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Leber, 21 Others Selected For 2nd Annual “Hollywood Bootcamp”

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 28, 2013 – 5:28 pm

Former Vikings LB and current preseason sideline analyst Ben Leber and 21 other current and former NFL players, including 2005 NFL MVP SHAUN ALEXANDER and 4 active 1st-round draft picks – Darrius Heyward Bey (Raiders), Alex Mack (Browns), Gerald McCoy (Bucs) and Jared Odrick (Dolphins) – will take part in the second annual NFL Pro Hollywood Boot Camp at Universal Studios in Universal City, California.

The program, which runs from March 11-15, is being directed by NFL Player Engagement and Film Life Inc., the New York-based film production company, and will cover a wide range of topics in the movie industry.

The 4-day boot camp will offer a comprehensive overview of creative disciplines in the film industry including screen writing, directing, producing and film financing. Session leaders will be selected from among top industry executives and filmmakers and include Legendary Pictures partner/producer and member of the Pittsburgh Steelers ownership group Thomas Tull (The Dark Knight, Inception, We Are Marshall), director/producer Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights), and writer/actor/director Robert Townsend (The Five Heartbeats, Hollywood Shuffle).

Participants will have the opportunity to shoot and edit a short film at Universal Studios, the largest working motion picture studio in the world which offers 30 sound stages and 30 backlot movie sets where many legendary films have been shot.

“We are excited to continue providing opportunities for active and former players to explore and develop valuable professional contacts in a wide range of career fields,” said Troy Vincent, senior vice president of NFL Player Engagement.

“We are excited to work with the NFL on the second Pro Hollywood Boot Camp, which exposes players to life beyond the field, “said Jeff Friday, CEO of Film Life Inc., which created the Pro Hollywood initiative. “Pro Hollywood was designed to provide an in-depth overview of the film business as well as a mentorship program for those who come out of it serious about building a career in film.”

Player enrollment criteria include previous participation in NFL Player Engagement programs, prior media experience, essays, and NFL playing experience.

With the longer offseason, NFL Player Engagement now offers current and former players 10 training programs for post-NFL careers.


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Several Stand Out Among DB Class At Combine

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 27, 2013 – 7:39 am

The bad news for NFL defensive coordinators is that the wide receivers put on an impressive display during their on-field work out Sunday at the 2013 Scouting Combine. The good news for NFL defensive coordinators is that the men who will become responsible for covering those wide receivers – the defensive backs – also put on an impressive display during their work out at the Combine on Tuesday.

From Dee Milliner cementing his status as the class’ top cornerback, to Desmond Trufant following up a solid Senior Bowl week with a solid Combine performance, to several lesser-known players putting themselves on the map, the outstanding performances were abundant.

Let’s take a look at some of the individuals who stood out during the DB on-field workout on Tuesday…

CB Dee Milliner (Alabama)
Milliner was thought to be the top cornerback heading into the Combine, and his performance in Indianapolis all but eliminated any doubt of that. He answered any questions regarding his speed by registering the 2nd-fastest 40-yard dash time, and then he was solid-not-sensational in the on-field drill work. He appeared to fight the ball and struggle with drops at times, but overall it was a solid day for Milliner. Here’s how NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks described Milliner’s day: “Milliner displayed outstanding footwork and movement skills in the positional drills. He smoothly executed transitions and turns in space, showing excellent balance and body control. Thought he struggled handling the ball, but those concerns can be assuaged at Alabama’s pro day next month.”

CB Desmond Trufant (Washington)
The younger brother of two NFL players, Trufant was perhaps the best cornerback at the Senior Bowl last month and he was also a top performer at the Combine within his position group. He finished with the 3rd-fastest 40-yard dash, the 2nd-best 20-yard shuttle time and he also put up impressive numbers in the vertical and broad jumps.

CB Robert Alford (Southeastern Louisiana)
One of my favorite players at the Senior Bowl, Alford had a quiet-but-good Combine performance. He had the 4th-best 40-yard dash time and broad jump, was 3rd among all cornerbacks in the bench press and was one of just seven players with a vertical leap of 40+ inches. Here’s part of the NFL.com scouting report on Alford: “His willingness to press, compete for balls downfield, and support the run –- as well as fair size, overall athleticism, and potential return ability will make him a highly sought-after player.”

CB Xavier Rhodes (Florida State)
Had Milliner struggled in Indianapolis, Rhodes stood the best chance to leap-frog him as this class’ top cornerback. As it turns out, Milliner is fortunate to have performed so well because Rhodes did in fact impress at the Combine. Rhodes, a 3-year starter at Florida State, has great size at 6-1, 210 pounds, and he’s known as an excellent press-coverage corner who excels in man-to-man situations. But he also proved his has movement skills and explosive ability to go with it. Rhodes’ 40-time was sufficient to eliminate concerns about his speed, his vertical leap was tied for 1st among all defensive backs and his broad jump was 5th-best among his group.

CB Tyrann Mathieu (LSU)
I wrote about him on Tuesday evening. Click here to read that report. If you don’t want to do that, the bottom line on Mathieu’s Combine performance is that he was one of the day’s top performers. He was solid-not-sensational in the timed and measured activities, but he was indeed sensational during the position-specific drills. He displayed a confidence and a swagger that reminds you he was at one time arguably the best defensive player in college football, which makes teams’ opinions of his interview performance even more important. Here’s what Brooks said of Mathieu: “[He] created some positive momentum with his standout performance at the combine…Not only was his (40-yard dash) time adequate for the position, it indicated that he is a more explosive athlete than most expected him to be after watching him on tape. Mathieu also surprised scouts with his solid footwork and fundamentals in positional drills.”

CB Johnthan Banks (Mississippi State) and S Kenny Vaccaro (Texas)
On the flip side of the 4 standout performers mentioned above, we have Banks and Vaccaro. Banks came into the Combine looking to establish himself as the top cornerback, but his 40-time was not impressive and he wasn’t sharp in the position-specific drills. Brooks said of Banks: “Although Banks still has an opportunity to make amends at his pro day in a few weeks, he will certainly see his stock dip a little after the combine.” As for Vaccaro, the favorite to be the first safety taken in the draft, he didn’t reinforce the notion that many have of him being a versatile safety with corner-type cover skills. As Brooks says, he’ll need to produce better timed results to make teams feel comfortable applying a 1st-round grade to him.


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Mathieu Moving Up?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 26, 2013 – 9:57 pm

LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu – a.k.a. “Honey Badger” – was straight-forward while meeting with the media and presumably with NFL teams during the Combine, saying he is ready to shed his checkered past and earn the trust of franchises.

“My best friend right now is honesty,” Mathieu said over the weekend.

But there was another straight-forward development regarding Mathieu at the Combine, and this one came on Tuesday. Suffice it to say: he’s got game.

Mathieu was one of the day’s top performers in Indianapolis. His performance in many of the timed or measured physical tests was solid-not-sensational. His 40-yard dash time is sufficient enough to eliminate doubts about his speed.

More importantly, in my opinion, are the on-field drills. And that’s where Mathieu impressed the most. That’s where he feels comfortable. That’s where he’s the Honey Badger.

How Mathieu’s medical examination and interview process unfolded at the Combine is something only the 32 NFL teams know, but what was publically visible of Mathieu’s Combine experience turned out to be up and down. My sense is that the up was higher than the down was low. While his time spent in the media center could be described as strange at best, his performance on the field Tuesday was outstanding. I won’t go so far as to say he stole the show, but there’s no question he was among the day’s more impressive performers. He has confidence, a cocksure demeanor and an aura around him that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Let me be clear again: what I’ve seen of Mathieu is a mere snapshot of what it takes to author a complete evaluation of a player leading up to the draft. I don’t have his medical information, I don’t know his character background, I don’t know how he tested psychologically. All I can go off of is what I see and what I’m told. I haven’t been told anything about Mathieu from insiders. I have watched many of his college games and all of his Combine experience. He clearly loves to play football and he appears most comfortable on the field.

His size is nowhere near ideal, as he measured in at 5-9, 186 pounds. But haven’t we learned by now that “he’s too small” should only go so far? “He’s too small” is what caused Russell Wilson to be drafted in the 3rd round last year. “He’s too small” hasn’t stopped London Fletcher, or Darren Sproles, or Antoine Winfield.

What will stop the Honey Badger? I’m not sure. But I’m pretty sure it won’t be his on-field ability.


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Combine Concludes On Tuesday – VEN Coverage Continues

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 26, 2013 – 9:12 am

Tuesday is the final day of the 2013 Scouting Combine, so there’s not much to break down in terms of the schedule. By now, you surely know the drill. Here it is…

DBs: On-Field Workout (timing, stations, skill drills), Departure from Indianapolis

Tune in all day today and the rest of this week as we keep you up-to-date on Combine action and also provide plenty of reaction to what happened in Indianapolis over the last week.


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Rounding Up Monday’s Combine Action

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 26, 2013 – 7:10 am

Monday was a travel day for the Vikings Entertainment Network, as we departed Indianapolis and headed home to Minneapolis. But the Combine action continued without us, and by all accounts Monday’s action was entertaining. Defensive linemen and linebackers hit the field for their workouts and drills, while defensive backs went through psychological testing, the bench press and team interviews.

Here’s a quick recap of Monday’s action at the Combine…

– After reading NFL.com and watching NFL Network Monday night to catch up on the day’s action, my sense is it was a mixed day for Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o. It wasn’t a great day for Te’o in terms of the time runs and some of the other measured tests. With that being said, NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah said that after Te’o’s timed runs and jump, he put together a “solid” day on the field. And isn’t that where it matters most, on the field? Yes is the answer to that question. My guess at this point is that whatever grade teams had on Te’o before the Combine, they’ll probably have the same grade on him once they reconvene this week for their post-Combine meetings. His session with the media couldn’t have gone better, and that leads me to believe he’ll leave many teams impressed after interviewing with them. Needless to say, his pro day at Notre Dame on March 26 is going to be HUGE.

– It’s clear that Oregon DE/LB Dion Jordan had perhaps the best day of anyone in Indianapolis. Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com said Jordan was a “freak” to watch in person and even suggested he could be a Top 5 pick. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said that when he sees Jordon on tape, it reminds him of a “raw Aldon Smith.” The one caveat to Jordan’s stock skyrocketing is that he will have shoulder surgery soon, which will give teams in the top part of the 1st round another issue to evaluate before feeling comfortable with his future.

– Other DEs who impressed on Monday included BYU’s Ziggy Ansah, SMU’s Margus Hunt, LSU’s Barkevious Mingo and Missouri Southern State’s Brandon Williams. Bucky Brooks of NFL.com said this of Ansah: “Ansah flashed impressive movement skills and the ability to change direction while executing pass-rush moves and zone drops on the turf at Lucas Oil Stadium. Evaluators are completely smitten with Ansah’s athleticism, speed and movement skills; the stock of the BYU star has soared through the roof in recent days.”

Hunt was at the Senior Bowl and has an interesting back story that I’ll be sure to get into as we approach the draft in the coming month or so.

– As for DTs, there’s no question that Florida’s Sharrif Floyd was the most impressive. He was all the rage for the personalities on NFL Network as they analyzed the day’s action on Monday night. Steve Mariucci suggested that Floyd may be the type of three-down DT that many teams covet. Often times, starting DTs who excel on 1st and 2nd down are forced to leave the field on 3rd down in favor of more athletic interior linemen who can rush the passer. Floyd, however, is the type of DT who can stay on the field for 3 downs, according to Mariucci and Mike Mayock. It’s also notable that newly-elected, first-ballot Hall of Famer Warren Sapp was very complimentary of Floyd. I’ll be surprised if he makes it out of the Top 5.


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Defensive Linemen, Linebackers Take Combine’s Center Stage Monday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 25, 2013 – 9:05 am

The Vikings Entertainment Network crew is packing up this morning and heading to the airport for a noon flight back to Minneapolis. But the Combine rolls on in Indianapolis. Only two days remain of Combine action, and Monday’s action includes on-field work for the defensive linemen and linebackers.

Here’s a quick breakdown of Monday’s schedule…

DL and LBs: On-Field Workout (timing, stations, skill drills), Departure from Indianapolis

DBs: Meetings, Psychological Testing, Bench Press, Team Interviews


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3 Defensive Players To Watch At The Combine

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 25, 2013 – 7:21 am

This entry was originally published on February 21 but is being re-posted because DL and LBs will be conducting their on-field workouts on Monday and defensive backs will do so on Tuesday.

You’d be hard-pressed to find an individual who dedicates more time and effort to studying an incoming draft class than NFL Network’s Mike Mayock. That’s why when he identifies players to watch entering the 2013 Scouting Combine, it makes sense to keep an eye on them.

When asked to identify three players he’d focus on during Combine drills, Mayock said he’d be focused on the pass rushers who are capable of converting to outside linebacker at the pro level. In so doing, Mayock singled out LSU DE Barkevious Mingo, Texas A&M DE Damontre Moore and Oregon DE Dion Jordan. But is a college DE looking to convert to outside LB the type of player who would fit the Vikings scheme? You can certainly argue the answer is no.

So while we’d be wise to keep an eye on Mingo, Moore and Jordan, we’ll provide you with three other defenders to watch, as well. That’s not to say any of these three are better fits for the Vikings defense or not, it’s more to give you a better variety. Here we go…

DE Sam Montgomery (LSU)
Mingo is the LSU defender generating the most buzz, but I’m more interested in Montgomery’s prospects. He measures in at 6-4, 245 pounds, and that has some questioning whether or not he can go against NFL offensive linemen on a regular basis. But that’s why I’m looking forward to seeing him at the Combine. I want to see his frame and gauge whether or not and to what extent he can grow into his frame by adding bulk and strength while not compromising his explosiveness. Just from watching him play at LSU, I see him as being capable of playing both defensive end positions for the Vikings but perhaps being a better fit as a base (left) DE if he can indeed add some bulk. Even more, though, Montgomery strikes me as the kind of defensive lineman the Vikings may be able to use in nickel/obvious passing situations by sliding him inside to rush the passer. This is a tactic the NY Giants have used with so much success the past 5 seasons, and it’s something the Vikings have done as well with Brian Robison early in his career and more recently with Everson Griffen.

S Eric Reid (LSU)
It might feel like you’re on the LSU Tigers website rather than the Vikings with all of their players we’re mentioning in this blog entry, but the mentions are well deserved for these guys. Reid is an aggressive, downhill-playing safety who plays with attitude and instincts. He measures in at 6-2, 208 pounds, which is solid-not-great size for the position. If you’ve watched him play, you’ve seen that he plays with a nasty streak – fast and vicious. But I don’t want to see that from him at the Combine. I want to see how he moves in space. I know he’s a great defender when he’s playing downhill, battling in the trash and blasting a pass receiver. So I want to see him high-point the football in a position-specific drill. I want to see him break on a pass during a drill. I want to see his 3-cone and 40-yard dash time. I want to see if he looks fluid and not awkward in space. As a safety in the NFL and in the Vikings defense, you’re going to be in space.

LB Manti Te’o (Notre Dame)
As of right now, Te’o is the talk of the Combine. We’re going to continue to hear about his off-field issue and we’re going to constantly hear about how he’s going to enter an uncomfortable interview process here in Indianapolis. Obviously that’s a big deal, but I’m moving past that now. I’m more interested in watching him participate in on-field drills. Can he run (well)? If he runs poorly, that in conjunction with the off-field concerns is going to adversely impact his draft stock. In fact, some teams may put more weight on the poor running performance (if it happens) than the off-field issues. Furthermore, poor running times in conjunction with the off-field issues could drop Te’o from a Top 10 kind of guy (where I believe he is now) to a Top 20 type of guy, which means that all of a sudden Te’o could become a Vikings-relevant prospect. Currently, I don’t view Te’o as a Vikings-relevant talker because he’s supposed to go well before #23 overall. But if he runs poorly, we might have something
to talk about when it comes to Te’o.


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Headlines From Sunday’s Combine Action

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 24, 2013 – 8:55 pm

Offensive linemen, special teams players and tight ends conducted their on-field workouts on Saturday. Defensive linemen and linebackers will do so on Monday. Defensive backs will work on Tuesday. But on Sunday it was the marquee group of players who hit the field, and a lot of buzz was generated inside Lucas Oil Stadium as a result.

Here are several headline developments from Sunday’s action…

Speed and more speed
There were a number of impressive times registered by running backs and receivers on Sunday. We can’t post official information here, so you’ll have to check out this page to see the specific numbers. But here’s the spoiler: Texas WR Marquise Goodwin registered the fastest time of the day, and of the Combine so far. West Virginia WR Tavon Austin, Auburn RB Onterio McCalebb and Texas A&M WR Ryan Swope were a few ticks behind.

For the QBs, Geno Smith was the fastest and no one else came within a half-second.

Others who helped themselves with impressive times included: Arkansas RB Knile Davis, Tennessee WR Justin Hunter, Michigan WR Denard Robinson, Oklahoma WR Kenny Stills and Oregon State WR Markus Wheaton.

A “Star” concern
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported on Sunday afternoon that Utah’s Star Lotulelei, who is ranked as the #2 DT by NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, will not take part in Combine drills after an echocardiogram detected a heart condition. NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling wrote that the news could instigate a draft-stock slide because of longevity and durability questions.

Follow the Manuel
Smith seems to be the favorite to be the first QB taken during the 2013 NFL Draft, and nothing that happened on Sunday changed that sentiment. But that’s not to say other QBs aren’t impressing as well. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah suggests that Florida State QB EJ Manuel may have done enough over the past few months to go from a 3rd-round prospect to a 2nd-round prospect.

“Honey Badger” speaks
LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu knows he can’t hide his past from the NFL. But he’s also anxious to show teams that he belongs in the NFL. Said Mathieu: “My best friend right now is honesty.”

Deep in the trenches
Mayock made an appearance in the media center late Sunday afternoon, and one observation he made while doing so was that 4 offensive linemen and 2 defensive linemen may wind up in his Top 10 prospects.

Looking up for Te’o?
We mentioned on Saturday that Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o handled his media obligations outstandingly well. Now his task is to be even better when he meets with NFL teams at the Combine. According to Tania Ganguli and John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, Te’o is well on his way. Houston Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak said that Te’o handled himself well enough in their interview to leave the coach impressed.


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Mayock: Tavon Austin A “Game-Changer”

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 24, 2013 – 11:59 am

In the early stages of the 2013 Scouting Combine we analyzed whether or not Tennessee WR Coreddelle Patterson would be a good fit with the Vikings because NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks identified the Vikings as one of five potential landing spots for the electric playmaker. Many Vikings fans would welcome Patterson to the Purple with open arms in hopes that he would jump start a passing offense looking to improve in 2013.

But many other Vikings fans feel the same way about another receiver who is generating a buzz on Sunday in Indianapolis – West Virginia’s Tavon Austin. The WRs are going through their on-field workouts on Sunday, and Austin’s performance in the 40-yard dash was impressive. We can’t post official numbers in this space, but you can check them out for yourself here.

Impressive performances are the norm for Austin, though. As a senior in 2012, Austin had double-digit receptions in 8 of 13 games and he had 100+ receiving yards in a game 6 times. Also, there were only 2 games in which Austin didn’t find the end zone. For the season, Austin had 114 receptions for 1,289 yards and 12 TDs to go along with an 8.9-yards per carry average and 3 TDs on 72 carries. In 4 seasons, Austin scored 35 offensive TDs and was also a talented returner.

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock had high praise for Austin during Sunday’s coverage of the Combine.

“You want to talk about one of the most electric players I’ve ever seen in college football,” Mayock said, “he put a performance on against the University of Oklahoma that was one of the most amazing I’ve ever seen. Over 500 yards of offense — he played mostly tailback.”

In that game, Austin 21 times for 344 yards and 2 TDs. The performances underscored the notion that Austin’s skill set is unique and is the type of characteristic that could help him make a difference for an NFL team.

“In the NFL, it’s all about matchups, and this young man is a matchup nightmare,” Mayock said. “What I love about (Austin), he’s got good hands. We already know he can run, we know how quick he is. I know he’s tough. And he’s a game-changer.”


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Sunday’s Combine Schedule: QBs, RBs And WRs On The Field

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 24, 2013 – 7:50 am

Sunday is not a day of rest at the 2013 Scouting Combine. Quite the opposite, in fact. The on-field drill portion of the Combine kicks into full gear and the final groups (Groups 10 and 11 – DBs) get started on their first full day of the Combine schedule.

Here is a quick breakdown of Sunday’s schedule…

QBs, RBs and WRs: On-Field Workouts (timing, stations, skill drills), Departure from Indianapolis

DL and LBs: Meetings, Psychological Testing, Bench Press, Team Interviews

DBs: Measurements, Medical Examinations, Media Obligations, Team Interviews


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