Who the Minnesota Vikings Should Be Watching at the Combine

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Some big events are coming up for the Minnesota Vikings. The NFL Scouting Combine is March 1st-6th, just ahead of the NFL Draft. The Vikings have a second round pick, two third round picks, two fourths, and one each in the final three rounds.

They’ve already talked with some draft prospects, including:

Senior Bowl Meetings

  • Tarell Basham, defensive end, Ohio
  • Amba Etta-Tawo, wide receiver, Syracuse
  • Rayshawn Jenkins, safety, Miami
  • Jaleel Johnson, defensive tackle, Iowa

East-West Shrine Meetings

  • Chunky Clements, defensive tackle, Illinois
  • Jadar Johnson, safety, Clemson
  • Kyle Kalis, guard, Michigan
  • James Onwualu, outside linebacker, Notre Dame
  • Weston Steelhammer, safety, Air Force

Who the Minnesota Vikings Should be Watching at the Combine

The Scouting Combine is huge, a place for medical check-ups for the players, along with the most popular event with casual sports fans, the 40-yard dash. This year again 10 and 20-yard splits will be recorded, something that can be critical for edge players and linebackers to show off their acceleration.

The NFL has cracked down on who can attend the Combine, eliminating players for domestic violence and other off-field activity, including Chad Kelly, Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, and Chad Williams of Grambling State.

While the Vikings could use help at a number of positions, the offensive line and pass rush definitely need to top their wish list. Here are some players that might still be around in the second round, and that the team scouts should be watching closely.

Offensive Line: Ethan Pocic, LSU

Ethan Pocic is the opposite of what you think of when you think of college offensive linemen and played guard and center for most of his career at LSU, It’s odd that he would kick to offensive tackle at this point in his career.

He played just one game at left tackle and one game at right tackle with the Tigers. At 6’7″, his size is what might sell him at the position, or he might be one of those linemen who can line up wherever a team wants him to. If he doesn’t go early, the injury ridden Vikings offensive line could really use a multi-use player like Pocic.

Offensive Line: Antonio Garcia, Troy

Antonio Garcia is billed by some as “the next Terron Armstead.” Garcia is athletic in one-on-ones but struggled with consistency compared to Western Michigan’s Taylor Moton.

The offensive tackle class is weak this year, and that benefits a player like Garcia, who could rise in to the draft top 20 if he puts up Armstead–like numbers. What he does in Indianapolis will decide where he’s drafted, and he might just be around for the Vikings if he is slower than expected.

Edge, Pass Rush: Taco Charlton, Michigan

Taco Charlton had a slow first three years at the University of Michigan, with nine career sacks and 14.5 career tackles for a loss. Even early in this, his senior season, he wasn’t spectacular.

Against Ohio State and Florida State, he recorded five tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks, a huge improvement from his 8.5 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks over the first nine games of the season.

His performance is reminiscent of that of Kevin Dodd last year during the playoffs. He wound up being an early second-round pick to the Tennessee Titans.

The biggest difference between Dodd and Charlton? According to NFL Draft Scout, Charlton is going to measure in taller than 6’5″ and heavier than 270 pounds.

Inside Offensive Line: Pat Elflein, Ohio State

The Buckeyes’ offensive line had a shaky right side, and quarterback J.T. Barrett appeared to be un-draftable even after doing well in his freshman and sophomore seasons.

But their center Pat Elflein who started as a guard before he transitioned inside, did so well he elected to not even show up to the Senior Bowl.

After just one year at center, Elflein won the Rimington Trophy, an award given to the top center in college football. He too benefits from the relatively weak offensive line class this year, proving to every NFL scout that he can play left guard, center or right guard. If he is somehow still around in the second round, he would be a top choice for the Vikes.

Inside Offensive Line: Dan Feeney, Indiana

Dan Feeney may be the best pure inside offensive lineman in the draft. A guard from Indiana, Feeney spent some reps at the Senior Bowl at both guard and center.

There are some concerns about his concussion issues, but if these are resolved at the Combine, Feeney will be the first college guard drafted in 2017. The Vikings should be watching this closely, hoping by some miracle he’ll still be around in the second round.

Offensive Tackle: Garrett Bolles, Utah

Garett Bolles will be 25 before he plays a single snap of regular-season football in the NFL. Despite that, he may be the best offensive tackle prospect on draft day.

After two years at a junior college in Utah, he became one of the most sought-out prospects in America, but instead of leaving for the SEC, he stayed close to home played for the Utes.

At the combine, Bolles has a chance to shine with a solid performance. But if he doesn’t, he might find himself stuck lower in the draft rankings, and that is when the Vikings might have a shot at him.

Edge, Pass Rush: Derek Rivers, Youngstown State

Few people know who Derek Rivers is. Most of the draft world doesn’t. He played at a military academy in an effort to earn a Division I scholarship, which he landed with Youngstown State, promptly becoming the school’s all-time sack leader.

Because of his frame and athleticism, Rivers will easily be a consistent defensive force in the NFL. At the Senior Bowl practices, no pass-rusher looked more impressive in one-on-ones than Rivers.

After the first round, there is a massive drop off in pass rushers, and if the Vikings could manage to snag Rivers, it would be a major boost to a defense in need of new talent.

Offensive Tackle: Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin

Ryan Ramczyk is one of three offensive tackles expected to go in the first round, but he is relatively unknown.

That’s because he didn’t play a Division I game until 2016. Basically, Ramczyk turned down a scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh because he wanted to stay close to home. In his one year of Division I play, he was an All-American.

Ramczyk had hip surgery on January 4, so uncertainty about his recovery might push him down far enough in the draft for the Vikings to snag him, although that isn’t terribly likely.

Offensive Tackle: Taylor Moton, Western Michigan

Taylor Moton was consistent as a right tackle, but the Senior Bowl was a big test for him. In those practices, he hardly lost a one-on-one, even though they are often designed for defenders to win by nature.

Right now, he’ll probably be a high pick on day two, but at the combine, when he reveals how athletic he is, his name may start to come up in the first round. The Vikings can only hope he doesn’t, so they get a shot at him.

Offensive Guard: Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky

Forrest Lamp held his own against Alabama’s pass-rushers, but after measuring under 6’4″ at the Senior Bowl, it’s going to be hard for him to sell himself as a tackle.

Besides Kelvin Beachum, there are few tackles under 6’4″ in the NFL. At the Senior Bowl, he looked dominant at guard but struggled when facing the variety of talented pass-rushers on his own team.

With the questions around his size, including his arm length, he’ll probably play at guard. Still, his versatility might be just what the Vikings need.

Edge, Pass Rush: Takkarist McKinley, UCLA

Takkarist McKinley is a one-year wonder, which complicates his evaluation. He took the junior college route, which led to three years at UCLA where he recorded 16 sacks, ten of them coming in his senior season despite some injuries.

With the raw athleticism of a DeMarcus Ware, he will do well at the combine, although he may have surgery on a shoulder issue, which could lower his draft value enough for Minnesota to get a look at him.

Edge, Pass Rush: Charles Harris, Missouri

Charles Harris was a basketball player and didn’t even play high school football until his junior year.

An unknown recruit, he signed with the in-state Missouri Tigers. In the past two seasons, he’s posted 30.5 tackles for a loss and 16 sacks. His explosive burst off of the line of scrimmage, combined with a violent spin move, remind some of Everson Griffen. If he impresses in the combine, the Vikings will have to take a hard look at who else is still around before deciding if they want to take a chance on Harris.

Linebacker: Reuben Foster, Alabama

Reuben Foster may end up being the highest-drafted off-the-ball linebacker since Luke Kuechly was drafted ninth by the Carolina Panthers in the 2012 draft.

Foster just had rotator cuff surgery, which means he won’t be participating at the Combine, and might sink in the draft since he may not ever run drills for the NFL evaluators. This may or may not put him in the Vikings reach, but if they get a chance they should look at him for sure.

The Vikings are going to have a busy combine and a busy draft. Hopefully, they will get the talent they need to shore up the offensive line and the pass rush. Other key positions may be filled by free-agency, but many variables are still up in the air.

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