The 2020 NFL Scouting Combine kicks off this week. The Vikings, like every other team in the league, will have a full contingent of scouts and coaches in attendance. They will be paying closer attention to certain players and positions than others, as they try to separate prospects and slot them in order on their board. Here are the positions the Vikings will be watching the closest this week at the Combine.
The Vikings hold the 25th pick and would love to use it to land their left tackle of the future. Their offensive line was better in 2019 but it still has plenty of holes to fix. Riley Reiff is still a solid player, but his age is starting to show and he’s no longer worth the high amount the Vikings owe him this season. Finding a younger option is a must. The Vikings need to thoroughly look at the two prospects most likely to be on the board with the 25th pick, and those are USC’s Austin Jackson and Houston’s Josh Jones. Not only do they need to watch their on-field workout closely but they need to get face to face with these guys and figure out what makes them tick. The Vikings will have to be convinced that one is better than the other in the event they are both available when they go on the clock.
The Vikings also need to do their due diligence on tackle prospects who are ranked higher than the 25th slot in case one begins to fall. Do they believe Tristan Wirfs is a tackle and not a guard? Do they like the way Andrew Thomas performs in the run game? These are all questions the team needs to figure out if one of these top prospects is suddenly available. They also need to check out the players who have health issues. Washington OT Trey Adams has a huge laundry list of injuries. The Vikings’ doctors need to give him a thorough poking and prodding and need to see if he has any potential long term concerns or if he’s fully healthy. Another guy with some injury issues is Prince Tega-Wanogho. He is a fringe first-round prospect who has tons of upside. He had to pull out of the Senior Bowl due to swelling in his knee and won’t test at the Combine after having that knee scoped. The Vikings need to look at that closely and determine if it is enough to move him down their board in fears of it becoming a chronic concern.
Cornerback is the Vikings top need. It is also a position where there could be a log jam of players on the board at 25 and the team needs to sort these guys out. Players like LSU’s Kristian Fulton, Florida’s CJ Henderson, Alabama’s Trevon Diggs, Utah’s Jaylon Johnson, and TCU’s Jeff Gladney could all be on the board and the Vikings need to know the ins and out of each and every one of these guys. They’ll keep a close look on their on-field testing and determine how their skill set will fit into the coverage schemes they want to run this year. They’ll also need to get these players in one on one interviews and see how important football is to them and how knowledgable they are about basic defensive concepts and also what offenses may be trying to do in certain situations.
With the number of corners that will be available right around the 25th pick and the end of the first round, in general, the Vikings also need to identify how many of these players they are comfortable with. If a handful of them are on the board and the team has them ranked all very closely, the Vikings could then look to facilitate a trade. They could move down and accumulate more picks while still landing a player they love. This is also a position the Vikings could address more than once. They’d be wise to closely watch every single corner in attendance as they have up to three holes fill on their cornerback depth chart alone. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the majority of their Day 3 picks play somewhere in the secondary.
As of now the way the 2020 NFL Draft is shaping up, the best talent on the board for the Vikings at pick 25 could be at a secondary position of need like defensive tackle. The Vikings will want to watch this position very closely at the Combine and see if there are any prospects they like enough to use their first-round choice on a position that isn’t their biggest need. The top two tackles in the Draft, Derrick Brown and Javon Kinlaw will both be long gone by the time the Vikings pick. There are other first-round prospects who could fit in well in the middle of the Vikings defensive line. The team needs a player who can consistently create interior pressure as their current starters Linval Joseph and Shamar Stephen are both primarily run stuffers. There are three prospects who are slotted around the 25th pick who could fill this need. The first is TCU’s, Ross Blacklock. He is a powerful tackle who can plow right through would-be defenders. He is surprisingly athletic and can close in on a ball carrier in a hurry. How he tests will go a long way in finalizing his spot on the Vikings draft board.
Another player is Neville Gallimore. Gallimore was considered to be just a run-stuffer before the Senior Bowl. In Mobile, he showed great athletic ability and was able to push the pocket and pressure quarterbacks in drills. That opened the eyes of scouts and teams began to envision using this guy in other ways. If he wows in tests, it could solidify that belief that he’s an all-around defensive tackle who shouldn’t come off the field. The last guy is Raekwon Davis from Alabama. This dude dropped out of the Senior Bowl and needs to create some good buzz around him to get his stock trending back up. He’s a talented player with a quick get off but has some inconsistent tape. The Vikings will watch him closely and see if he is worth the 25th pick or is more of a Day 2 type of player.
Like defensive tackle, wide receiver isn’t a top need for the Vikings but they do need to fill out their depth chart. Lucky for them this is a super deep class of wide receivers with very talented pass catchers available potentially all the way to late on Day 3. The Vikings need to identify the type of receiver they are looking to add to the talented trio of Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Bisi Johnson and then see how many of these guys fit that criteria. They could look for a bigger-bodied receiver who can go up and make tough catches in traffic. The only guy on the team who fills that role right now is tight end, Kyle Rudolph. They could also look for a smaller speedy receiver who can work out of the slot and possibly be a punt and kick returner. The Vikings also have to be well versed in the top receivers of the Draft.
There is a good chance the best player they see on the board is a pass catcher and they’ll need to know if that player fits their scheme. Some of those guys could be names like Ceedee Lamb, Tee Higgins, or even Alabama’s Henry Ruggs. If these players are truly elite and are a value too good to pass up at 25, then the Vikings should be ready to pull the trigger despite the lack of need.
The last position the Vikings should be watching closely at the Combine is quarterback. Kirk Cousins has just one year left on his deal and while he’s likely to get an extension it would be wise for the team to draft his eventual replacement. Whether or not that happens at pick 25 remains to be seen, but it’s possible some very good players are available there. The top quarterbacks Burrow, Tagovailoa, and Herbert will all be long gone by the time the Vikings are on the clock. The second tier could just be getting started though. Jordan Love from Utah State is widely seen as the 4th best QB in the Draft. He’s got good size, a quick release, and can pick up extra yards on the ground. He does need a season or two of getting coached up, but could be ready to take over once Kirk’s career begins to wind down. The Vikings should get to know Love on a very deep, personal, and athletic level so they feel good about taking him if he ends up being their best option at pick 25. They also should get familiar with some Day 2 quarterbacks. Jacob Eason from Washington is a big-bodied quarterback with a strong arm. Georgia’s Jake Fromm is a pro-ready prospect with size and smarts, and Jalen Hurts is oozing with talent that just needs some refining.
The Vikings do need a backup quarterback this year and instead of going with a crusty veteran like Sean Mannion, they may try to use a promising first-year player in that role instead. Expect the team to watch quarterbacks very closely this year as the chance of them drafting one is very high.