Minnesota Vikings' Scouting Combine Stock Report
The Minnesota Vikings joined the other 31 teams in the National Football League in Indianapolis for the scouting combine from February 22-25. It's the league's annual meat market where players heading to the draft run, jump, lift and get interviewed in an effort to impress coaches and scouts.
It's a week filled with buzz and hype and players' stock can rise and fall depending on anything from a slow time to an awkward answer to a strange question.
NFL teams are all business at the combine, but the smarter teams take it for what it is: a chance to get a close-up look at, and a chance to chat with players they've already scouted in depth.
Teams have to be careful not to put too much stock into what they see and hear at the combine. After all, when was the last time you saw a player run a cone drill in the middle of the third quarter?
If you were just skimming the Internet on Monday afternoon, you might have thought top defensive prospect Jadeveon Clowney had defeated Usain Bolt in a match race and then ate a lion for lunch.
While obviously neither of those things happened, Clowney was exactly what he was purported to be heading into the process: an athletic freak of nature, who matches size and speed like only a handful of people on the planet. But does anybody walk away from Indianapolis with a better guess at how good he'll be in the NFL?
Your guess is as good as anyone else's.
Keep in mind when you read this, or anything else on the combine, that one of the most disastrous performances in Indianapolis in recent memory belonged to Vontaze Burfict in 2012. His stock dropped so far he didn't get drafted. He did, however, manage to lead the NFL in tackles last season.
For the Vikings and their staff, hopefully they return to Minnesota from Indianapolis with a few more answers than questions. Let's take a look at some players that might be on the Vikings' radar, and whose stock might have gone up or down in Indianapolis.
Stock Up: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
The NFL has always been a copy-cat league, and right now the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers are arguably the two best teams. Both teams have dominating defenses that are chock full of game-changing linebackers.
The 2014 draft is exceptionally deep at linebacker, but the cream of the crop might be Khalil Mack out of Buffalo. Mack certainly looked the part in Indianapolis, measuring 6'3", 251 pounds with rippling muscles up and down his frame.
Mack showed all the physical attributes you want from a speed-rushing linebacker, and also performed brilliantly in the jumping and shuttle run, flashing skills that will translate to coverage ability in the NFL.
The bad news for the Vikings is that Mack's performance at the combine might doom his chances of falling to them with the eighth pick.
Stock Down: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Anthony Barr didn't necessarily disappoint at the combine, but he didn't tear the place up either, and his stock might fall a bit after his performance in Indianapolis.
At 6'5", 255 pounds with athletic ability to spare, Barr remains a tantalizing prospect who will surely go in the top 20, but for the Vikings, who need to draft a sure-thing impact player, Barr might have slipped a bit.
Barr has great feet and proved it by posting a 6.82 time in the three-cone drill, a skill that we knew he had as a former running back.
Disappointing for Barr was doing just 15 reps in the bench press (the lowest number among linebackers who lifted), which isn't a totally damning number, but it shows that Barr still needs to fill out and mature physically.
For the Vikings, who, as we said above, need to land an immediate impact player in the first round, Barr might not be the guy.
Stock Up: Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
The NFL Scouting Combine was made for guys like quarterback Logan Thomas of Virginia Tech.
Thomas is also the reason scouts can lose their jobs by putting too much stock into the combine. Simply put, if the combine was all anybody saw of prospective draft picks, Thomas would be one of the top quarterbacks selected.
This slide certainly isn't to suggest that the Vikings should take Thomas in the first two rounds. What it suggests is that Thomas is a tantalizing quarterback prospect.
At 6'6", 248 pounds, Thomas ran the fastest 40-yard dash time for quarterbacks, clocking in at 4.61. Viewing NFL.com, you can also see that he had the best marks for his position in the 20-yard shuttle run, the three-cone drill, the vertical jump and the broad jump.
OK, but can he throw the football? Yes. Does he always know where it's going? We'll get back to you on that one.
The bottom line is that Thomas is a great athlete with a huge arm, but he's a work in progress. He's one of those prospects where, if the light turns on and a quarterback guru like Norv Turner can polish him up, he could be a steal in the middle to late rounds.
The question for the Vikings will be do they have the luxury of taking a quarterback who isn't a sure thing as starter in one or two seasons.
Stock Down: Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
Tajh Boyd entered his senior season at Clemson as a Heisman Trophy candidate and one of the top quarterback prospects for the 2014 draft.
He leaves Indianapolis as sort of the anti-Logan Thomas, an unathletic, slow quarterback who has an unorthodox throwing motion and scatter-arm. Boyd was inaccurate in throwing short passes at the combine but fared better when he was throwing deeper down field.
What Boyd has going for him is a track record of success in college. He is the first ACC quarterback to ever have three 30-touchdown pass seasons and set a career record with 107 touchdown throws.
Boyd may end up getting drafted by a team that thinks he has enough talent to be a solid backup option, but that team won't be the Vikings.
Minnesota will only draft a quarterback that has starter potential, and Boyd didn't show that in Indianapolis.
Stock Up: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Defensive backs are among the most scrutinized players at the NFL combine for a variety of reasons.
Paramount among those is the wide variety of different offensive schemes used in college football. Defensive backs who play mostly against spread or veer offenses will certainly have a lot of adjustments to make at the next level.
Even at the highest levels of college football, great defensive backs can basically get away with playing as simple as "see ball, go get ball." That mentality won't work in the NFL, where obviously everyone is not only bigger, stronger, faster, but smarter too.
Therefore the microscopes really get turned to high when scouting staffs are watching defensive backs in Indianapolis. Speed, strength, lateral quickness, fluidity, jumping ability, the entire package of skills is monitored to see who might succeed in the NFL.
Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert flat-out aced the combine.
His 4.37 40-yard dash time was the fastest at his position and his 20 reps in the bench press was among the best. Just as important as those numbers was how smooth Gilbert looked doing everything. He gets in and out of breaks without having to slow at all and his change of direction is phenomenal.
There is a chance that the Vikings would like to add another sure-thing starting cornerback to match with Xavier Rhodes, and Gilbert certainly made that possibility more likely with his showing at the combine.
Stock Down: Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida
NFL.com scout Nolan Nawrocki wrote the following on Florida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy:
Lean, fluid, fast, finesse cover man whose raw physical ability and testing numbers belie frustratingly uneven performance. Has starter-caliber athleticism and will buoy his stock when the stopwatches come out, but poor instincts, tackling and tape are reasons for pause.
Purifoy ran a 4.61 40-yard dash and did a measly six reps in the bench press. So much for impressing at the combine.
Purifoy is a player who had a frustrating career in Gainesville, never quite living up to his high billing coming out of high school. His flashes of athletic ability always showed promise, but his productivity never lived up to expectations.
If the Vikings don't take a cornerback in the first two rounds, they will almost certainly grab one in the middle rounds, and Purifoy was one of a long list of corners talked about as a middle-round guy. He might not be thought of so highly after his showing in Indianapolis.
Stock Up: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Auburn left tackle Greg Robinson's stock was on the rise even before the NFL combine. It's going to be through the roof afterwards.
A 6'5", 332-pound kid who can run a 4.92 40-yard dash, put up 32 reps in the bench press and broad jump 113 inches? Sign every NFL team up.
No, the Vikings aren't in the market for a left tackle, but Robinson's rising stock will certainly help Minnesota's draft pool at the eighth pick. The hope for the Vikings is that Robinson's great showing in Indianapolis will vault him into the top seven, leaving Minnesota a player who might not have been there before.
Stock Down: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Although the Minnesota Vikings are in dire need of a massive presence in the middle of their defensive line, there are very few defensive tackles in this year's draft class that are considered top-10 picks.
Louis Nix III, of Notre Dame, is one player who might be drafted in the top half of the first round, but he didn't do himself any favors in Indianapolis.
Granted, Nix is coming off of a surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, but his 5.42 time in the 40-yard dash, while not the end of the world, isn't going to take anyone's breath away either (except his own).
For a player whose conditioning and stamina are always a red flag, he didn't look like he'd put a ton of work in before showing up for the combine.
Nix still might be on Minnesota's radar with its first-round pick, but it would be surprising if it didn't trade down if its goal was to land Nix.
Stock Up: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
One of the old adages when it comes to drafting players in the NFL is that you should take the best player available, regardless of what position he plays.
If Sammy Watkins is available when the Vikings pick at No. 8, he'll be the best player available.
Watkins only cemented his status as an elite wide receiver prospect in Indianapolis, running a blazing 4.43 40-yard dash, and looking like the most polished athlete in all of the receiver drills. Combine aside, Watkins always looks like the fastest player on the football field, as his game speed only seems to get faster.
No, wide receiver isn't a position of need for the Vikings, but can you imagine pairing Watkins with Cordarrelle Patterson for the next few years?
It's certainly worth considering.
Stock Down: The Vikings Taking a Quarterback with Their First Pick
Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles seemed to improve their stock at the NFL combine. Teddy Bridgewater didn't do much, but nobody expects him to be around when Minnesota picks anyway.
Things could obviously change after pro days and individual workouts and interviews, but as things stand after Indianapolis, the odds of the Vikings taking a quarterback with their first pick probably shrunk a little bit.
The question for the Vikings all along has been can they possibly take a quarterback with the eighth pick who isn't a sure thing when they have so many other obvious needs? What proved out at this combine is that this is an incredibly deep draft, and the Vikings should be able to land a damn good player with their first pick, provided it isn't a quarterback.
The good news for Minnesota is that it has plenty of options. With so many great players available, it can trade up, trade down, or stay just where it is and still get a player who will improve its starting lineup.