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23 Quick Observations From The 2012 NFL Scouting Combine

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 29, 2012 – 6:32 am

1. Andrew Luck solidified his standing at the #1 prospect in this draft. Robert Griffin III did the same at the #2 position. I’d argue that in any other year dating back to 1998 (Peyton Manning), RG3 would be #1 player in the draft class, with the possible exception being 2001 (Michael Vick).

2. The St. Louis Rams, who hold the #2 overall pick right now, WILL trade out of that spot, and I think Cleveland is in the best position (#4 overall) to move up and get him.

3. Matt Kalil is the best LT prospect in this class, just ask him. But I do agree, and the Vikings and Vikings fans should be pleased to get him.

4. Might want to scratch WR Pierre Garcon off your free-agent wish list. A prominent ESPN personality predicted to me that he’ll stay in Indy. Also, Peter King of Sports Illustrated suggests Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne might be a package deal in free agency.

5. Expect a large number of teams to utilize the franchise tag to retain their most-valued free agents. This will shrink what appears to be a thick market at several positions.

6. WR Vincent Jackson is not a likely candidate to be tagged, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Vikings take a run at him, although the Vikings certainly won’t be the only team interested. Outside of Jackson, though, I don’t think the Vikings will be major players at the top end of the free agent market.

7. It was interesting to hear insiders talk about the significance of schools hosting their Pro Days before the NFL begins its free agency period (March 13). This means that at the start of free agency, most NFL GMs will be on the road scouting draft prospects.

8. Expect a fairly liberal roster turnover for the Vikings this offseason.

9. Interesting to hear Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier explain the team must prepare as if CB Chris Cook will not be on the team in 2012. That’s not Frazier making any prediction, it’s just him simply explaining that the team must prepare for the worst-case scenario. I’d add that regardless of Cook’s status, CB is still a need for the Vikings.

10. Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd was a winner at the Combine because he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds. That’s quicker than some anticipated, and I think it assures he’ll go in the 1st round rather than the early part of the 2nd round.

11. Other WRs who jumped up during the Combine were Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill (4.36 in 40-yard dash), Wake Forest’s Chris Givens (think: Jeremy Maclin) and Appalachian State’s Brian Quick (played for Vikings staff at Senior Bowl).

12. The “best player available” (BPA) strategy will be in play for the Vikings this year, especially as it pertains to the team’s 2nd-round pick (currently #35 overall). Even if the BPA is a DE, RB or TE, I wouldn’t put it past GM Rick Spielman and his personnel staff to simply select the best football player on the board, regardless of position, when they’re on the clock. That’s a good way to infuse a talent-depleted roster with some talent.

13. An underrated aspect of this year’s draft class is the depth and top-end talent at DT. “I’ve got anywhere from five to seven potential first-round defensive tackles, which is atypical,” NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said of the DT class during this week’s Wobcast. “Usually in a year you might have three first-round grades. So twice as many potential first-round picks. There is depth throughout the entire defensive tackle class, regardless of position.” Memphis’ Dontari Poe stole the show at the Combine, but he’s not the only talented, potential run-stopping DT out there. I also like Michael Brockers, Fletcher Cox, Kendall Reyes, Devon Still and Jerel Worthy.

14. Speaking of NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, he’s THE best in the business at analyzing these college players and communicating his opinions under the bright lights with the cameras rolling. Truly a treat to work with him.

15. Not one national reporter/personality I spoke with at the Combine was negative on Christian Ponder. Most anticipate the Vikings adding talent around him to put him in position to succeed.

16. CB Janoris Jenkins is an interesting prospect. He’s a kid with clear 1st-round talent, but off-field issues might cause some teams to pause. “I’ve made a few mistakes and I’ve learned from them,” he was quoted as saying by Peter King. As King later noted, the question is, who will take a shot on a very good talent at a vital position, who is such a risk? Maybe the Vikings if he falls as far as #35, or even falls far enough for the Vikings to consider trading up to get him?

17. Indianapolis is a tremendous host city for big events such as the Combine. It’s in the Midwest, the residents are generally courteous, happy people, there’s a brand-new airport close to downtown, there are plenty of hotels and great restaurants, an elaborate skyway system links most of downtown, and Lucas Oil Stadium is a first-class facility.

18. A few small-school CBs to watch in this year’s draft class: Dwight Bentley (UL-Lafayette), Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson (Montana) and Ryan Steed (Furman).

19. I prefer Caribou Coffee to Starbucks. Our hotel had a Starbucks on the 2nd level, which I frequented each day and was satisfied with, but I prefer Caribou.

20. I wonder if hailing from such a great program (University of Alabama) has inflated the draft stock of LBs Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw. I just wasn’t impressed with their on-field workouts, but I’ll also acknowledge game tape means much more than the Combine, plus they still have their Pro Day.

21. This was my 5th visit to the NFL Scouting Combine, but just the first time I tried a pizza parlor called Bazbeaux. Awesome thin crust pizza with a generous portion of toppings, a great atmosphere, a cool bar area and quick seating despite the place being packed to the brim on a busy Saturday night.

22. I thoroughly enjoyed my two days of co-hosting radio Voice of the Vikings Paul Allen’s weekday 9-noon radio show on KFAN.

23. A couple of sleeper picks for the Vikings in the 2nd round: S Harrison Smith (Notre Dame) and DL Nick Perry (USC).


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Another Reason The Combine Is A Fan-Favorite Event

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 28, 2012 – 4:26 pm

We all know the TV viewing audience for the NFL Scouting Combine has grown steadily over the years. But now the NFL has found another way to increase exposure of its annual pre-draft event. Fans were allowed into Lucas Oil Stadium this year to watch a part of the Combine live and in person.

And as an article on NFL.com pointed out, the League believes the experiment was successful.

Over 200 fans watched the Combine on Sunday from the upper levels of Lucas Oil Stadium, and they earned the opportunity to do so by submitting essays making their case to be among the 250 people allowed entry into the exclusive NFL prospect showcase.

“Long conducted under what seemed like a veil of secrecy, the combine has opened up — slowly — in recent years,” the NFL.com piece explaines. “First came the NFL Network cameras, then access to some of the data, then all of it. And now, as the NFL has successfully done with its other events, it’s beginning to open the doors for fans.”

Ray Anderson, the NFL’s vice president of football operations, considered Sunday’s fan experiment a big success.

“The folks followed the instructions, they were respectful,” Anderson said. “They understood this was a work environment and that these young men were going through the interviews of their lives, so we asked them to adhere to a library etiquette and to help us out so we can take this back and really vet it and see if it’s something we should do on a larger and more permanent basis. And you know what, they’ve given us a good case to make.”


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Highlights From DL, LB Combine Workouts

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 28, 2012 – 8:05 am

I spend most of Monday traveling from Indianapolis back to Minneapolis, but the show went on without vikings.com at the Combine. Defensive linemen and linebackers took to the field on Monday for their on-field workouts, and here are a few of the highlights from the action…

– Mychal Kendricks registered the fastest 40-yard dash time of all LBs, as the University of California LB sprinted the distance in 4.47 seconds. Kendricks had a great day of workouts because he was also #1 in the broad jump (10 feet, 7 inches) and vertical leap (39.5 inches). University of North Carolina LB Zack Brown had the second-fastest 40 time at 4.50 seconds and Boston College’s Luke Kuechly was third-fastest at 4.58 seconds. Arkansas State LB DeMario Davis was second-best in both the broad jump (10-4) and vertical leap (38.5), and Kuechly was third in the vertical leap (38 inches).

– While the LBs dominated the 40-yard dash drill, it was the defensive linemen who had the greatest impact in the bench press. Memphis DT Dontari Poe stole the show, pushing up the 225-pound bench press an amazing 44 times, which was 8 more than the second-best effort. BYU DL Loni Fangupo, Michigan DL Mike Martin and UCONN DL Kendall Reyes all gutted out 36 reps in a tie for second place along with the top LB – Oklahoma’s Ronnell Lewis.

– While Kendricks had the best day of any LB, it was USC’s Nick Perry who I think had the best day of any DL. Perry looked competent and smooth in the position-specific drills on the field, and then was outstanding in the tests. He had 35 reps on the bench press (6th best among DL), ran the 40 in 4.64 seconds (3rd),  registered a vertical leap of 38.5 inches (1st) and was also 1st in the broad jump.

– Let’s go back to Poe. He measured in at 6-4, 336 pounds and, as explained above, he has incredible strength to go with that size. He also performed well in the position-specific drills and had better-than-you-expected performances in the broad jump, vertical leap and 40-yard dash. In fact, NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi probably put it best when he described Poe’s size as “enormous,” his speed as “outstanding” and his power as “rare.” All of this tells me Poe has great explosion, which combined with his size and strength makes him a great DT prospect. The Vikings are obviously looking for a difference-making DT, but don’t get too excited about Poe because he’s going to be gone in the 1st round and won’t be available for the Vikings when they pick early in the 2nd round (#35 overall).

– As I explained in the recap of Sunday’s action, I enjoy following NFL Network’s Charley Casserly both on TV and on twitter. Here are a few of his tweets as he reacted to Monday’s workouts: “DT very strong position, Some good OLB’s for 34 Def, DE not very strong”; “DT has gd depth-I liked:Brockers-LSU,Cox-Miss St,Crick-Neb,Forston-Mia,Kuhn-NCST,Martin-Mich,Reyes-Conn,Still-PAST”; “I liked in [workouts] Worthy-MSU, Wolfe-Cinn, Winn-Boise and player who helped himself the most was Poe-Memphis”; “DE’s disappointing as group-[workouts] I liked: Mercilus-ILL, Jones-Syr, Crawford-Boise, – Coples-NC was disappointing to me.”; “Liked these MLB WO’s-Kuechly-BC, Spence-MIA, Kendricks-CAL, Galippo-USC & these 43 OLB’s-Brown-UNC,Lavonte-NEB,Whitehead-Temple.”; “Two disappointing players-Burfict-ASU ran 4.93 & 5.10; Upshaw-ALA was very avg in drills-no burst or explosion.”

– The DBs take the field for workouts and drills on Tuesday, so I’ll be watching those and will report back to you all day and tomorrow. Also tomorrow, I’ll try to finish a Combine recap blog entry, so stay tuned for that. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for updates (@wobby) and also don’t forget to check out this week’s Wobcast, which features NFL Network draft expert and Vikings preseason TV analyst Mike Mayock.


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Sunday Was A Big Day At The Combine

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 27, 2012 – 7:44 am

The action on Sunday at the Combine was non-stop, with QBs, RB and WRs going through on-field workouts and with many of those players creating a buzz in the building with impressive physical displays. In fact, there were several players who either solidified their standing as elite players at their position or who raised eyebrows and drastically improved their draft stock.

Here’s a look at a few of those players and how they were able to impress on what turned out to be an action-packed day at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine…

Head of the class
We’ll start at the top of the draft, where QBs Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III solidified their standing as not only the Top 2 QBs, but also the two best prospects in the entire draft class. Luck, considered the top QB prospect, actually compared to last year’s top prospect, Cam Newton, in many of the on-field drills. Luck’s unofficial 4.59 in the 40-yard dash (officially Luck ran a 4.67) matched Cam Newton’s official best time from 2011, his 10-foot, 4-inch broad jump was just 2 inches off Newton’s 10-6, and his 36-inch vertical bested Newton’s 35-inch jump from last year. You can count on the Colts selecting Luck with the #1 overall pick.

As for RG3, he registered 4.41 in the 40-yard dash (he was unofficially time at 4.38), which was the fastest time for a QB at the Combine since 2006. I’ve also been told that RG3 has been super-impressive in the team interview environment. I will be completely shocked if he is not selected with the #2 overall pick in the draft, which ultimately means the St. Louis Rams are going to trade out of that spot and likely receive a King’s Ransom for doing so.

WRs shooting up draft boards?
There were several WRs who stood out on Sunday, but I want to highlight three of them here. First is Stephen Hill from Georgia Tech. He created a buzz in the building by running a blazing fast 4.36 in the 40-yard dash. That’s impressive enough for a WR, but also consider that Hill measured in at 6-4, 215 pounds. With that combination of speed and size, you might wonder why Hill doesn’t come with more hype. Perhaps one reason is that he played at Georgia Tech, a program that features an option offense. This means Hill doesn’t have a ton of experience catching the ball or playing in sophisticated passing schemes. Of course Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas came from the same program, and clearly they haven’t struggled with adjusting to NFL offenses. So all-in-all, Sunday was a great day for Hill, and I believe he made himself a lot of money because I’m thinking he will be a rare case of a player who jumps up several rounds on many teams’ draft boards based on a performance at the Combine. According to NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks, Hill also “showed strong hands catching the ball in individual drills and looked like a natural pass catcher in the route running portion of the workout.”

The second receiver I want to highlight is Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd, who ran a 4.47 in the 40-yard dash. That’s a good time for Floyd and it should assuage many teams’ concerns about his speed. Floyd has prototypical size (6-3, 220 pounds), physicality and ball skills, and his 40 time at the Combine will give his supporters an even stronger argument. I still think he looks a touch stiff and I wonder if he’s quick enough coming out of his breaks. That will be for scouts and coaches to decide, not me. My gut still has a 2nd-round value on him, but I’m guessing a solid performance at his pro day will result in some team grabbing him in the late stages of the 1st round.

The last receiver I’ll mention here is Chris Givens from Wake Forest. He ran a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash, and he’s a guy NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock mentioned to me on Sunday afternoon. Mayock and I got into a discussion about mid-round WR prospects, and Givens is a guy Mayock seemed to favor. He talks more about Givens in this week’s Wobcast, so be sure to check that out on Tuesday when we post it to the site. Givens has elite speed and was a great deep threat at Wake Forest. His profile page on NFL.com compares him to Jeremy Maclin, saying “He has adequate size and is a blazing straight-line runner who looks similar to Philadelphia’s Jeremy Maclin with his movements in-route. He relies heavily on his speed in all he does and is the type of receiver capable of taking a speed-out and cutting up field to daylight.”

3 tweets from a former GM
Charlie Casserly is one of my favorite NFL analysts in the business. He was an NFL GM for 16 years and worked in NFL front offices for over 20 years, serving with Washington Redskins from 1977-99 and then with the Houston Texans from 2002-06. Anyway, I pay attention to what he says, and on Sunday afternoon he had a series of tweets (@charleycasserly) where he listed players who helped themselves during on-field workouts at the Combine. Here they are, with a few edits for clarity…

RB’s who helped themselves today: Miller (Miami), Pierce (Temple), Gray (Texas A&M). All of them ran faster than projected.

– Some WR’s whose speed helped them: Jenkins (Illinois), Posey (Ohio State), Hill (Georgia Tech), Givens (Wake Forest), Hemmingway (Michigan), Coale (VPI), Owusu (Stanford).

– WRs I liked in drills: Posey (Ohio State), Quick (Appalachian State), Blackmon (Oklahoma State), Coale (VPI), Adams (Arkansas), Givens (Wake Forest), Hemingway (Michigan), Owusu (Stanford), Page (Toledo), Jenkins (Illinois).


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4 Quick Takeaways From Thursday’s Combine Action

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 24, 2012 – 5:38 am

As I explained in the previous entry, Thursday was jam-packed with action and information gathering. Here are 4 quick takeaways that summarize what I learned after many interesting conversations – on air and off- with people in and around the NFL at the Combine.

1. The Pioneer Press’ Jeremy Fowler and La Canfora of NFL Network painted a picture of huge roster turnover for the Vikings, which means many of the team’s 16 unrestricted free agents might not be automatics to return.

2. One Viking who is not a UFA but whom some have speculated may not be asked back to the team is G Steve Hutchinson. But I must say that after talking to a couple of people, including one individual who will be a guest on tomorrow’s show, there’s no question that having Hutchinson on board for 2012 will be vital if the team uses an early 1st-round draft choice on LT Matt Kalil.

3. Regardless of how much room the Vikings have under the salary cap, don’t be surprised if there isn’t a big, blue-chip free agent signing at WR. Yes, the WR class appears deep in free agency this year, but La Canfora suggested that teams will use the franchise tag to retain their top free agents. He specifically mentioned Dwayne Bowe, DeSean Jackson, Vincent Jackson and Wes Welker as guys who could be retained via the franchise tag. That takes away a big part of the depth of that WR free agent class. There are still guys there to be had, including Marques Colston, Pierre Garcon, Steve Johnson and Robert Meachem, but the moral of the story is that there might not be as big of a bonanza on free agent WRs as many of us originally thought.

4. Everyone, and I mean everyone, we spoke with on and off the record seemed convinced that Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will go 1-2 in the draft. At first that might disappoint Vikings fans because it drastically reduces – I say it actually all but eliminates – the team’s chances of trading back a few spots in the 1st round to acquire additional picks. But after more consideration, I’m hoping it goes Luck-Griffin III in some order, because that sets up the Vikings to grab LT Matt Kalil at #3. Kalil passes the eye test no question, and I love the thought of taking a LT with the design of him being a franchise cornerstone and Christian Ponder protector for the next 10-15 years.


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Meeting Matt Kalil: PA Summarizes First Day At Combine

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 23, 2012 – 9:34 pm

Day 1 of the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine couldn’t have gone much better for vikings.com and KFAN. Keep in mind, there is no on-field activity until Saturday. But that’s actually the biggest reason why Thursday was so bountiful in interesting conversation and information gathering.

I joined Voice of the Vikings Radio Network Paul Allen as a co-host of his 9-noon radio show on KFAN and we had rock star/Combine relevant guests all morning. From ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and former Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress right off the bat, to NFL Network reporter Jason La Canfora, Detroit Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz and Vikings VP Rick Spielman later in the show, Thursday’s action was non-stop. We even found some extra time to tape interviews for tomorrow’s show, so be sure to check it out because we had a solid conversation with former Vikings QB and NFL MVP Rich Gannon.

Also tomorrow, we should have NFL Network and Vikings preseason TV analyst Mike Mayock, Dallas Morning News Columnist Rick “Goose” Gosselin, NFL Network and CBS analyst Charley Casserly and Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier as guest, plus several more that will materialize as the show goes on.

For a cool recap of what kinds of things transpire at the Combine, check out PA’s summary of Day 1 on his show page by clicking here.

If you didn’t listen to the show and/or you didn’t follow our coverage on vikings.com during Thursday, I suggest you do so on Friday. There is so much information flowing, and there is so much energy. The 3-13 season is behind us, a new season has begun, and there is so much to discuss. I can’t wait for Friday and the rest of the Combine.


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Plenty Of Action In Store On Day 1 Of Scouting Combine

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 23, 2012 – 5:55 am

Early this morning I’ll make the trek from my hotel room to Lucas Oil Stadium to get vikings.com’s coverage rolling on Day 1 of the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine. We have a lot on the docket for today, let’s break it down.

– Voice of the Vikings Radio Network Paul Allen will host his 9-noon (CT) radio show on KFAN from Lucas Oil Stadium today and tomorrow, and he’s asked me to join him as a co-host for two days. We’ll be talking Vikings and NFL for all three hours on both days, and during that time we’ll have plenty of interesting NFL guests. Already scheduled to join us are: Vikings GM Rick Spielman, Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier, Sports Illustrated writers Peter King and Don Banks, NFL Network and CBS analyst Charley Casserly, and NFL Network and Vikings preseason TV analyst Mike Mayock.

– Outside of joining PA on his radio show, I’ll also be providing coverage of the Combine for vikings.com by teaming with vikings.com Videographer Jordan Struck  to ask players, Frazier, Spielman and other NFL personalities to join us for video interviews. We’ll set up near the media center early each morning along with the other teams who send their websites to cover the Combine. The media center is located in the East Club of Lucas Oil Stadium and the room is complete with tables for media members to set up the computers and equipment, podiums for NFL coaches and executives to use during press conferences and then round tables for reporters and players to use for interviews.

– The Combine is a week-long event and it’s invitation-only for the players. So about 330 of the top college prospects will shuffle though Indianapolis this week.

– Not all the players are here at the same time. The players are broken up into position groups, and then those position groups go through the various stages of the Combine on a staggered schedule. For example, the first groups to arrive here were the OL, kickers, punters, long snappers and TEs. They arrived yesterday, went through an orientation process and then today they’ll go through measurements, medical examinations, psychological examinations, interviews with teams and a media session. The second group to arrive will be the QBs, RBs and WRs. They’ll go through the orientation process today, then tomorrow they’ll do what the first group is doing today. The next group is DL and LBs, and the last group is DBs.

– Later this morning, Spielman will have a press conference at one of the podiums in the media center. We’ll record that and have it posted on vikings.com for you to view as soon as possible. Then Spielman will, hop on Sirius NFL Radio, join PA and me on KFAN and then meet with Twin Cities beat writers.

That’s it for now. I’ll have much more for you later, so be sure to check back in with us frequently.


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Catch Our Coverage Of The 2012 NFL Scouting Combine

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 21, 2012 – 4:01 pm

For the 5th consecutive year, vikings.com will have a presence at the annual NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and we encourage you to check out all the different ways we’ll be bringing you the action. I’ll be handling the writing portion of our coverage as usual, but we’ll also have a camera at the event, so be sure to check out all the cool video coverage provided by vikings.com Videographer Jordan Struck.

The 2012 NFL Scouting Combine will be held from February 22 to February 28, and vikings.com will be in Indianapolis from Wednesday through Monday. But our coverage of the Combine will continue throughout the duration of the event.

Beginning on Wednesday, I’ll provide written content from Indianapolis and then Jordan and I will combine for video coverage that will include: Rick Spielman’s press conference on Thursday, Leslie Frazier’s press conference on Friday and on-camera interviews with both Frazier and Spielman as well as interviews of college players, Vikings, national media members and potentially other NFL personalities that are typically found roaming near and around the event.

In addition to all of that, voice of the Vikings Radio Network Paul Allen will be broadcasting his radio show from the Combine on Thursday and Friday, and he’s asked me to join as a 2-day co-host. So be sure to tune in to his show from 9-noon to hear us talk free agency, draft, Combine and much more.

All of that is a lot to remember, but don’t worry because you can always visit our convenient NFL Draft Hub Page to stay up-to-date on the latest coverage. The hub page is your one-stop shop for the latest interviews, videos, blog entries and stories from the Combine in Indianapolis all the way through the 2012 NFL Draft.

We’re looking forward to another exciting NFL Scouting Combine and our best coverage of the event ever. Be sure to catch it all right here on vikings.com and the vikings.com Blog.


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Off To Indianapolis To Kickoff Combine Coverage

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 21, 2012 – 5:02 am

It’s an early morning for vikings.com, but we’re set to head to the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport to board a quick flight to Indianapolis for the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine. Our coverage live from Indianapolis begins on Wednesday and will go through the conclusion of the event.

I am slated to arrive in Indianapolis around 10:30 a.m. ET. Assuming all goes according to plan, I’ll be settled into the hotel room and will then begin to provide updates via the blog on a regular basis. Aside from the blog, though, I’ll also provide updates on Twitter, where you I’ll be tweeting from my account (@wobby) as well as the Vikings official Twitter account (@VikingsFootball).

So for now, I’m off to the airport. But in the meantime, you can refresh your memory on what the athletes will be doing on the field at the Combine in front of NFL coaches, executives and scouts by clicking here to watch NFL Network draft analyst – and Vikings preseason TV analyst – Mike Mayock demonstrate the drills.

That’s it for now. Next time we check in it’ll be live from Indianapolis at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine.


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