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Vikings have another late bloomer in undrafted Wilson

Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Wilson against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Divisional Playoff football game at U.S. Bank Stadium on Jan. 14. Mark J. Rebilas / USA TODAY Sports

EAGAN, Minn. — Between his splashy pick-six in training camp and a routine tackle for loss in a preseason game, linebacker Eric Wilson has spent the past month cementing his status as the Vikings' most improved player.

Not bad for a guy who was passed over by every team in the 2017 NFL Draft.

"I definitely feel like my confidence is rising," said Wilson, who signed with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent last season out of the University of Cincinnati. "I'm really starting to believe that I can make all the plays I'm asked to make. It's going a lot better than last season."

Wilson played special teams in 16 games for the Vikings in 2017. He figures to play a much bigger role this season, though he's still slotted behind starting weakside linebacker Ben Gedeon on the depth chart.

"I remember when I signed last season, I was focused on controlling what I could control and trying to do everything right," Wilson said. "I put myself in a position to make the team, and I was able contribute when I got on the field. I'm trying to do the same thing this season and make plays wherever I'm needed."

Wilson doesn't have to worry about making the team this fall thanks to his strong play throughout the preseason. He had eight tackles, one sack and two tackles for a loss heading into Thursday's preseason finale against the Tennessee Titans.

"He is a lot more comfortable with his assignments and things like that," coach Mike Zimmer said. "He is starting to play like he's not thinking so much. He's been a good asset for us."

"You see him line up and he's really flying around and making plays and understanding the adjustments and communication," defensive coordinator George Edwards said. "All those things have been a big plus for him, and he's been able to take it to the games. He's done a pretty good job."

And he certainly looks the part of an NFL linebacker with one of the most defined physiques on the team.

"Yeah, I worked pretty hard in the offseason," Wilson said with a smile. "My goal weight is 230, 235, so I'm trying to stay in that range. I've got to make sure I stay mobile out there."

Perhaps it's not surprising the Vikings found another diamond in the rough in Wilson. General manager Rick Spielman has made a habit out of picking up undervalued players who become impact players: Everson Griffen (fourth-round pick), Danielle Hunter (third round), Stefon Diggs (fifth round) and Adam Thielen (undrafted).

"I don't necessarily think about that stuff," Wilson said of becoming the Vikings' next late bloomer. "I just come to work. It's great to have those big plays to show the coaching staff that I can do those types of things. That said, at the end of the day, it's about me doing my job on each and every play. If I can do that, everything else will work itself out."