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Players the Vikings Might Actually Draft

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NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not much into mock drafts, but I am always curious about players that could be a good fit for the Vikings, and also players the Vikings have actually shown some interest in checking out, meeting with, and may actually draft. The Vikings have their ‘top 30’ draft prospect event this week, which will include many players in this write-up. History shows that a lot of top 30 event prospects end up getting drafted by the Vikings.

Below is a list of players the Vikings have shown some interest in, either at one of the college-recruiting bowl games (East-West, Senior Bowl), at the Combine, private workouts or meetings, pro-day visits, etc. Of course in some cases these visits may have resulted in a player being ruled out, rather than high on the draft board, and this list isn’t complete by any means, as sometimes a player may be high on a draft board without a team showing much overt interest - another aspect of playing the draft game - keeping your cards close.

In any case, I’ve arranged the prospects by position, and then with higher round prospects first. The links on the names go to their nfl.com draft profiles.

RUNNING BACKS

Overall, the Vikings have shown interest in a few backs that they could be targeting for as early as their 2nd round pick (but I doubt it), or more likely a 3rd or 4th round pick. The desired traits in a running back are clearly versatility to play 3 downs, run well, be a pass-catching threat, and block well.

Joe Mixon, RB (Oklahoma)

Mike Zimmer met with Mixon at his pro-day, and he may be the best overall RB in the draft, but having been caught on video punching a girl and breaking several bones in her face, he’s not likely to be drafted in the first round. Zimmer said it wasn’t his decision whether Mixon will be on their draft board, saying the GM and owners will make that call.

Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee

The link is to the piece I wrote last week on Kamara. The Vikings met with Kamara during the Combine, at his pro-day, and he’ll be in town for the Vikings top 30 event. He is a 3-down RB that checks all the boxes. Can run well, excellent receiver, can pass block. As a runner, what stands out is Kamara’s ability to get to full speed in about 2 steps, and beat LBs to the perimeter. He is also elusive in the open field and creates a lot of missed tackles. As a runner he is still developing, but managed to create a lot with limited opportunities as a backup in Tennessee behind a below-average offensive line. My guess is that if Kamara is there for the Vikings in the third round, he’ll be the pick.

Samaje Perine, RB, (Oklahoma)

Perine is almost more of a full-back, but with potential 3-down ability. He is a power back, 5’11”, 233lbs., and can handle a heavier workload if need be. His 4.65” 40 has sent his draft stock tumbling a bit, and I’m guessing he’s more of a 4th round back at this point.

Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo

Hunt looks to be more of a mid-round backup all-purpose back with some elusiveness and instinct, but overall probably not the guy you want as your starting feature back.

Marlon Mack, RB, USF

Mack looks to be a late backup scat-back with speed and shiftiness, but a guy who probably isn’t going to get it done between the tackles.

Aaron Jones, RB, Texas-El Paso

Jones is a small-school all-star with impressive stats and Combine workout. He’s smaller for a RB, at only 5’9” 208 lbs, and projects as another option for a backup scat-back in a late round or UDFA.

Dare Ogunbowale, RB, Wisconsin

Ogunbowale is another late round, 3rd-down/scat-back option.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Lots of interest in several defensive linemen, and with Shariff Floyd’s future in doubt, Everson Griffen out of contract after 2018, Tom Johnson and Brian Robison with only a year or two left as backups, and Scott Crichton let go, there is a need to develop replacements along the defensive front. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Vikings draft a couple defensive linemen to help replenish this position group.

The Vikings are fortunate to have one of the better defensive line coaches in the league in Andre Patterson, so it makes sense to leverage his coaching ability by drafting some high ceiling developmental prospects.

Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State

McDowell seems a pretty solid first-round pick, as some have him going around half-way into the first round. But he’s also a boom-or-bust type prospect, that could scare enough teams into passing on him in the first round, and leaving him as a possible target for the Vikings with their second-round pick.

Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn

Lawson is strong and aggressive, but otherwise in need of development. He projects now as a 2nd round pick, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him drop. Projects as a left-end.

DeMarcus Walker, DE, FSU

While listed as a DE, he looks more like a player the Vikings would consider at the 3-technique, based on his profile.

Tarell Basham, DE, Ohio

Basham has been moving up draft boards throughout the pre-draft process, as he’s had impressive performances starting with the Senior bowl, and continuing at the Combine and his pro-day. Basham projects as a left-end in the NFL, and was the MAC conference 2016 defensive player of the year with 16 TFLs and 11.5 sacks last year. Basically Basham has got all the physical traits, but needs some development- echos of Danielle Hunter a couple years ago. Basham has been drawing a lot of interest, which potentially could make a 3rd round pick.

Jordan Willis, DE, Kansas St

Willis has the desired traits as left-end, but needs to develop and probably not as high a ceiling as Basham, and not as aggressive as Lawson.

Jaleel Johnson, DT/3-4DE/NT, Iowa

Probably more of a rotational guy at the 3-technique than a starting candidate, but with a better anchor could have starting potential. His strength is as a pass rusher.

Chunky Clements, DT/3-4DE, Illinois

Continuing the theme of well-named DL prospects. If the Vikings draft Basham, they’re more or less obligated to draft Clements, because how could you pass on having a DL tandem of Chunky and Basham?

Patrick Gamble, DT, Georgia Tech

Gamble is most likely a UDFA practice-squad prospect with desired traits but in need of more extensive development before he could see playing time.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Given that the Vikings acquired two starting tackles in free agency, I expect they will focus on drafting interior linemen in the draft. Forrest Lamp has clear starter potential, but the rest are projected later round picks that could compete with Sirles for the RG spot or as a backup.

Forrest Lamp, OT/G, Western Kentucky

Lamp is probably the top interior offensive line prospect in the draft, being compared to Zach Martin. As a result, he might not make it out of the first round. He played LT in college, but projects as a guard in the NFL due to his lack of length. Lamp would be a strong contender for the starting RG spot if the Vikings drafted him, and should he slip out of the first-round, it’s possible the Vikings may make a move to get him.

Pat Elflein, C/G, Ohio State

The Vikings recently brought Elflein in for a workout. He looks to be as close to a plug-and-play center as you’re likely to find, and being compared to Travis Frederick or Zach Martin- two top tier interior linemen with the Cowboys- speaks for itself. My guess is the Vikings could use Elflein at either right-guard or center initially if they draft him, but longer-term he would replace Berger at center.

Damien Mama, G, USC (COM)

Mama is a big guy at 6’3”, 334lbs and long with 35” arms. His weight is an issue as he was up to 4 bills at one point. But he’s shown good technique, although it still needs refinement. Mama seems to have dropped substantially in the pre-draft process, I believe following his pro-day, all the way to UDFA. Not sure why, but Drafttek has him slipping 126 spots to UDFA territory from a mid-round prospect.

Julie'n Davenport, OT, Bucknell

Davenport looks to be a developmental right-tackle with desired traits- particularly his long arms- but still pretty raw in his technique.

Brad Seaton, OT, Villanova

Seaton is another later round prospect that projects as a developmental right-tackle. He’s 6’7”, 310 lbs, with good lateral quickness and core strength.

Kyle Kalis, G, Michigan

Some of you may recognize the name Kalis, as Kyle’s father Todd was a guard for the Vikings from 1988-1993. Kalis has shown good technique and fundamentals, but not the desired athleticism, which is what makes him a late-round prospect, possibly an UDFA. My guess if he was the latter, the Vikings would have an advantage in signing him given the family connection.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Given the receivers the Vikings have shown interest in this year, it looks pretty clear they will continue trying to find diamonds in the rough in later rounds, ala Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, who are now the Vikings top 2 receivers, particularly as they spent a first-round pick on a WR last year in Laquon Treadwell.

For the most part, all the receivers the Vikings have shown interest in are outside receivers with some ability to stretch the field, and play in spread offenses. These look to be 6th or 7th round picks, or UDFAs.

Curtis Samuel, WR/RB, Ohio State

Samuel was a big-play maker at Ohio State, and a Percy Harvin-type hybrid receiver/running back. He is projected as a 2nd round pick, but I’m not sure he’ll go that high. The problem NFL teams will have with Samuel is that like Percy Harvin, he needs work in his route running, and isn’t really a running back either. He’s 5’11”, 196 lbs, and ran a blazing 4.31” 40. He’s the type of player the Vikings are looking for in Pat Shurmur’s offense because he is a threat to run or catch out of the backfield, but he also needs development and would not be a starter at either RB or WR. He could start as a kick returner. Samuel may be a player that if he drops because of his tweener characteristics, the Vikings might pick up in a mid-round. My guess is another team will have him higher on their draft board.

Rodney Adams, WR, USF

Adams is a late round prospect. He has some measurables at 6’1”, and a 4.44” 40, although he’s a little light (190lbs), played against lesser competition at USF and needs to develop. Here are some highlights.

Amba Etta-Tawo, WR, Syracuse

Etta-Tawo is another one of the late-round developmental receivers the Vikings are looking at, again with some good measurables but in need of development.

Chad Williams, WR, Grambling

Williams is another one, with better ball skills but slower.

LINEBACKERS

Linebackers are a perennial draft need, more because of special teams abilities, but also as potential starters. The Vikings have a few they’ve shown interest in.

Elijah Lee, ILB, Kansas State

The Vikings have given Lee more than passing interest, and I’m guessing they’ll spend maybe a 5th round pick on him if he’s there. Lee is a long, rangy, LB/S hybrid-type player (6’3”, 228lbs) that Zimmer has been exploring ever since he’s got here. He’s said before he thought about replacing Greenway with a LB/S hybrid-type player, but probably doesn’t have one yet that is ready to fill that role as a starter. Lee will need development before he sees the field, except as a special teamer, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear his named called at some point when the Vikings have the podium.

Duke Riley, OLB, LSU

Riley is a late-round backup LB / special teams guy. He’s got some upside as he only started for a year in college, but most likely a special teamer.

James Onwualu, OLB, Notre Dame

Onwualu is a local kid from Cretin in St. Paul who went on to Notre Dame. Another backup WLB / special teams candidate.

Eric Wilson, LB, Cincinnati

Most likely a UDFA, Wilson is another LB/S hybrid player Mike Zimmer has been considering.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

The Vikings have a number of safety prospects they have shown interest in, so that makes it a pretty good bet they’ll draft one, but more likely in a mid-to late-round.

Josh Jones, S, N.C. State

Jones looks like he could be an excellent small-school sleeper pick in the 4th/5th round. Drafttek has him ranked #132 prospect overall in the draft. He’s got the height/weight and speed (6’1”, 220 lbs., 4.41” 40) you want in a safety, and likes to hit, but needs some development of his cover skills and tackling. He compares to Harrison Smith, but in need of some coaching. Like Smith, he can play both safety positions -something Mike Zimmer looks for in a safety to give him flexibility. I’m guessing this is the safety the Vikings are targeting and want to draft as early as the 4th round.

Rayshawn Jenkins, S, Miami

If Jones goes earlier than expected, Jenkins is not a bad fall-back prospect. Similar height/weight as Jones, but not quite as fast or instinctive.

Jadar Johnson, S, Clemson

Another step down in terms of physical traits and developmental needs from Jenkins, Johnson was a backup to Jayron Kearse at one point at Clemson. A later-round prospect, but with starting potential.

Leon McQuay III, S, USC

Probably more of a backup/special teams guy, could be a backup as a slot CB as well.

Weston Steelhammer, S, Air Force

Colorful last name for a backup/special teams guy, which is probably his ceiling.

SPECIALISTS

The Vikings have shown interest drafting both a punter and a kicker, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they drafted one.

Zane Gonzalez, K, Arizona State

Seems the Vikings are interested in competition for Kai Forbath, and Gonzalez may be the best rated kicker in this draft class. My guess is if they really want him, they’ll have to spend a late round draft pick to get him.

Worth Gregory, P, East Carolina

Well, the Vikings could bring in a draft pick to compete for the punter job, and this is one of the better rated ones. Not sure they’ll spend a draft pick on him, so he would more likely be a UDFA pick.

OVERALL DRAFT STRATEGY

The Vikings currently have the following draft picks:

2nd round: #48

3rd round: #79 & #86

4th round: #120 & #128

5th round: #160

6th round: #199

7th round: #232

I get the feeling the Vikings are designating their 2nd round pick to be a fluid (i.e. tradeable up or down), opportunistic pick. Not having a first-round pick, Rick Spielman will take a close look at players who, perhaps unexpectedly, fell out of the first round and potentially move to get them if necessary. Guys like Malik McDowell or Forrest Lamp potentially, although there could be others not as well associated with the Vikings as well, that the coaching staff and scouts had highly rated but didn’t expect to fall to the second-round.

On the other hand, and perhaps more likely, the Vikings could also attempt to trade back with their 2nd round pick, if no desirable first-round graded guy falls to the 2nd round, thereby allowing Spielman to add more picks in later rounds. Given Spielman likes to have 10 picks in the draft (and the Vikings have 8 right now) that could be a more likely scenario.

The Vikings have two 3rd and two 4th round picks, and how well these picks turn out will go a long way in determining how well the Vikings drafted this year. My guess is that the Vikings pick a running back here, two linemen, and a safety. Beyond these picks is something of a crap-shoot, but hopefully the Vikings can draft a few players in the late rounds that make the team and add quality depth.

IDEAL DRAFT

Looking at just the prospects above, and considering a somewhat realistic, but very favorable, draft scenario without trades, here’s what could be the best case scenario for the Vikings:

#48: Malik McDowell, DT

#79: Alvin Kamara, RB

#86: Pat Elflein, C/G

#120: Terell Basham, DE

#128: Josh Jones, S

#160: Elijah Lee, ILB

#199: Julie’n Davenport, OT

#232: Zane Gonzalez, K

The Vikings would be lucky to land McDowell in the 2nd round at #48, but every year guys drop unexpectedly. He wouldn’t likely be a starter initially, but would compete for rotational reps this year, with the potential to become a superstar. McDowell would drop because he also has bust potential as some scouts question his work ethic and he is in need of development.

Getting Kamara and Elflein in the 3rd round would be pretty fortunate as well, but at least according to the Drafttek rankings it’s not unrealistic either. Basham and Jones in the 4th round would also be a couple of good ‘gets,’ and would add quality depth with starting potential in a year or two.

Lee and Davenport are more developmental prospects that may not have starting potential, but hopefully would upgrade depth in those position groups. Gonzalez, if drafted, you would hope would win the starting job.

Overall, that would be a pretty good haul for the Vikings that would address a number of key needs. We’ll have to wait until the end of the month to see how things unfold.