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Identifying Future Vikings: Positional Cutoffs and the 2016 NFL Draft Class

Do the Vikings have athletic or measurable cutoffs for each position? If they do, who meets them and how drastically might it narrow down the Vikings board?

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Before the combine, I tried previewing some of the requirements for Vikings players on the offensive side of the ball and never got around to the defensive counterpart. Instead of hashing through everything that the Vikings will necessarily look for on defense and teasing a final list right before the Combine, I've decided to present all the findings for all players through all pro days here.

I'm listing the SPARQ scores of the players below so you get a general idea of how athletic they are. SPARQ scores are a proprietary Nike-designed metric that gives us one number to get a good understanding of an athlete's overall athleticism after taking into account weight and height. Though the formula is secret, the scores used below are calculated by  Zach Whitman at 3SigmaAthlete.com using approximations he reverse-engineered.

Wide Receiver

At receiver, I speculated on an either/or requirement for speed or three cone performance, but in constructing the final list of receivers I decided to impose a three-cone requirement without a ton of emphasis on the 40-yard dash. The Vikings have acquired Kain Colter, DaVaris Daniels, Andy Cruse and Tyrone Walker in undrafted free agency, and all of them ran slower than 4.50 seconds in the 40-yard dash, though each of them ran faster than 7.00 seconds in the three-cone.

We speculated that the Vikings may be more interested in "trump cards" than specific trait cutoffs, but for the purposes of narrowing down the Vikings' potential big board we'll implement the cutoffs that worked for eleven of the twelve different receivers the Vikings have acquired in the Zimmer era.

The Vikings have also shown a strong interest in the vertical leap, and much more often than not get receivers who outjump their competition by a fair amount. Six of the twelve receivers jumped 37 inches or higher.

Below are the receivers in my consensus board's top 300 who weigh 190 pounds or more, ran faster than 7.05 seconds in the three-cone drill and jumped at least 35 inches high in the vertical:

Name Pos. School Vert SPARQ NFL%
Josh Doctson WR TCU 41 133.9 94.4
Corey Coleman WR Baylor 40.5 133.9 94.4
Michael Thomas WR Ohio State 35 126.5 82.8
Sterling Shepard WR Oklahoma 41 123.6 75.4
Leonte Carroo** WR Rutgers 35.5 115.4 49
Braxton Miller WR Ohio State 35 121.5 69.4
Charone Peake WR Clemson 35.5 119.8 64.2
Malcolm Mitchell WR Georgia 36 122.5 72.5
Kolby Listenbee* WR TCU 35.5 122.7 73.1
Devon Cajuste WR Stanford 36 133.4 93.9
Chris Moore WR Cincinnati 37 126.2 82.1
Jalin Marshall WR Ohio State 37.5 122.7 73
D.J. Foster WR Arizona State 36 122.4 72.2
Marquez North WR Tennessee 35 123.9 76.3

*Kolby Listenbee did not run a three-cone but ran a 4.35 40-yard dash and jumped 35.5" in the vertical.

**Leonte Carroo did not run a three-cone but ran a 4.50 40-yard dash and jumped 35.5" in the vertical.

***Ricardo Louis just missed the cutoff with three-cone and given how incredibly athletic he is (SPARQ of 129, 87.8th percentile), I wouldn't be surprised if the Vikings included him in the final analysis.

This eliminates Laquon Treadwell, Tyler Boyd and Will Fuller (Tyler Boyd because of agility and the other two because of their vertical—Fuller is also below 190 pounds), generally popular selections at receiver in the first two days of the draft.

I included the vertical leaps of the players up there because the Vikings may still bias strongly in favor of it.

Offensive Line

For tackles, we're implementing a 100-inch broad jump cutoff and a 7.80-second three-cone cutoff. That might be too stringent based on Tony Sparano's history but it should produce a narrow list. We're also imposing a 27-inch vertical leap cutoff at tackle.

For guards, it's a 7.86-second three cone and a 100-inch broad jump that operates as the cutoff. I'm not sure what happens with centers, as the Vikings have not acquired very many of them in the Zimmer era. For now, we'll impose the same restriction as with guards, plus a short-shuttle restriction given how fast all the Vikings' acquisitions have been there and how strong research is supporting a link between short shuttle and center performance.

Name Pos. School SPARQ NFL%
Laremy Tunsil* OT Ole Miss N/A N/A
Ronnie Stanley** OT Notre Dame 98.9 34.3
Jack Conklin OT Michigan State 103.5 47.7
Taylor Decker OT Ohio State 94.7 23.4
Jason Spriggs OT Indiana 115.4 80.1
Cody Whitehair OG Kansas State 105.3 58.7
Ryan Kelly C Alabama 105.2 55.4
Germain Ifedi*** OT Texas A&M 96.3 29.9
Graham Glasgow C Michigan 95.9 26.1
Jack Allen C Michigan State 87.5 9
Connor McGovern OG Missouri 117.9 89.6
Joe Dahl OG Washington State 104.7 56.7
Joe Haeg OT North Dakota State 108.9 63.7
Isaac Seumalo OG Oregon State 104.3 55.4
Joe Thuney OG North Carolina State 114.8 84.1
Matt Skura C Duke 97.4 30.5
Tyler Johnstone OT Oregon 107 58.2
Kyle Friend OG Temple 107.5 65.5
Jordan Walsh OG Iowa 90.9 16.7
Jake Brendel C UCLA 116.6 86.1

* Laremy Tunsil did not do any of the workouts, but he clearly would be picked by the Vikings if he fell.

** Ronnie Stanley did not run a three-cone.

*** Germain Ifedi did not run a three-cone.

Also not working out was Shon Coleman. Joshua Garnett and Christian Westerman barely missed the cutoffs and the cutoffs were not defined with hard science or anything.

Running Back

The only requirement was "freak." Here are the freaks with SPARQs in the 70th percentile or better:

Name Pos. School pSPARQ NFL%
Daryl Virgies RB Virginia-Lynchburg 150.7 99.1
Terron Beckham RB No College 149.5 98.8
Darius Jackson RB Eastern Michigan 149.4 98.8
Daniel Lasco RB California 147 98.1
Dan Vitale FB Northwestern 134.7 96.6
Tyreek Hill RB West Alabama 143.4 96.2
Dwayne Washington RB Washington 135.3 86.9
Joel Scott FB Morgan State 123.5 84.1
DeMarrion Buford-Hughes FB South Alabama 122.9 83.1
Radir Annoor RB Tennessee Tech 132.9 82.4
Derrick Henry RB Alabama 132.7 82
Brandon Burks RB Troy 130.7 77.6
Don Jackson RB Nevada 130.5 77.1
Tyler Ervin RB San Jose State 128.9 73

I wanted to include all the potential freaks instead of cutting off at the top 300 like I did with the other groups. Of the players above, only Daniel Lasco, Derrick Henry, Tyler Ervin and fullback Dan Vitale are in the top 300 of the consensus board.

I would personally also include Keith Marshall here because his only unathletic test was a 30.5-inch vertical jump, but his absolutely nuts 4.31-second 40-yard dash at 219 pounds is worth consideration. He has the highest running back score in my running back-specific workout metrics.

Tight End

Speed is the only obvious requirement, but it also seems like the Vikings value vertical leap. I wouldn't call vertical leap a "requirement" but I will only list the tight ends who jumped well as well as met the Vikings' speed requirements. Only four tight ends in the top 300 met the requirements.

Name Pos. School SPARQ NFL%
Austin Hooper TE Stanford 120.2 58.8
Thomas Duarte TE UCLA 116.7 48.4
Ben Braunecker TE Harvard 132.9 87.8
Kyle Carter TE Penn State 121 61

Worth noting: four tight ends outside of the top 300 players met the requirements: Stephen Anderson from Cal, Braedon Bowman from South Alabama, Ben Madon of Eastern Kentucky and Joe Sommers of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

If we ignored the vertical leap, Hunter Henry if Arkansas and Jerell Adams of South Carolina would have me the Vikings' requirements (Nick Vannett of Ohio State did not run).

Defensive Tackle

Here, we're looking for bench press (28 or higher) and vertical (29 or higher). That's it.

Name Pos. School SPARQ NFL%
Sheldon Rankins DT Louisville 124.6 83.3
Robert Nkemdiche DT Mississippi 130.5 91.7
Javon Hargrave DT South Carolina State 120 73.7
Willie Henry DT Michigan 111 49.7
Ronald Blair DT Appalachian State 128.1 88.8
D.J. Reader NT Clemson 98.2 25
Anthony Zettel DT Penn State 116.9 66.2
Dean Lowry DT Northwestern 129.8 90.9
Aziz Shittu DT Stanford 98.2 17.7
David Onyemata DT Manitoba 136.1 96.3

Missing out? DeForest Buckner, though that's OK because he's a two-gap only player (and a damn good one) as well as Andrew Billings, A'Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed and more. I'm not 100% sold on these cut-offs like I am sometimes for other positions because of how few defensive tackles the Vikings needed to acquire and how small the relationship between athletic ability and nose tackle performance there is. It could just so happen that the Vikings' few investments at nose tackle happen to be athletic.

For now, we're implementing the cutoff, but don't think of this as hard-and-fast like you might about tight end speed, defensive end agility or running back athleticism.

Defensive End

Last year, I theorized that there was a 270-pound weight limit for defensive ends, and added that as a cutoff given Zimmer's history with really big defensive ends (Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Wallace Gilberry, Margus Hunt and Scott Crichton). They then drafted 252-pound Danielle Hunter (who met every other criteria). I'm tempted to eliminate weight cutoffs, but I'll just put it at 250 pounds.

The Vikings have been very consistent about their other cutoffs. Arms of at least 32 inches, ten-yard splits of at least 1.66 seconds or faster, and three cones of 7.30 or faster. Rick Spielman mentioned something about broad jump scores when talking about Danielle Hunter, but that has not been a consistent criteria for Minnesota.

They also love Justis Mosqueda's Force Players. Force Players meet certain extremely stringent athletic criteria and only comprise something like 20% of the available pass rushers in a given draft.

The first list will be cutoffs I've found, and the second will be Mosqueda's Force Players.

Name Pos. School SPARQ NFL%
Shaq Lawson EDGE Clemson 130.5 79.3
Noah Spence EDGE Eastern Kentucky 122.4 58.3
Emmanuel Ogbah EDGE Oklahoma State 131.8 82
Carl Nassib EDGE Penn State 113.2 31.4
Stephen Weatherly EDGE Vanderbilt 125.3 66.4
Tyrone Holmes EDGE Montana 130.8 79.9

The Vikings won't be in a position to grab Lawson or Spence, and given what we're hearing about Ogbah's draft value, not him either. Nassib, Weatherly and Holmes, on the other hand, are well within reach. Nassib evidently rubbed people the wrong way in some team interviews and Weatherly and Holmes simply do not have the performance, technical skill or production to be considered early-round talents. Here are Mosqueda's Force Players, based off of the combine and no pro days:

  • Shaq Lawson, Clemson
  • Bronson Kaufusi, BYU
  • Dean Lowry, Northwestern
  • Jonathan Bullard, Florida

I suspect that despite Dean Lowry's 1.69-second ten-yard split that the Vikings would be very interested in him, because if he drops just a little bit of weight from 296 pounds, he would be a perfect fit at defensive end, or defensive end/defensive tackle hybrid. Jonathan Bullard is likely a three-technique in the NFL, but if the Vikings grab him, I could see either role. He barely missed the cutoff for three-cone above with a 7.31-second three-cone and if he lost just seven pounds, he'd be prototypical DE weight and easily hit that mark.

Justis will updated with more edge force players after he collates all the Pro Day scores, so PlayMakerMentality.com is worth watching.

Linebacker

The cutoffs at linebacker are somewhat similar to tight end. It seems like linebackers must run faster than a 4.70-second 40-yard dash, and they must jump 34 inches or higher in the vertical leap and 10'00" in the broad jump.

Name Pos. School SPARQ NFL%
Darron Lee OLB Ohio State 140.1 92.3
Leonard Floyd OLB Georgia 137.6 89.3
Joshua Perry ILB Ohio State 124.6 63.5
Deion Jones OLB LSU 129.3 73.8
Travis Feeney OLB Washington 136.7 88
Jatavis Brown OLB Akron 134.7 84.9
Aaron Wallace OLB UCLA 132.3 80.4

Of note, I've mocked Leonard Floyd to the Vikings twice now and though this seems like it would be confirmation it should be pointed out that the Vikings like young players and he is 24. Darron Lee, whose missed tackles and meh instincts have caused some concern from evaluators I respect, is only 20. That seems like something worth thinking about.

If Travis Feeney is available in the seventh round, there is no circumstance I could possibly envision where the Vikings do not draft him. I will eat a tweet otherwise if he's drafted in the seventh-round by another team or goes undrafted.

I'm not the biggest fan of Joshua Perry on film, but there are so many reasons from a statistical point of view that he's worth a shot that I mocked him to the Vikings once anyway.

Cornerback

Mike Zimmer made waves when he said that "we're not taking any 5'9" corners here" and that's worth noting if only because Captain Munnerlyn is the only CB acquisition the Vikings have grabbed who is below 5'10". That's not a very stringent cutoff and it seems like a repudiation of short corners in general, but given that the Zimmer-era Vikings have spent picks on Kendall James (5'10 1/2") and Jabari Price (5'10 5/8") well just use the 5'10" cutoff.

In addition to that, there seems to be a broad jump requirement (10'00") and a speed requirement (not a huge surprise; faster than 4.47).

Name Pos. School SPARQ NFL%
Jalen Ramsey CB Florida State 142.8 99.3
Artie Burns CB Miami 111.3 28.4
Xavien Howard CB Baylor 127.8 84.6
Rashard Robinson CB LSU 97.6 2.9
Kevon Seymour CB Southern Cal 119.8 59.7

It is possible the first three of those five players goes in the first round, so it will be difficult for the Vikings to find a corner who meets their apparent requirements. In the late rounds and on waivers they have relaxed the broad jump "requirement," as Jabari Price jumped 9'4". For what it's worth the list may be too short because of a lack of data.

Eli Apple, Kendall Fuller, Will Redmond and KeiVarae Russell did not do full workouts. I fully would expect Eli Apple to pass the filter, and so too with Russell. The fact that James Bradberry (SPARQ: 132.2, 92.6th percentile) did not meet the filter is worth some scrutiny and I bet the Vikings are interested in him anyway.

Safety

Every safety. The Vikings do not seem to have athletic cutoffs or requirements here, though that may be a result of sample size. They have not drafted or signed many safeties whose athletic data is available (Anthony Harris did not do workouts and let's not pretend Chris Crocker's measurables mean anything).

Top 300 Players Meeting Requirements

When I finish all the work I need to finish in order to create a consensus Big Board with input from over 45 different evaluators at Cold Omaha, I will publish a Vikings-specific one here using these cutoff rules. You functionally have your list, though, it simply is not rank-ordered. Including quarterbacks and specialists, the Vikings would have a "board" of 108 players in the top 300 if these cutoffs mean anything (and 115 or so if we include the exceptions at tackle, etc. that I mentioned).