Minnesota Vikings: Latest Combine News and Rumors

Giancarlo Ferrari-King@@GiancarloKingFeatured ColumnistFebruary 24, 2014

Minnesota Vikings: Latest Combine News and Rumors

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    The 2014 NFL Scouting Combine officially opened its doors this past weekend at Lucas Oil Stadium

    Per usual, the combine plays host to some of the top collegiate prospects vying for a shot at NFL glory.

    For the Minnesota Vikings, this year's combine represents the first time general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer are able to sit down as a tandem and figure out what direction they want to go in.

    Unlike years past, the 2014 draft could end up being one of the deepest pools of talent we've ever seen. As NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock said during his pre-combine conference call (h/t ProFootballTalk.com):

    From my perspective, this is the deepest and best draft class I’ve seen in probably ten years. That’s been reinforced by most of the general managers and scouts I’ve talked to throughout the league. I had one GM tell me the other day that having a Top-20 pick this year is very similar to having a Top-10 pick last year.

    Taking a look at some of the recent reports that have surfaced, it's time to break down the latest combine news and rumors for the Vikings.

    All 2014 draft projections provided by NFLDraftScout.com (h/t CBSSports.com) unless noted otherwise.

Blake Bortles and the Quarterback Conundrum

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Minnesota's quarterback conundrum of the 2014 offseason is most intriguing.

    This past Sunday, some of the top QB prospects in this year's class took to the field looking to showcase their skills.

    While gunslingers like Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Derek Carr chose not to throw, University of Central Florida's Blake Bortles went out and competed.

    Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer pointed out that Bortles's measurables were stellar. As expected, the young man from Central Florida stood at an impressive 6'5" and came in weighing 232 pounds.

    On the field, Bortles started off a bit slow but managed to get things going in the passing drills. Talking about Bortles's performance, Jim Corbett of USA Today noted:

    The strong-armed, 6'5", 232-pound Bortles, who happened to wear the number one Sunday, impressed with his competitive spirit, precision and wowed with his final throw — a 45-yard deep post corner route to Pittsburg State receiver John Brown.

    At this point, no one knows for sure how the draft is going to shake out. There are a lot of things to consider when you look at a guy like Bortles.

    He's a big, strapping signal-caller who has displayed good smarts and mobility on the field. But, as Bleacher Report's Ryan Lownes highlighted in his scouting report, Bortles is still a QB with an "elongated delivery" who has had issues with his mechanics and accuracy—especially throwing the football downfield.

    Like everything else in life, for every detractor, there are a group of supporters. This year, the guy leading the charge on Bortles is former NFL head coach and current NFL Network contributor Brian Billick. Singing Bortles praises, Billick said he doesn't see "any negatives" in the UCF Knight's game.

    Listed by Ben Goessling of ESPN.com as one of the QBs the Vikings will "assess" leading up the draft, the one thing we do know is that you can be sure the talk about Bortles and some of the other top guys will become more prevalent as draft weekend nears. 

Spielman Would "Love" to Trade Down in Round 1

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Evaluating where to jump in and make your mark in a deep draft class has to be tough for any general manager.

    In Spielman's case, this year's class represents a unique opportunity to go out and secure a cluster of Day 1 contributors throughout the course of the draft.

    During his pre-combine presser (h/t Vikings.com), Spielman said that he would "love" to be able to trade out of the No. 8 pick if the right deal came along.

    Assuming the team doesn't become enamored with one particular prospect, trading down makes a lot of sense. An inundation of picks would help fill out a roster that has some major areas of concern.

    Discussing the future of the Vikings roster, Coach Zimmer told Andrew Krammer of 1500ESPN.com, "We're going to need a lot of good football players."

    What better way to achieve that feat than by going into May's draft stockpiled with picks?

Is Khalil Mack a Perfect Fit for the Vikings?

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    Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

    When it comes to the defensive side of the ball, it's no secret that the Vikings need to get a heck of a lot better. 

    Securing edge-rushers, improving the team's secondary and addressing the linebacking corps underline some of the biggest issues Spielman and Zimmer are going to have tackle during the draft.

    With the defensive prospects set to take center stage Monday and Tuesday at the combine, the time to inspect some of these guys is now.

    The first player that comes to mind when conversing about the top defensive guys is, of course, South Carolina pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney.

    Clowney's grand physical abilities and ridiculous measurables have made him the talk of the town. But, another player whose draft stock is starting to gain some momentum is Buffalo's Khalil Mack.

    If you turn on the tape, this young man appears to be almost superhuman at times. Using an expansive arsenal of moves to drive his way into the backfield, Mack has blown some scouts away.

    One scout that's taken notice is NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock.

    Appearing on KFAN radio (h/t Vikings.com), Mayock raved about Mack. Calling him one of the "best two or three players in this draft", Mayock said he "would take him (Mack) with the first pick."

    A review like that warrants some serious attention. So much so that Mack himself said in a pre-combine presser, "tell Mike Mayock I love him." (h/t John Murphy of WGR550).

    Watching how Mack's skills translate from film to the combine is going to be a lot of fun. For Zimmer, Spielman and the rest of the Vikings brass, this is one player they will definitely be keeping an eye on moving forward.

The Perils of NFL Prospects and Social Media

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    Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

    Prospects take notice: NFL general managers are watching your every move. 

    That sentiment is taken to a new level in today's world. 

    The way social media has permeated across the globe has allowed people to express themselves without a filter. Whether it's media personalities, celebrities or Fortune 500 companies, everyone is communicating at a frenetic pace.

    According to Jim Corbett of USA Today, Spielman has already "red flagged" eight prospects for some of the stuff they've said on Twitter.

    Though he wouldn't disclose any of the players' names, the point is that prospects need to be wary about what they say on social media. Sometimes comments expressed in the heat of the moment can be taken out of context and potentially harm their long-term future in the National Football League.

    From the Vikings' perspective, this "social vetting" process is just another tool used to help get a better understanding of these players. That's why you can't really knock Spielman or any other NFL general manager for implementing this technique to help better their respective franchises.

Finding Depth at the Cornerback Position

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    Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    The beauty of a draft class chock-full of talent is that there are going to be plenty of great prospects floating around well past Round 1.

    Before the combine wraps up on Tuesday, this year's crop of defensive backs will get a chance to show the world what they've got.

    Aside from top-flight players like Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard and Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert, the combine will allow all of us to get a better look at some of the other ball-hawks as well.

    Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller is one of those guys who has a chance to break through the hodgepodge on Tuesday and help set himself apart from his peers.

    A strong, physically imposing kid, Fuller is one of the most robust cover corners you'll see on tape.

    The debate whether to go after bigger cornerbacks in this year's draft will definitely be one of the topics Spielman and Zimmer cover when they head home from Indianapolis.

    In a league that loves a good trend, the NFL's infatuation with bigger, faster wide receivers has fostered these mutant-like defensive backs.

    If the goal is to have ascendancy over wide receivers at the line of scrimmage, the 2014 draft is a great place to assemble some of these candidates.