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25 names Vikings fans should know heading into the NFL Combine



The Minnesota Vikings along with the rest of the NFL are in attendance this week in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine.

Here’s 25 players who we will be keeping an eye on. They either fit the Vikings’ needs or have been mocked to the Vikings by draft experts…

Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina 

What to watch for:

Mock drafts are all over the place with Kinlaw, who had 6.0 sacks for South Carolina this year. Some have him as a top 10 pick, others toward the end of the first round. The Vikings are in need of interior pressure and would welcome a chance at a high-end prospect who they can mold.

What they’re saying: 

“Kinlaw only cemented our belief that he is one of the top prospects in the draft in his day and a half at the Senior Bowl. He had the single most impressive pass-rushing rep of the week when he treated Clemson guard John Simpson like a speed bump on day one,” — Pro Football Focus

AJ Epenesa, DL, Iowa

What to watch for: 

In a draft that isn’t loaded with edge rushers beyond Chase Young, will Epenesa’s stock be especially high coming out of the draft?

What they’re saying: 

“While he isn’t explosive off the line, his combination of power, length, hand usage and motor make him the second best pass-rusher in this class after Young,” — Kevin Hanson, Sports Illustrated 

Tristan Wirfs, OL, Iowa

What to watch for: 

Would the Vikings consider a right tackle prospect with the possibility of moving Brian O’Neill to the left side eventually or should they only be looking for players on the blind side?

What they’re saying: 

“Wirfs has tools to handle gap-blocking duties while thriving in outside zone. If Wirfs can learn to play inside out and add a more effective jump-set into his repertoire, he could take a big step forward. Consistency of play could take some time, but he has the ability to become a good starter at either right tackle or guard.” — Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

K’Lavon Chaisson, DE, LSU

What to watch for: 

Would the Vikings pick a player for upside when they are looking to win now? Chaisson is only 20 and might take some time to become a difference maker.

What they’re saying: 

“Chaisson had just 9.5 sacks in his college career, but this is a bet on a terrific upside for a twitchy pass-rusher who should test well at the combine later this month,” — Mel Kiper, ESPN. 

Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

What to watch for: 

The Vikings’ status at safety will determine whether they are looking for that spot in the first round. We’ll get a sense at the Combine of whether Anthony Harris returning is a possibility. Having a player who can play multiple spots is hugely valuable, as Tyrann Mathieu showed in KC.

What they’re saying: 

“Xavier McKinney is a top two safety in this class with his ability to play all over the defense. Some have referred to him as a poor man’s Minkah Fitzpatrick. Maybe it is the crimson jersey that he wears on Saturdays, but definitely see that in his game,” — Patrick Conn, USA Today Draftwire. 

Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

What to watch for: 

If Fulton’s testing isn’t that impressive, could he drop into the 20s? Some mock drafts have him in the 10-15 range, others have him dropping out of the first.

What they’re saying: 

“My top-ranked defensive senior prospect entering the season, Fulton has outstanding cover athleticism, using his lower body twitch and transition skills to stay attached to receivers. If he improves his ball tracking skills downfield, Fulton can be a top-10 pick in April,” — Dane Brugler, The Athletic

Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State

What to watch for: 

Danielle Hunter shows us that sack production doesn’t always mean everything but Gross-Matos put up big numbers against good competition. Whether Everson Griffen returns or not, eventually the Vikings will need another star coming off the edge. The question is whether they think they can develop that player or if they should pick a top talent instead of hoping for the next Hunter.

What they’re saying: 

“With his length, agility and first step, Gross-Matos has been a productive pass-rusher for Penn State with 17 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss combined over the past two seasons,” — Kevin Hanson, Sports Illustrated

Neville Gallimore, DL, Oklahoma

What to watch for: 

Mocked to the Vikings by Bleacher Report, Gallimore is in the mix with a number of late-round projected DTs. The Combine gives them a chance to separate themselves.

What they’re saying: 

“Flash talent whose tape has moments but fails to fully deliver. Gallimore goes hard from snap to whistle with secondary effort that brings decent production, but his NFL potential may be limited by a lack of leverage and contact balance,” — Lance Zierlein, NFL.com 

 

Andrew Thomas, OL, Georgia 

What to watch for:

There’s no question the Vikings need to keep improving on the OL but with so many holes on defense, would they spend another first-rounder on the line after picking all offense in the first four rounds last year?

What they’re saying: 

“Thomas’ pass protection is boringly beautiful — he has outstanding feet, body coordination and length to keep rushers at bay. He uses this simple approach to protect the blind side and will be a top-10 draft pick if he cleans up a few of his technical bad habits in 2019,” — Dane Brugler, The Athletic 

Grant Delpit, S, LSU

What to watch for: 

Would the Vikings pick a player to replace Anthony Harris who didn’t have a great 2019 season? His PFF grade dropped from 84.4 to 68.7 from ’18 to ’19. Might depend on what they hear in interviews and see from his workout.

What they’re saying: 

“The most polarizing player on defense is Delpit, by far. He’s a guy two years ago that made plays. This year, missed tackles. He had the ankle injury. How much do you excuse away because of it? He got a little better late…. Some think he’s a first. Some think he’s a mid-to-late first. Some think he’s a late second or third-round pick,” — Todd McShay, ESPN

Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

What to watch for: 

Would Stefon Diggs’s standing within the organization influence the Vikings decision to draft him? Everything else seems to click with what the Vikings like in their corners and he’s consistently mocked between 25-35.

What they’re saying: 

“We’ll see what happens with Diggs from Alabama who has got some Aqib Talib-type skills. But the question is just pure deep speed. But real fluid. Obviously Stefon’s brother there, the wide receiver with the Vikings. Former wide receiver, kickoff returner. Really skilled athlete. The question is just how is his deep speed and he’s just okay as a tackler,” — Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network

CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

What to watch for: 

At 6-foot-1, Henderson has the type of frame the Vikings are looking for. Would they prefer to aim for the next Xavier Rhodes or bring back the current version of Trae Waynes?

What they’re saying: 

“His ability to gear down, stay under control and maintain spacing versus top-tier athletes is why so many are optimistic about his NFL future,” — Dane Brugler, The Athletic

Josh Jones, OL, Houston

What to watch for: 

The question with a player like Jones is always: Was his competition good enough to get a feel for how he will perform in the NFL and could he step in right away. Last year Andre Dillard was a darling pre-draft and then struggled as a rookie.

What they’re saying: 

“Jones was quite clearly the best offensive tackle in attendance at the Senior Bowl. He finished the week winning over half of his reps in the one-on-ones and had the highest win rate of any offensive tackle in attendance. For a supposed project, Jones is already very advanced,” — Pro Football Focus

Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota 

What to watch for: 

The Vikings didn’t have to go far to see Winfield dominate at The U this year. Would they be interested in him even if Harris comes back? Also without elite athleticism, will he be considered a true first-round prospect?

What they’re saying: 

“Winfield isn’t as tall or as long as teams like and he’s an average athlete, but he’s an interchangeable safety who can flat out play. Winfield is stout and strong with above average body control and balance. He can bang on tight ends in coverage and support the run near the box. His angles to the ball are efficient against the run or pass,” — Lance Zierlein, NFL.com 

Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah

What to watch for: 

What they’re saying: 

“Johnson was lockdown in Pac-12 play in 2019. He allowed only 23 catches from 52 targets against Pac-12 opposition,” — Pro Football Focus

Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia

What to watch for: 

What they’re saying: 

“Looking for a definition of “ball skills”? Throw on some of Hall’s game tape. He led the FBS with 22 pass breakups last season, blanketing receivers from press-man and zone. He has only average speed for the position, but his length, toughness and instincts are why he is a future NFL starter,” Dane Brugler, The Athletic 

AJ Terrell, CB, Clemson

What to watch for: 

What they’re saying: 

“Long, press-man cornerback with thin lowers, but good overall size. Terrell has the foot agility and patience to pedal and mirror the release or jab and ride on it aggressively. He’s an above-average athlete with quick burst to close out space in tight quarters, but he’s not a classic click-and-close talent from off-man and issues with balance prevent sudden stops to shadow at the top of the route,” — Lance Zierlein, NFL.com 

Austin Jackson, OL, USC

What to watch for: 

Could the Vikings pick a player who can start at guard right away and eventually move to left tackle? Jackson might be that type.

What they’re saying: 

“He’s scheme-diverse with potential guard flexibility if he improves his strength. He could become an early starter but may offer a wider split between floor and ceiling than some teams might like,” — Lance Zierlein, NFL.com 

Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor

What to watch for: 

The Vikings love Senior Bowl players. Mims dominated there but would WR be on their radar in the first or second round with so many other needs? There is no limit, however, to the number of playmakers that Kirk Cousins can use in the passing game.

What they’re saying: 

“No player moved up the PFF draft board more at the Senior Bowl than Mims. In a loaded receiver group, Mims was quite clearly the most explosive. Showing he could maintain that explosiveness and separation on the full route tree was massive for him,” — Pro Football Focus

Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado

What to watch for: 

Once upon a time the Vikings could have used Cordarrelle Patterson as a “playmaker” rather than a pure receiver. Would they look for a Deebo Samuel type to add to the mix?

What they’re saying: 

“Built more like a running back than a wide receiver, Shenault’s physical style and acceleration make him dangerous after the catch,” — Kevin Hanson, Sports Illustrated

Mekhi Becton, OL, Louisville

What to watch for: 

Becton is absolutely gargantuan. How much does run scheme fit matter at tackle versus someone who could dominate pass protection?

What they’re saying: 

“Becton is a freak, from Louisville, an absolute freak….He’s a left tackle. He’s a better version of Bryant McKinnie. He’s going to be that guy for the next 10 to 12 years to protect your franchise quarterback. He’s so big, so long, so athletic, even when he is not perfect, it doesn’t matter because nobody can get through him,” — Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network

Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU

What to watch for: 

If Waynes and Rhodes exit, the Vikings will miss their tackling. Would they take a corner who doesn’t weigh 190?

What they’re saying: 

“Gladney is on the skinny side for the cornerback position, but he makes up for it with elite speed. On his 78 targets 10-plus yards downfield over the past two years, Gladney allowed only 19 catches for 470 yards,” — Pro Football Focus

Terrell Lewis, LB, Alabama

What to watch for: 

Was injured for ’17 and ’18 seasons at Alabama. Might not fit the specs of a full-time edge player that the Vikings want.

What they’re saying: 

“Lewis harassed quarterbacks consistently this past season, registering multiple pressures (sacks, hits and/or sacks) in every game this past season prior to skipping the Crimson Tide’s bowl game. Some Alabama people expressed surprise that Lewis participated in the Senior Bowl, but he performed well there and helped stabilize his draft stock,” — Eric Edholm, Yahoo Sports

Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU

What to watch for: 

If the Vikings part with Linval Joseph it’s hard to see them going with all inexperienced interior DL, especially with a player who needs to improve versus the run but interior pass rushing is a must-have in a Mike Zimmer defense.

What they’re saying: 

“He’s a hit-or-miss run defender, but he’s a relentless pass rusher with elite lateral quickness and change of direction to exploit interior galoots and open pathways to the pocket. Blacklock needs development as a one-gapping three-technique with rare movement talent and intriguing rush potential,” — Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Marlon Davidson, DE, Auburn

What to watch for: 

With so many mid-to-late defensive ends in the mix, where will Davidson shake out? He has the appearance of the all-around defensive end that the Vikings have had for so long with Everson Griffen.

What they’re saying: 

“Davidson was one of the biggest movers with his play at the Senior Bowl a couple of weeks ago. He has prototypical 3-tech traits even though he played mostly on the edge at Auburn. Earning an 83.8 pass-rushing grade playing out of position in the SEC is pretty dang impressive,” — Pro Football Focus





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Previous Story 5 Vikings storylines at the NFL Combine Next Story Rick Spielman: “No reason to anticipate Stefon Diggs is not going to be a Viking”