Michigan State defensive end Kenny Willekes is the second Spartan to come off of the board in the 2020 NFL Draft! He finally heard his name called in the seventh round (No. 225 overall) by the Minnesota Vikings. Absolute steal.
Welcome to the #Vikings, @kennyw97! pic.twitter.com/qWr1d5HTxJ— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) April 25, 2020
A former walk-on, Willekes quickly earned a name for himself in East Lansing, becoming an instant fan favorite with a relentless motor and unmatched work ethic. He is MSU’s all-time leader in tackles for loss and ranks third in program history in sacks. Questions about his athleticism never really seemed to go away, despite a strong Senior Bowl week, impressive Combine performance and this insane video below:
"Not athletic, below-average athleticism for edge rusher"— Kendrick4️⃣8️⃣ (@kennyw97) March 26, 2020
"Physical tools don't jump off the page"
"Isn't a good athlete"
"Has pedestrian physical gifts”
Shhhh Just watch... pic.twitter.com/LpvLpzBu9C
Those questions about his athletic talent and physical tools could be what pushed Willekes so far down NFL teams’ draft boards, but don’t be surprised if he eventually becomes a starter for the Vikings. To start, he can make an impact as a rotational pass rusher and on special teams.
Willekes is a highly-accomplished college football player. We’re talking multiple selections to All-American teams (first-team selection by The Athletic in 2018, second-team selection by multiple publications in 2018, second-team selection by Walter Camp in 2019). Willekes also received All-Big Ten recognition multiple times: first-team selection by the media and second-team selection by the coaches in 2019; first-team selection by the media, coaches, Associated Press and many other publications in 2018; and third-team All-Big Ten by both the media and coaches in 2017.
Willekes joins a defensive line group boasting pass-rushing menace Danielle Hunter and big, 345-pound run-stuffer Michael Pierce, amongst others. The Vikings also used fourth-round picks this year on South Carolina defensive end D.J. Wonnum and Baylor defensive tackle James Lynch.
For more on Willekes, check out his NFL Draft profile.