookie Team for the 2023 season, and two members of the Minnesota defense are a part of that squad. They are linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. and cornerback Mekhi Blackmon.

Pace came into Training Camp this year as an undrafted free agent and immediately shot himself up the depth chart, gaining enough respect from the coaches to earn 11 starts for the Vikings this season. Here’s what PFF had to say about Pace’s performance:

One of two undrafted players on this list, Pace has been the perfect fit for Brian Flores’ defense in Minnesota. His 77.2 overall PFF grade leads all qualified rookie linebackers and ranks 17th in the league.

Pace’s trademark blitzing ability has carried over from his days at the University of Cincinnati. His 22.9% pass-rush win rate is the second highest among 85 linebackers with at least 20 pass-rush snaps this season.

I’ve said this in this space before, but it’s still pretty amazing that there were 250+ players drafted this past April and Ivan Pace Jr., somehow, wasn’t one of them. Thankfully, he found his way to the right place in the undrafted free agent signing frenzy.

Blackmon came in with a bit more pedigree, having been a third-round pick of the Vikings this past April. He didn’t see a lot of action early on but earned himself more opportunities as the season progressed. He battled injuries toward the end of the year but still provided pretty effective play according to PFF.

Blackmon finished third among rookie cornerbacks in overall and PFF coverage grade at 71.7. He is also the only rookie to play 400 snaps and not miss a tackle. That reliability has been a key asset in Minnesota’s rebuilt secondary.

Blackmon also proved to be a ballhawk, leading his team with eight pass breakups despite playing just the seventh-most coverage snaps.

The Vikings came into this season with a very young defense, and Brian Flores certainly got the most out of it. With a pair of players like Pace and Blackmon getting valuable experience, the arrow is definitely pointed upward for this unit as they rebuild.