Minnesota Vikings: Analyzing Latest NFL Draft Rumors and Reports

Arif Hasan@ArifHasanNFLContributor IIIApril 27, 2015

Minnesota Vikings: Analyzing Latest NFL Draft Rumors and Reports

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    Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

    With the 2015 NFL draft mere days away, now's as good a time as any to round up any rumors and reports on the Minnesota Vikings and their potential favorite targets.

    Your mileage may vary with rumors. Before getting into any specific rumors about what teams think, however, we can start with the first step and catalogue team visits—a soft, if possibly wildly misleading, indicator of interest.

    After that, we'll look at even more unreliable sources of information, as team reports of interest leak out to various reporters across the country.

    In the end, we'll get some idea of the shape of the draft, even if we won't have a specific idea of what the Vikings will do.

Team Visits and Meetings: Offense

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    Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

    The Minnesota Vikings, like any other team, bring in prospects in order to interview them, or occasionally work them out. They'll also hold meetings with them at the combine, organize the workouts at pro days and provide other indicators of interest.

    Late-round prospects, like seventh-round pick Shamar Stephen (who was one of the 30 players to visit the Vikings for their top-30 event), can see this as a sign of hope—often those players picked later on passed a final vetting process that put them above the rest of the group around them in an otherwise flat group of talent (as all late-round talent tends to be).

    Though the Vikings never met with first-round pick Harrison Smith, they did coach him (and Christian Ponder) at the Senior Bowl, which at least means they had contact with a lot of the players that they may like. Anthony Barr met with the Vikings in 2014, and Teddy Bridgewater met with the team a few times.

    Rick Spielman was at the pro-day workout for Georgia Southern to observe Jerick McKinnon. David Yankey played under Vikings offensive line coach Jeff Davidson's son, Nick, at Stanford.

    The Vikings have a number of needs on the offense, though those aren't quite as numerous as on the defense. By position, here are the players they've shown interest in or have met with:

    Offensive Line

    Both Oklahoma tackles, Tyrus Thompson and Daryl Williams have met with the Vikings, per Tony Pauline at Walter Football. Both project as possible guard converts, although they could play right tackle in the NFL. The Vikings do not have a need at starting right tackle but do have a significant need as far as offensive tackle depth goes, or even with their starting guards.

    Walter Football also reports a Vikings meeting with Georgia Tech guard Shaquille Mason at the Senior Bowl. Mason was an extremely successful guard, according to Pro Football Focus, but will have a lot to learn when it comes to translating his game to a more traditional scheme. Mason's stellar blocking in Georgia Tech's ACC Championship face-off against Florida State contrasts starkly with his performance at the Senior Bowl and may be evidence of that kind of transition issue.

    Louisville's Jamon Brown and San Diego State's Terry Poole both met with the Vikings at the East-West Shrine game, again reported by Walter Football. Both have extensive experience with pro-style offenses and pro-style blocking. They stand in stark contrast with Mason and could potentially contribute right away as backups.

    All 32 teams attended Colorado State's pro day, and with Ty Sambrailo being the only notable player there, there's at least some interest from the Vikings—though they are not one of the teams who held an individual meeting with him.

    There are two early-round picks the Vikings have met with as well: T.J. Clemmings and A.J. Cann. Ben Goessling of ESPN reports that Clemmings worked out for Minnesota while Rand Getlin from Yahoo Sports reported that the Vikings were one of four teams to have workouts or visits scheduled with South Carolina guard A.J. Cann.

    Both of them, according to general consensus, should be gone by the end of the second day of the draft.

    Wide Receiver

    The list of names the Vikings have shown interest in at wide receiver is a little more interesting, if only because those players are generally judged to be of a higher-caliber of talent. Though there are no reports I can find of Minnesota meeting with Amari Cooper or Kevin White, there are multiple meetings the Vikings have held with former Louisville receiver DeVante Parker.

    Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that the Vikings held an interview with Parker at the NFL combine, while 1500 ESPN reported that Parker visited Minnesota at their headquarters in Eden Prairie.

    Dorial Green-Beckham visited the Vikings at Winter Park as well, according to Darren Wolfson at KSTP, and his presence could mean a lot for the Minnesota offense, if his character checks out.

    Parker wasn't the only receiver to meet with the Vikings at the combine either. Devin Smith from Ohio State met with the Vikings there, according to 1500 ESPN, who also reported a meeting between Minnesota and Auburn's Sammie Coates.

    The Vikings met with Maryland's Stefon Diggs at his pro day, as reported by Tony Pauline at Walter Football.

    The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported receiver meetings for the team at the all-star games—Michigan's Devin Gardner at the East-West Shrine Game and Tyler Lockett of Kansas State at the Senior Bowl.

    Running Back

    The Vikings may or may not need a running back, depending on how the Adrian Peterson situation shakes out, but they grabbed one last year without a clear need. Peterson's age may be reason enough to grab another—if only because grooming a dominant running back committee may be the wave of the future.

    To that end, the Vikings have been connected to at least four running backs. Locally, University of Minnesota's David Cobb could be of interest as a souped-up version of Matt Asiata. They met with the running back multiple times, including a predraft visit to the local facility and a pro-day visit, according to Darren Wolfson of KSTP. They also had a combine meeting with the running back, per Dave Schwartz of KARE 11. They also attended his private workout, according to the Pioneer Press, which he needed to perform in because of injury.

    In addition to Cobb, Minnesota has shown interest in Boise State's Jay Ajayi and South Dakota State's Zach Zenner (both reported by Walter Football's prospect meetings blog). Northern Iowa's David Johnson was also a predraft visit, according to 1500 ESPN.

    Tight End

    Aside from the Vikings' attendance at Minnesota's pro day, Maxx Williams had an official visit with the team at their facility. Walter Football's pro day blog mentioned Kennard Backman as having a predraft workout with the Minnesota Vikings. Backman was recruited to the University of Alabama-Birmingham as a basketball player, and the blog mentions that Backman looked incredibly athletic at the pro day.

    Another basketball player, Richard Ross from Old Dominion, worked out with Minnesota as well, scheduled after the Vikings met with him at ODU's pro day, per Mark Craig at the Star Tribune. The difference, of course, is that Backman actually played football in college. The prospect meeting tracker at Walter Football also notes that Louisville tight end Gerald Christian met with the Vikings at the combine for an interview.

    Perhaps they met with Parker to get the inside scoop on Christian?

Team Visits and Meetings: Defense

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    Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

    The Vikings have reportedly met with far more defensive prospects, which matches expectations, as the Vikings reportedly met with far more defensive players than they did offensive players.

    More linebackers and defensive backs met with Minnesota than any other position group by far.

    Defensive Line

    Minnesota has met with at least two defensive tackles. The first one, Arizona State's Marcus Hardison, has met with the team twice. The first time was at his pro day, according to Scout.com, while the second was a scheduled meeting with the team, per the Star Tribune.

    Rice's Christian Covington has also drawn a lot of interest from the team, and defensive line coach Andre Patterson was present at his pro day, per Gil Brandt at NFL.com.

    At defensive end, there were a number of players the Vikings have met with, many of whom could also qualify as linebackers, given that we know the Vikings are willing to do that with players like Anthony Barr and Josh Kaddu.

    Mike Zimmer attended Kentucky's pro day, where defensive ends Za'Darius Smith and Bud Dupree worked out. Smith interviewed with Minnesota at the East-West game (per Walter Football's prospect meeting tracker) and met with the Vikings at the NFL combine, Josh Edwards of 247 Sports reported.

    Combine superstar Bud Dupree had a combine interview with the team, as Ben Goessling at ESPN reported.

    Walter Football's pro day tracker has logged team meetings with Nate Orchard of Utah, who at 256 pounds could either bulk up to be a defensive end in Zimmer's scheme, or he could play linebacker at that weight—though iffy agility scores don't make that a guarantee.

    Edge-rusher from Alabama, Xzavier Dickson, reportedly went through workouts with Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards, according to Gil Brandt at the NFL Network. He could be either a linebacker or defensive end, but his agility and speed scores match that of a Minnesota defensive end more than a linebacker.

    Multidimensional Lynden Trail had a private visit scheduled with Minnesota, according to NSUBlitz.com, an offshoot of the Virginia Pilot that covers Norfolk State football.

    Ben Goessling of ESPN reported that defensive end Bobby Richardson of Indiana visited Minnesota. Tony Pauline reported that Preston Smith from Mississippi State did the same.

    Linebackers

    Linebackers of every ilk have had meetings or visited with Minnesota. The Star Tribune reports that Stephone Anthony of Clemson had a meeting with the Vikings at his pro day, while TCU's Paul Dawson visited Winter Park. It also reported that Benardrick McKinney of Mississippi State not only had a combine meeting with the Vikings, but also visited the team facilities in Eden Prairie, true of Washington's Shaq Thompson as well.

    Denzel Perryman from Miami, according to that report, also interviewed at the combine. Andrew Krammer at ESPN noted that Perryman also drew multiple meetings, as he met with linebackers coach Adam Zimmer at the Senior Bowl.

    Those aren't the only linebackers the Vikings had multiple meetings with, however. Vic Beasley is another player from Clemson who drew interest—not only with Minnesota's attendance at their pro day, but an interview at the combine, per Scout.com.

    Aside from the Winter Park visit, Paul Dawson also met with the Vikings at TCU's pro day, something that Walter Football's prospect tracker reported.

    Jordan Hicks met with the Vikings on two different occasions as well. The first was at the NFL combine, per Scout.com, and the second was at Texas' pro day—a meeting with Adam Zimmer, per Fox Sports Southwest reporter Mark Lane.

    Dante Fowler from Florida and Randy Gregory from Nebraska also secured invites to the Vikings' top-30 events, per 1500ESPN. Gregory also had an extensive pro-day meeting with the team, according to Walter Football's pro day tracker.

    The Vikings sent linebacker coach Adam Zimmer to the Michigan pro day, where Jake Ryan performed, according to Walter Football's pro day tracker, which also reported a meeting Minnesota had with Kyle Emanuel, a defensive end from North Dakota State who could be a linebacker. Darren Wolfson of KSTP reported that Minnesota also had a private workout with the former Bison.

    Another small-school prospect whose pro day garnered the attention of linebacker coach Adam Zimmer was Edmond Robinson, from Newberry—who hails from the same school as Vikings tight end Brandon Bostick does.

    Defensive Back

    If the Vikings were thorough with the linebackers, then they were exhaustive at defensive back, where a number of prospects who could play either cornerback or safety met with Minnesota's team. One player connected with the Vikings more than almost any other is Trae Waynes, who indeed has met with the Vikings multiple times.

    In his draft diary with USA Today, he mentioned a visit with the Vikings he had scheduled, and the Vikings deepened that interest by attending his pro day in full force, including defensive backs enthusiast head coach Mike Zimmer, according to the Star Tribune.

    Waynes isn't the only defensive back on their radar, however. Mike Zimmer personally worked out Byron Jones at his pro day at Connecticut, per Dan Hope from here at the Bleacher Report.

    Possible slot corner/safety Quandre Diggs from Texas held particular interest for the team, as a meeting at the combine, per Scout.com, followed a long conversation he and former coach (and current Vikings defensive backs coach) Jerry Gray had at the Senior Bowl, something he intimated to Chris Tomasson at the Pioneer Press.

    Jerry Gray also worked out cornerback Kevin Johnson at Wake Forest's pro day, per Brandt.

    With Waynes, Johnson and Jones all generally expected to go in the first round, it makes sense that they would go after other highly sought-after defensive backs, and they did indeed host potential first-rounder Marcus Peters from Washington, which Wolfson reported.

    LSU defensive back Jalen Collins has also flirted with the first round, and the Vikings certainly evaluated him, with Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports reporting a team visit for the raw corner.

    If the Vikings wanted to pair Florida State alum Xavier Rhodes with other Seminoles, cornerbacks P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby performed under the watchful eye of general manager Rick Spielman at their pro day—and Spielman showed particular interest in those two, per Pauline at the Walter Football pro day tracker.

    In the same piece, Pauline noted that the Vikings were in attendance at the Utah pro day, where safety/corner Eric Rowe performed—though that interest seemed to have been for Nate Orchard. No matter, however, as Scout.com indicated that the Vikings interviewed Rowe at the combine.

    Also interviewed at the combine, per that same Scout.com piece, was safety Jordan Richards of Stanford.

    Corner/safety Josh Shaw of USC met with the Vikings at the East-West game, per Walter Football's prospect-meeting tracker.

    Arizona State safety Damarious Randall, who was initially recruited to the school as a baseball player, visited the Vikings—again, reported by the prospect meeting tracker from Walter Football. Along with Randall was Virginia safety James Harris, whose visit was reported by Matt Vensel at the Star Tribune.

Adrian Peterson May Not Be Traded

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    Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Of course, overshadowing all of those individual visits and meetings is the Adrian Peterson saga. Whether he'll be traded by the Vikings has been a source of intense speculation by fans and media, and it seems like the Vikings are either immune to the rumors or playing the game extremely well.

    ESPN's Adam Caplan reported that the going price for Adrian Peterson would be a first-round pick and a starting cornerback in a video since taken down from ESPN servers but reported by the Daily Norseman.

    That price may force teams to balk, and it could be that the Dallas Cowboys anticipated that, as they held zero conversations with the Minnesota Vikings regarding the All-Pro running back, per Charles Robinson at Yahoo Sports.

    That has narrowed the list of teams, and Robinson indicates that the Arizona Cardinals would be unwilling to surrender their first-round pick, and as a result, the second-round picks of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars.

    With Atlanta's cap considerations, Robinson has indicated that they've taken themselves out of the race. Gus Bradley, head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, indicated to First Coast News that they have had no internal discussion about Peterson.

    That shrinking list of teams seems to suit the Vikings just fine, as Ian Rapoport reports that the Vikings intend to keep him and would need to be blown away by an offer in order to part with him.

Vikings Are "In Love" with Trae Waynes

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    Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

    Matt Miller here at the Bleacher Report reported that the Vikings were "in love" with Trae Waynes. Waynes is considered at the moment by many to be the top cornerback on a number of draft boards, including CBS'. Given the obvious interest the Vikings have in a defensive backs, it's a natural fit.

    Indeed, Waynes has been mocked to the Vikings more than any other player.

    On the other hand, the Vikings were expected to pick Manti Te'o in 2013 and decided not to with any of their three first-round picks, while in 2014 surprised a number of observers by selecting Anthony Barr. Should Minnesota find that Waynes, who is a talented cornerback but perhaps not a scheme fit, isn't to their liking, they'll have a number of talented cornerbacks to select later.

    Those fit issues may be the reason this rumor has less teeth than others.

Vikings "Love" DeVante Parker

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    Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

    It wouldn't be draft season if the Vikings didn't "love" more than one prospect, and it just so happens to be the second-most mocked prospect to the Vikings, former Teddy Bridgewater teammate DeVante Parker from Louisville.

    Lance Zierlein of NFL.com reported on 790 AM, a Houston radio station, that the Vikings love Parker and would select him with the 11th pick if he was there.

    Eric Galko at Optimum Scouting feels that mocking Devante Parker to the Vikings is smart because his sources indicate something similar.

    Parker would add vertical ability to the Vikings offense and should fit well within Norv Turner's scheme despite issues with physicality and play strength that are more critical to the Coryell offense than many others.

Vikings "Love" Damarious Randall

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    It's love all the way down.

    Yes, the word "love" was used to describe another prospect preference for the Vikings, this time in the same video where Matt Miller reported the Vikings' interest in Trae Waynes.

    Randall, a multisport athlete, is largely selling himself on his upside—his gap discipline and tackling angles at ASU weren't ideal but could be coached out of him, given his inexperience with football.

    Instead, the Vikings or any other team would want to gamble on his play instincts and game speed. He wouldn't be in play for the 11th overall pick but could be selected in a trade up. With a weak safety class in this year's draft it's credible, but his huge issues make it seem unlikely that Randall is a first-round pick.

Vikings Will Target Mario Edwards

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    Mike Groll/Associated Press

    A lot of things are in play for the first pick the Vikings hold in the draft, and Jason La Canfora at CBS threw a curveball by suggesting defensive end Mario Edwards from Florida State. At 290 pounds, he could slim down just a little bit and be the kind of big defensive end Mike Zimmer likes to see in his 4-3 defense or stay at that weight and play as a 3-technique.

    With Sharrif Floyd's phenomenal play in the middle of the year before injury, it seems unlikely that Edwards would be a defensive tackle for Minnesota, but that may be his best fit in the NFL.

    Because of that, it seems less likely than the other rumors being reported.

    Either way, it's certainly a different take.

Gerald Hodges May Not Replace Chad Greenway

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    Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

    ESPN reporter Ben Goessling reported in a mailbag that Mike Zimmer still sees Chad Greenway as the best weak-side linebacker on the roster, the position that Gerald Hodges played last year (a result of an injury that took Greenway off the field).

    If true, then it could mean one of two things: either the Vikings think Greenway is still an excellent linebacker and therefore is not a priority to be replaced or that Gerald Hodges may not be good enough to fill in a perceived hole at the position.

    There are any number of reasons not to think this is a true report, and the truth of it doesn't say much about the directions the Vikings could take either way.

    The Vikings have spent an extraordinary amount of draft capital evaluating linebackers, many of whom are not considered good fits for the inside linebacker position that is also up for grabs.

    Tony Pauline mentioned in his pro-day tracker at Walter Football that he thinks the Vikings are a lock to select a linebacker early on, and it's hard to disagree.

Odds and Ends

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    Garry Jones/Associated Press

    The Vikings have also been connected with various lower-round prospects as well.

    Aside from the interest signaled by team visits, Darren Wolfson has also identified prospects who have drawn interest from the team, including safeties Clayton Geathers and James Sample.

    Aside from those two, defensive end Ray Drew from Georgia (who could play 3-technique in the NFL) was picked as a Vikings favorite too.

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