Elliss lands in Minnesota

Idaho linebacker Christian Elliss, center, signed a free-agent deal with the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday.

In upholding the family tradition, Christian Elliss has found an NFL home.

The four-year University of Idaho football pillar went unselected in this weekend’s draft, but he didn’t have to wait long for a call.

About two hours after the seventh round wrapped up Saturday, NFL Draft Diamonds reported that he’d agreed to an undrafted free-agent deal with the Minnesota Vikings.

Should Elliss make the cut, he’ll be the third in his family to suit up at the sport’s highest level.

His brother, Kaden, also a linebacker, is entering his third year with the New Orleans Saints, who snapped him up out of Idaho in the seventh round in 2019. Their father, UI defensive line coach Luther, played 10 seasons in the NFL from 1995-2004, with the Detroit Lions and Denver Broncos. He was a first-round pick out of Utah.

Although the distinction of hearing his name called on national television escaped Christian Elliss, his pro potential has been a regular topic among Football Championship Subdivision and small-school college football pundits. Many projected he’d be drafted.

Sports Illustrated recently featured the two-time first-team All-Big Sky honoree in its annual “Prospect X” series, which spotlights “the most overlooked prospect in the 2021 NFL draft,” and tells his story without providing a name until the draft concludes.

According to SI, Elliss had met with all but two NFL franchises, and three expressed strong interest in drafting him.

He’d been preparing simultaneously for his professional future and Vandal spring games, juggling daily practices with a steady stream of phone calls from intrigued NFL parties.

Elliss didn’t sign with an agent, and left open the option of returning for an extra season in the fall — granted by the NCAA in response to the pandemic — but he’d made his intentions clear during a news conference in April that his ultimate goal was to “shoot for the NFL” this year.

“If I get drafted, I get drafted, and if I get a good free-agency deal, if it comes to that, then I’m going,” he told local reporters April 13.

SI reported that NFL teams were late on scouting Elliss because they hadn’t been certain whether he’d return to UI or enter the draft pool.

“From what I’ve gathered from talking to scouts,” said Elliss, or “X,” in the SI story, “before the season started, no one knew I was coming out this year.”

Elliss posted impressive marks at a makeshift pro day in front of 14 NFL scouts March 29 at the Kibbie Dome, just two days after playing against Southern Utah.

“His performance was unexpected,” an unnamed scout told SI. “The fact he did it right after a game, when these other kids that opted out have been training for months, the agents are paying 50 grand (for their training) ... it’s kind of refreshing.”

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound strongside linebacker was a two-year team captain at UI, and arguably the Vandals’ most talented pound-for-pound player during his upperclassman seasons.

He’d been a steady presence on the Idaho defense since coming to Moscow out of Colorado power Valor Christian. Elliss has played multiple positions in the defensive box, and has ample experience rushing the edge as well. The Vikings surely were enticed by his versatility.

Elliss capped his UI career with 266 tackles, No. 18 in program history, and added 21 for loss. He spearheaded an impressive Vandal rushing defense the past two years.

Elliss appeared in 39 of Idaho’s 41 games between 2017-20, bursting onto the scene immediately as a high-ceiling true freshman in the Sun Belt Conference.

Beyond statistics, he’s been the glue of Idaho’s defense, its unquestioned vocal leader, surest tackler and most pro-ready player in terms of play recognition — physical frame too.

If he claims a spot on the Vikings’ 53-man roster, Elliss will face the Lions twice per season in NFC North play. Luther Elliss played defensive tackle in Detroit for nine years, earning two Pro Bowl nods in that stretch.

Draguicevich lands with Panthers

Oscar Draguicevich III, Washington State’s career leader in punting average (45.7 yards per kick), agreed to an undrafted free-agent deal with the Carolina Panthers, according to a tweet from the former Cougar.

The Hutto, Texas, native had a punting average of 46.7 yards across four games in WSU’s abbreviated 2020 fall season. He landed eight attempts inside opponents’ 20-yard lines.

According to Yahoo! Sports’ Eric Edholm, he received a $7,000 signing bonus.

Draguicevich presumably will battle Carolina’s Joseph Charlton for the spot. Charlton has played one season with the Panthers, and he’s the only punter listed on their roster.

Draguicevich had the option of returning for a final year of eligibility, but elected to depart after his shortened senior season.

He was named to the Ray Guy Award watch list twice and was an All-Pac-12 second-teamer in 2020.

Clark may be contacted at cclark@lmtribune.com, on Twitter @ClarkTrib or by phone at (208) 627-3209.

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