Minnesota Vikings Draft Scouting Guide for the 2015 Senior BowlJanuary 20, 2015
Minnesota Vikings Draft Scouting Guide for the 2015 Senior Bowl
Senior Bowl week opens on Tuesday, with three days of important practices and a game to cap it all off on Saturday. The Minnesota Vikings and every other NFL team will be in Mobile, Alabama, hoping to find the next top prospects.
Minnesota has brought in a pair of Senior Bowl alums in each of the last three drafts. First it was Harrison Smith and Audie Cole in 2012. Then it was Jeff Locke and Everett Dawkins in 2013. Jerick McKinnon and Shamar Stephen topped it off in 2014. Late-round selections from the Senior Bowl seem to be the trend for Rick Spielman and the Vikings.
This year's crop of prospects will make its biggest marks during practices between individual drills and one-on-one matchups. The practice setting helps gauge athletic talents by comparing players directly.
Positions like receivers and quarterbacks should be expected to have a rough go of it early on, with very little chemistry or feel for the timing in team drills. Matchups between receivers and defensive backs and between offensive and defensive linemen will be far more telling.
The following slides detail the positions that Minnesota will be after in the draft and the Senior Bowl prospects that could be potential Vikings.
Sammie Coates, South
Expectations for the Auburn receiver should be high this week. Coates is a physical freak. When he ran go routes for the Tigers, he often took the tops off defenses.
His athletic skills should give him the tools to overwhelm cornerbacks in drills. He certainly possesses the explosiveness and speed to separate. At 6'2" and 201 pounds, he also needs to show he can beat defenders in contested situations by plucking the ball at its highest point.
Coates' hands are the biggest issue and will be the biggest point of contention this week. He must show that he can catch the ball with proper technique. Too many balls hit the turf when thrown his way over the last two years.
Devin Smith, North
Smith is flying up draft boards after making big plays in each of Ohio State's final three games. He will be looking to carry that momentum into a big week in Mobile.
Like Coates, Smith runs a go route like nobody's business. That speed should give defensive backs big issues and drills. So long as quarterbacks have the arm to connect down the field, Smith should leave a number of cornerbacks in his wake in one-on-one drills.
The ability to run a bigger route tree is what teams will be looking for from Smith this week. He specialized in down field routes for the Buckeyes and showed little else.
Tony Lippett, North
Lippett's size will draw teams in. At 6'3" and 190 pounds, Lippett is a tall, lean receiver. Plucking any passes placed in his general direction was a theme in 2014. He also improved incredibly from his junior to senior season, so the arrow seems to be pointed in the right direction.
Scouts will be looking for two things from Lippett this week. First, he must show the strength to beat press coverage and play off contact as a route runner, proving that his lean build is not an issue. Lippett must also prove that his athletic skills merit a pick on the second day of the draft.
Others to watch: Devante Davis, South; Josh Harper, South; Vince Mayle, North
Ameer Abdullah, North
The Senior Bowl should be a good setting for Abdullah to show his skills. When he has space to operate, Abdullah plays fast as a ball-carrier. Individual drills should be a plus for him.
Pass-blocking drills will be the most important part of Abdullah's week. He has already shown the ability to run routes and catch the ball well at Nebraska, but blocking has long been an issue. Abdullah will find himself lined up across from linebackers in blitz-pickup drills, and he must show well.
Those skills will weigh heavily on Minnesota's evaluation of running backs this season.
David Cobb, North
Cobb hits close to home for the Vikings. His senior season at the University of Minnesota was a smashing hit, and he is a candidate to stick around in the Twin Cities.
Judging Cobb's athletic talents this week will be the primary objective. He played in a rushing attack that was almost exclusively North-and-South for the Gophers. Scouts need to see that Cobb has the speed, quickness and explosiveness to run around the corner and in a wider variety of run plays.
Cameron Artis-Payne, South
Artis-Payne is another back who must show his skills outside his previous system. Gus Malzahn's offenses churn out productive backs with ease, so Artis-Payne still has much to prove.
At 5'10" and 210 pounds, he is on the shorter, stouter side of the spectrum. Scouts will need to see Artis-Payne holds his own athletically in comparison to these other backs. Pass-protection drills and receiving drills are where Artis-Payne must shine. His immediate value is projected for passing downs and short yardage primarily.
Others to watch: Jeremy Langford, North; David Johnson, South
Laken Tomlinson, North
Scott Bischoff of GM Jr. sums up what scouts see in Duke guard Laken Tomlinson:
So, Duke OG Laken Tomlinson is a very powerful interior lineman. Ask him to push his man forward, it's going forward. Reminds me of Warford.— Scott Bischoff (@Bischoff_Scott) November 6, 2014
The quickest way for Tomlinson to make money this week is to show up in pass-blocking drills, which give big advantages to defensive linemen in the practice setting.
Arie Kouandjio, South
The brother of Buffalo Bills tackle Cyrus Kouandjio should leave his mark in Mobile this week.
The Alabama guard is physically impressive at 6'5" and 315 pounds. That size and power should lead to dominant showing in run-blocking drills. Like Tomlinson, it's the pass-blocking drills and hand technique that will fall under the microscope this week.
Any guard Minnesota would draft needs to be a major upgrade over David Yankey to earn a starting spot, so reliability on run and pass plays is required.
Jamil Douglas, North
Douglas played left tackle for Arizona State in 2014, sliding over from his left guard spot for his senior season. His success on the perimeter this season speaks well on his pass-protection skills.
He must show a little nastiness as a run blocker. If Douglas comes out soft in drills this week, he will struggle against the top level competition at defensive tackle and defensive end. Scouts will be keeping a close eye on his demeanor and his punch, noting what kind of power he shows.
Others to watch: Tre' Jackson, Florida State
Hayes Pullard, North
Senior Bowl week is all about the coverage drills for USC linebacker Hayes Pullard. He has already shown the experience, instincts, aggressiveness and power. Too often he looked indecisive or a step slow in coverage in 2014 as a senior.
One-on-one drills with running backs as a coverage linebacker will be telling. Scouts will be drilled in on the quickness of Pullard's feet, his comfort moving backwards or side-to-side and his ability to play the ball. If Pullard shows well in coverage drills, it will be big news for his draft stock.
Denzel Perryman, South
Perryman is a small, meaty linebacker at only 5'11" and 242 pounds. Gauging his size and strength next to his competition at the LB spot will be crucial.
Athletic skills will also be heavily analyzed with Perryman this week. The Miami backer must prove to be more than a two-down plugger who only thrives moving forward. Whether is range sideline-to-sideline or ability to drop into coverage, Perryman will be put through the gauntlet this week.
Martrell Spaight, South
Alex Brown of Optimum Scouting details why Arkansas LB Martrell Spaight is a player to watch this week:
Excited to see Martrell Spaight at SR. Bowl. Fluid to sift thru trash or drop, quick flowing to ball & instinctive. + WLB prospect to watch— Alex Brown (@OS_AlexBrown) January 19, 2015
Those qualities are ones Minnesota will look for in filling a potential opening at it's "Will" LB spot, so Spaight might just have the eye of Vikings scouts.
Others to watch: Jordan Hicks, Texas
Eric Rowe, North
Utah cornerback Eric Rowe should stand out among cornerbacks in Mobile. The converted safety stands at a solid 6'1" and 201 pounds, possessing the physical skills to impress in drills and on game day.
Rowe should be able to handle route-runners physically, using his length to disrupt routes and keep position. He has something to prove in terms of ball skills this week though. As a converted safety, Rowe is not used to locating the ball with his back to the QB and that showed at times as a senior.
Josh Shaw, North
Josh Shaw of USC earned a call-up to the Senior Bowl squad after a fine week at the East-West Shrine Game.
Shaw is another big, muscular CB who looks more like a safety. His height and length could be just what teams are looking for on the outside however, so long as he shows to ability to maneuver and play the ball in the air.
Quinten Rollins, North
This Miami (OH) CB is one of the most interesting players in attendance. Quinten Rollins played basketball for the Redhawks before playing a single season of football in 2014. He impressed, too.
Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com shares his thoughts:
Studying Miami (OH) CB Quinten Rollins...extremely fluid and smooth. Shows some twitch to drive on balls in front. Very interesting prospect— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 19, 2015
Minnesota could look at Rollins at either cornerback or safety. Either way, his ball skills should be on full display in Mobile.
Others to watch: Senquez Golson, South; Kevin White, South; Ladarius Gunter, South
Kurtis Drummond, North
Michigan State safety Kurtis Drummond would like to burn numerous tapes from a disappointing senior season. The Senior Bowl is a chance for him to rebuild some of that promise he showed in 2013.
Coming downhill is Drummond's strong suits. Scouts will have few questions there. What they will be looking for is whether or not Drummond can play on his heels and look comfortable moving backwards. He let far too many receivers get behind him in 2014.
Cody Prewitt, South
Cody Prewitt of Ole Miss will be out to prove he is more than a flash in the pan this week. Onlookers can find seven or eight plays from 2014 that make him look like an All-Pro. Unfortunately, there are even more plays than that in which he looks like an absolute dud.
Prewitt needs to show better instincts and decisiveness, whether in coverage or fitting the run. When he gets to ball-carriers, he tackles well and is a powerful hitter. When he gets in position in coverage, he can finish with interceptions. Getting there has been his problem.
Jaquiski Tartt, South
The small-school safety to look out for is Samford's Jaquiski Tartt. At 6'1" and 218 pounds, Tartt is a big safety. Because of his size and his FCS background, he needs to show athletic skills on the same level as other defensive backs from big schools.
Tartt could start slowly this week due to such a drastic change in setting and competition, but scouts will be looking closely to see that he improves over the course of the week. If he can acclimate quickly in Mobile, he should be able to do the same in an NFL camp.
Others to watch: Clayton Geathers, South; Damarious Randall, North
Prospect heights and weights via CBS Sports.