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10 Combine ‘risers’ who could intrigue the Vikings

Things could certainly change by the time we reach the NFL Draft but presently the Minnesota Vikings appear to have needs to fill all over the field. At last week’s NFL Combine we got a better idea about the draft stock of top prospects. Here’s a look at some potential Vikings targets whose stock rose according to Pro Football Focus….

QB, Jalen Hurts

The Oklahoma quarterback helped his case in Indy both by showing off his athleticism and and throwing well. He ran an impressive 4.59 40-yard dash and registered a 35.0 inch vertical jump. Per the website Mockdraftable, he has a comparable athletic profile to Tyrod Taylor and DeShaun Watson.

There are still enough questions about his pure passing and ability to translate from Oklahoma’s offense to the NFL that Hurts isn’t likely to be a first-round prospect. Most projections have him somewhere in the second or third, which could be the area in which the Vikings would be willing to draft a quarterback.

ESPN reported that a contract extension for Kirk Cousins is likely this offseason but it’s not a lock-dead guarantee. Even if he does sign they will need a cheap backup quarterback who can win if Cousins gets hurt. Grabbing someone with development potential at the QB position always makes sense.

WR, Denzel Mims

A 6-foot-3 receiver from Baylor, Mims ran a blazing fast 4.38 40-yard dash and scored in the 90th percentile of broad jump and three-cone drill, confirming what most draft analysts thought coming out of the Senior Bowl: That he could be an impact player. Mims put together a strong senior season for the Bears, catching 66 passes for 1,020 yards with 12 touchdowns.

Receiver isn’t at the top of the list for Vikings needs but if the team’s goal is to continue to improve Cousins’s circumstances. They have two of the NFL’s best at the position in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen but the No. 3 spot has been up in the air for several years. In an extremely deep receiver class, it could make sense to select a game-changer if they drop into the second round.

WR, Michael Pittman Jr.

Pittman Jr. emerged as one of the best receivers in college football during his senior year, jumping from 41 catches in his junior year to 101 grabs as a senior. Pittman is gigantic at 6-foot-4, 223-pounds, so he needed to prove that there was NFL-caliber speed to go along with his frame. He did just that in Indy, running a solid 4.52 40-yard dash and registering a vertical jump over 36 inches.

Pittman is likely to still be available past the first round, which could give the Vikings an intriguing option of a big outside receiver to allow Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen to move around. PFF’s draft guide compares Pittman to Alshon Jeffery.

OT, Tristan Wirfs 

The freak of the NFL Combine, Wirfs jumped higher than most receivers and ran about as fast as you’d expect for a tight end. At 320 pounds he tore up the Lucas Oil Field turf to the tune of a 4.85 40-yard dash and jumped 36 inches. His Combine showing might have pushed his draft stock up to the top 15 or higher with teams always looking for athletes that can match up to the deep crop of talent along NFL defensive lines.

There is some question over whether he’s a guard or tackle. If Wirfs isn’t considered a tackle, he could end up being available in the mid-to-late first round. At tackle he probably goes at the top of the draft, far before the Vikings would have a shot at him.

OT, Ezra Cleveland

According to Mockdraftable, Cleveland has an athletic profile that is similar to Vikings tackle Brian O’Neill. He isn’t the heaviest at 311 pounds and has small hands but his 4.93 40-yard dash and 30 reps on the bench were eye-catching. At Boise State he only allowed 12 pressures last season (three sacks) and posted impressive zone blocking grades from PFF.

If the Vikings pick a defensive player in the first round a player like Cleveland could be on their radar in Round 2. His athletic profile fits their scheme and provides for some growth potential. Asking any tackle to fill in immediately would be difficult so the Vikings could look at ceiling over all else.

S, Kyle Dugger 

There weren’t too many football fans who heard of Lenoir-Rhyne before last week but they have now. Dugger put on a vulgar display of athleticism with a 4.49 40-yard dash at 217 pounds and jumps of 42 inches vertical and 134 broad — both ranked in the 97th percentile. He also has arms and hands that normally belong to offensive linemen and tacked on 17 bench reps.

While the NFL game is far off from his college competition, there could be an opportunity to find and develop a very unique player. If the Vikings believe they can use a stopgap at safety for 2020, they could have Dugger in their sights.

CB, CJ Henderson

Mike Zimmer loves his tall and strong cornerbacks and that’s exactly CJ Henderson. He’s 6-foot-1 and did 20 bench reps while blazing a 4.39 40-yard dash. Unfortunately for the Vikings those numbers may have put him out of their reach. If he does drop to the mid-20s, it might be hard for them to pass up when the Vikings are likely to lose Xavier Rhodes (cap casualty), Mackensie Alexander (free agency) and Trae Waynes (free agency).

According to PFF, Henderson’s coverage numbers were so-so after a terrific 2018 season but he is known as a fit for a man-heavy scheme like Zimmer’s defense.

CB, Kristan Fulton 

Playing in the mighty SEC, Fulton only gave up QB ratings against of 74.3 and 65.3 in the last two seasons, per PFF. He forced the most incompletions in the nation and gave up a completion percentage under 45 percent. At the Combine he showed that he’s a good enough athlete to hang with NFL receivers by running a 4.46 40-yard dash.

Coming from the national champs, there’s a chance Fulton could step right into the fire and adapt to multiple schemes. That would benefit the Vikings considering the significant holes they need to fill.

DE, Derrek Tuszka

The North Dakota State D-lineman is on the lighter side for an edge rusher but he scored highly with a sub-4.8 40-yard dash and 97th percentile three-cone drill, which generally correlates to success. The Vikings might have more pressing needs in the first two or three rounds so if they are looking for a project in the middle rounds, Tuszka could be intriguing.

S, Tanner Muse

A box safety who moved around, Muse is a heavy hitter who can also play deep over the top. His outstanding 4.41 40-yard dash could bolster his draft stock from a Day 3 to Day 2 player. If the Vikings address offensive line and cornerback needs early, they’ll need to circle back to safety.



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