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How Garret Dooley fits with the Minnesota Vikings

Our Q&A with the Daily Norseman

NCAA Football: Maryland at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

As we’ve covered over the past few weeks, four Wisconsin Badgers found opportunities as undrafted free agents after not being selected in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Two—fullback Austin Ramesh and defensive end Alec James—wound up with the Arizona Cardinals. The other two signed with NFC North organizations.

That includes outside linebacker Garret Dooley, who will start his NFL career as part of the Minnesota Vikings. The 2018 second-team All-Big Ten selection (coaches) was signed as an undrafted free agent late last month.

Christopher Gates of the Daily Norseman discussed where Dooley could stand with the 2017 NFC North champs, who came within one game of heading to the Super Bowl last season. The interview below was lightly edited for clarity.

How did the Vikings fare during the draft with their selections and UDFAs like Dooley?

Christopher: In what I can only describe as “strange,” people seem to be a lot more excited about the Vikings’ undrafted free agency haul than they are about the guys that the Vikings actually spent three days drafting.

The prevailing wisdom was that the Vikings would use their first selection on an interior offensive lineman, and instead went with a cornerback (which could be regarded as a position of strength) in Central Florida’s Mike Hughes. The second round then saw a run on interior offensive linemen prior to the Vikings’ pick, leaving them without a lot to choose from. The Vikings didn’t draft an interior offensive lineman until the sixth round, which I think soured a lot of people on the Vikings’ draft as a whole.

The Vikings did do well in the post-draft UDFA signing frenzy, picking up players like Dooley, Texas cornerback Holton Hill (if he can get away from his off-field issues), and the best name of the 2018 NFL Draft, Washington State defensive lineman Hercules Mata’afa.

What was your initial reaction to Dooley being scooped up by Minnesota as a free agent?

Dooley is going to be an interesting case for the Vikings. Linebacker isn’t a huge position of need for the Vikings, though it could be depending on how the team handles the contract of Anthony Barr going forward. I’m not 100 percent sure at this point where Dooley would fit into the Vikings’ defensive plans at this point. At 6’2 and around 250 pounds, I’m not sure if he can be a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end in the Vikings’ 4-3 defense, but I’m not sure if he has the speed to be an outside linebacker at this level, either. If he’s going to make the big roster as a rookie, he’s probably going to have to make a solid impression on special teams.

He could also very easily wind up on the practice squad after the final cuts take place, but again ... he seems to be a bit of a “tweener” at this level, and with as much talent as the Vikings’ defensive depth chart has at most positions, he’s got an uphill battle ahead of him.

Looking at the roster, I see seven linebackers and two outside linebackers for Minnesota. Dooley is listed as a “linebacker.” Where do you see him fitting in with the Vikings’ defensive scheme?

The Vikings, like most teams in the NFL, play nickel defense at least half of the time, meaning that the third linebacker position doesn’t get a whole lot of snaps. The top two linebacker spots for the Vikings are locked up by Barr and Eric Kendricks (who the Vikings just signed to a lengthy extension). They stay on the field for all three downs, meaning that whoever the third linebacker is will be coming off the field in nickel situations. Last season, most of the third linebacker snaps were taken by rookie Ben Gedeon, the Vikings’ fourth-round pick, and he did a pretty solid job in that capacity.

As it stands now, I’m not sure what the depth chart looks like behind those three guys at the linebacker position. Kentrell Brothers, who is primarily a special-teamer, will be sitting out the first four games of the 2018 season, and while he’s primarily an inside linebacker, that does free up a potential spot for a linebacker for at least the first four games of the season.

Way-too-early thoughts: How can Dooley lock down a spot on the active roster?

As mentioned previously, the primary way for Dooley to make the 53-man roster is for him to make an impression on special teams, at least in my opinion. That’s the route a lot of UDFAs end up taking, and the Vikings currently have one of the better examples of a player that took such a road in wide receiver Adam Thielen. Thielen started out on the practice squad, “graduated” to special teams work, and gradually worked his way into the offense.

I understand that Dooley plays a completely different position than Thielen does, but Thielen provides an example of hard work paying off in the long run after not getting drafted initially. That having been said, I’m not sure how good the odds are that Dooley makes the 53-man roster out of training camp. The Vikings have some very good talent at the position already, and Dooley’s physical limitations (at least at present) might prevent him from breaking through initially. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the Vikings’ practice squad, though, provided another team doesn’t scoop him up after the final cutdown.

2018 NFL Draft Badgers tracker

Player Position Team Draft Selection/UDFA Draft Pick/Signing Story Scouting Report Interview
Player Position Team Draft Selection/UDFA Draft Pick/Signing Story Scouting Report Interview
Nick Nelson CB Oakland Raiders Round 4, Pick 10 (No. 110 overall) Read Here Read Here
Troy Fumagalli TE Denver Broncos Round 5, Pick 19 (No. 156 overall) Read Here Read Here
Natrell Jamerson S New Orleans Saints Round 5, Pick 27 (No. 164 overall) Read Here Read Here Read Here
Jack Cichy LB Tampa Bay Buccaneers Round 6, Pick 28 (No. 202 overall) Read Here Read Here Read Here
Leon Jacobs LB Jacksonville Jaguars Round 7, Pick 12 (No. 230 overall) Read Here Read Here
Garret Dooley LB Minnesota Vikings UDFA Read Here Read Here
Alec James DL Arizona Cardinals UDFA Read Here Read Here
Austin Ramesh FB Arizona Cardinals UDFA Read Here Read Here Read Here
Conor Sheehy DL Green Bay Packers UDFA Read Here Read Here
Derrick Tindal CB Read Here
Joe Ferguson S Green Bay Packers Tryout Read Here
Lubern Figaro CB Cleveland Browns Tryout Read Here Read Here