Linebacker Devante Downs

Height: 6-2
Weight: 252 pounds
Age: 22
Hometown: Mountlake Terrace, Wash.
College: University of California
Drafted: 225th, as the sixth linebacker selected by the Vikings in the seventh round since 2012.

What we’ve learned

First impression
Downs spent much of a three-day rookie minicamp walking through assignments and watching teammates run through drills. He came across both eager and confident after just one walkthrough, where he didn’t do much while recovering from a major knee injury that ended his college career. The Vikings are starting him off at middle linebacker, where reserve and special teamer Kentrell Brothers is suspended four games. Downs’ locker is next to linebacker Anthony Barr. “That’s really cool. Maybe he’ll teach me some things,” Downs said.

Confident in another recovery
Downs’ high school career in Mountlake Terrance, a suburb just north of Seattle, ended because of a torn ACL. His career at Cal ended in the same fashion. Downs again tore an ACL on Oct. 13 against Washington State, now putting him less than seven months into another recovery. He figured he could’ve been a second- or third-round pick had he finished a season that started with 5.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles in seven games. “It’s a slow process. People try to look down on it,” Downs said. “But obviously I came back from it. I’m going to do it again. I have no doubts in my mind I’m going to come back stronger.” 

Visions beyond the field
Upon committing to Cal, Downs tweeted he chose to “play and get my education” with the Bears. Academics were a primary factor in his recruiting, Downs said, who at the time wanted to be a pharmacist, according to Northwest Prep Report. He graduated in December with a bachelor’s in legal studies. “I would say it was a 50-50 decision,” Downs said of Cal’s football and academic programs. “It was a really great school, number one public school in the country. That’s why I committed to them. And also they have a lot of, I forgot what ranking they were, but they have probably a top-five amount of players in the NFL, so it was a 50-50 decision.

What we’re watching for

Recovery time
The Vikings’ athletic training staff now has two ACL recoveries in house between Downs and running back Dalvin Cook, who tore his on Oct. 1. The Vikings believe Cook is on track to be ready for training camp, which would be hugely beneficial for Downs to begin his NFL career. He’ll be competing for roster spots with Eric Wilson, Brett Taylor, Garret Dooley, Reshard Cliett and Antwione Williams.

Special teams work
Between the exit of Emmanuel Lamur and Brothers’ four-game suspension, the Vikings have plenty of special teams snaps to fill this season. Once Downs is in the mix on the field, his best chance to earn a roster spot is through special teams. Four linebackers started on the Vikings’ kickoff coverage team in Week 1 last season; two were Lamur and Brothers.

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