Draft day was a little bit longer for defensive end Kenechi Udeze than he might have expected, but it had a familiar tone to what he's been hearing for the last two months.
At the center of all the questions – what's wrong with your right shoulder?
In his final regular season game, Udeze suffered a shoulder injury in a win over Oregon State. Although he returned to play in the Rose Bowl and recorded three sacks and a forced fumble against Michigan, it remains a question he's heard over and over again – and he's grown a little tired of it.
So it should have come as little surprise that among the first questions the Minnesota media at Winter Park asked Udeze concerned his ailing shoulder. Even on the telecast of the draft, analysts described his injury as a torn labrum that will likely require surgery after next year – a contention Udeze strongly denied.
""It's just a swelling of my shoulder," Udeze told VU. "It not a tear. Nothing like that. I was out in Minnesota two weeks ago on my visit and they didn't see anything wrong with it, so I'm excited that they saw that nothing was wrong with it and they selected me."
Not everyone was in agreement with the Vikings' medical team assessment. Many draft observers had Udeze dialed in as going to Jacksonville at No. 9, but his slide lasted all the way to the 20th pick – where Udeze became the first defensive end drafted since 2000 by the Vikings. Considering the last two high DE picks by the Vikings were Michael Boireau and Dimitrius Underwood, there's nowhere to go but up from the Vikings' perspective.
The continuing questions about the shoulder started taking a toll on Udeze, who said he wasn't surprised that, despite being viewed as a top 10 pick by most draft observers, he fell to No. 20.
"This last week was crazy," Udeze told VU. "Teams have been calling and asking about my shoulder – teams mostly in the top 10. I told them nothing was wrong with it. I visited (seven) teams about because I didn't go to the re-check at the Combine, so a lot of teams had begun looking at my shoulder again."
While their was some division in the Vikings war room as to who was the better defensive end prospect, Udeze was coach Mike Tice's choice – hands down.
"The (draft) room was split about which player they liked better at defensive end – Kenchi or (Will Smith) from Ohio State," owner Red McCombs told VU. "It didn't come down to a choice, but he was the coach's (Tice's) pick."
Udeze is excited about the chance to come in and start for the Vikings – something Tice indicated would happen by telling the media he already was looking for an updated depth chart. Udeze, on the other hand, was a little more pragmatic.
"I have to come in here and earn my spot," Udeze told VU. "But wherever they put me, I'm going to contribute and do everything I can to help the team out."
I felt it would be a perfect fit if I went to Minnesota and, as the time approached and the 20th pick came around, I had a feeling I was going to be a Viking. When they called and said they were going to pick me, it was a great feeling."
And hopefully fill the void the neither Underwood nor Boireau could accomplish.
Shoulder Doesn't Concern Udeze
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