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What We Learned On Saturday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 23, 2013 – 5:35 pm

No Vikings officials spoke on Saturday at the 2013 Scouting Combine, but there was still plenty of action to observe. Offensive linemen and tight ends went through their on-field work and most of the defensive linemen and linebackers (and also a few receivers) made an appearance in the media center.

Here’s a few of the storylines that emerged on Saturday…

Te’o talks
The most anticipated press conference of this year’s Combine was that of Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o. He made his appearance on Saturday, and in my six years of coming to this event I’ve never seen more people at a player’s press conference. Te’o handled the spot remarkably well, answering all questions with grace and even finishing his session with a statement of gratitude to all of those who’ve supported him. Impressive display by Te’o.

Ultimately, here’s what I took away from his 14+ minutes of podium time: He’s ready to move past the hoax incident but is also prepared to answer any and all questions about it; the hoax is not an excuse for the way he and his teammates played against Alabama in the national title game; he met with Green Bay and Houston earlier, and has 18 more meetings scheduled before he leaves (typical schedule for a Combine participant); he has not been told the hoax will adversely impact his draft stock.

Some fast big guys
Two offensive linemen – Terron Armstead (Arkansas-Pine Bluff) and Lane Johnson (Oklahoma) broke the previous record for their position in the 40-yard dash. Does it matter how fast an offensive lineman can run 40 yards in a straight line? It might not seem like it, but it is an indication of A) what kind of athleticism a guy has and B) how well he can apply himself to a task (training for the 40-yard dash).

Top TE emerges
Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert had a strong performance on Saturday at the Combine and now may be on his way to solidifying his status as this class’ top TE.

“I think with the tight ends, the day has belonged to Tyler Eifert,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said.

Good position
We caught up with Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com and he answered some of our questions. Good news – this is a great year to pick 23rd.

Getting tougher
Life is getting tougher in the NFC North, according to ESPN.com NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert.


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Notre Dame’s Eifert The Draft’s Top Tight End?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 23, 2013 – 4:34 pm

Make no mistake, a NFL prospect’s resume is his game tape. Past on-field performance, medical history and character background reign supreme when trying to evaluate players. But what happens here at the Combine is important, too, otherwise this event wouldn’t be such a big deal.

With that said, Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert had a strong performance on Saturday at the Combine and now may be on his way to solidifying his status as this class’ top TE.

“I think with the tight ends, the day has belonged to Tyler Eifert,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said.

We are prohibited from posting results of Combine testing, so to see specific numbers you’ll have to click here. But Eifert, who measured in at 6-5½, 250 pounds and won the Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end last season, ran well in the 40-yard dash, posting the 2nd-best time among his position group, and he also ranked 2nd in the high jump, broad jump and 60-yard shuttle. Eifert was 1st in the 3-cone drill and 3rd in the bench press.

It should also be noted that Stanford’s Zach Ertz also had a solid day on Saturday. Last year it was another Stanford TE – Coby Fleener – who was the first TE off the board. Can Ertz match his former teammate and be the first off the board, too? Eifert may make that a tall task.

“If you’re talking about a potential first-round draft pick amongst Eifert, Ertz and (San Diego State’s Gavin) Escobar, I think (Eifert) had the best day from a measurable perspective.”


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Vikings Honored At Fritz Pollard Alliance Awards Reception

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 23, 2013 – 4:23 pm

The Fritz Pollard Alliance held its 10th Annual Membership Meeting/Awards Reception on Friday at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown, and two members of the Vikings organization were among those recognized.

Vikings Owner/Chairman Zygi Wilf accepted on behalf of the entire Wilf ownership group the Paul “Tank” Younger Award, while Assistant Director of College Scouting Jamaal Stephenson was named the NFC Scout of the Year. Other individuals honored at the event, which was attended by an impressive roster of NFL luminaries, included: Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano; Texans National Scout Ed Lambert; Bengals RB Coach Jim Anderson; and Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome.

This is the second time this offseason that members of the Vikings have been honored by the Fritz Pollard Alliance. Frazier and Vice President of Legal Affairs & Chief Administration Officer Kevin Warren were recipients of Fritz Pollard Alliance “Salute To Excellence” awards during Super Bowl week in New Orleans. The Salute to Excellence award recognizes the outstanding performance of minority NFL Head Coaches and Executives, collegiate coaches, and high school seniors during the current season. This recognition is particularly extraordinary as it highlights the tremendous efforts and sacrifices made by current and previous honorees that will lead to even greater opportunities for minorities seeking advancement opportunities.

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About the Fritz Pollard Alliance
The FPA was organized for the purposes of promoting diversity and equality of job opportunity in the coaching, front office and scouting staffs of National Football League teams, by means including:
– Providing networking, mentoring and career development opportunities for minority candidates on NFL team staffs.
– Encouraging adoption of rules and practices by the NFL that foster diversity on team staffs.
– Educating NFL team owners and managers regarding the availability of minority candidates for team staff positions.
– Advocating the hiring and promotion of minority candidates in NFL team staff hierarchy through public education and communication with team and league ownership and management.


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WR Patterson A Good Fit For Vikings?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 22, 2013 – 2:04 pm

The headline to this blog entry will open a lot of Vikings fans’ eyes. Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson is currently viewed by many as the top WR prospectin the 2013 NFL Draft. Whether he truly is the top prospect or whether he actually is the first WR taken is a debate for another day.

For the time being, check out the 5 teams NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks identifies as potential landing spots for the super-athletic Patterson. Hint: the Vikings are one of them. But if you’re a huge Patterson-to-the-Vikings hopeful, you’re not going to like where the Vikings rank among the 5 teams. Because they hold the 23rd overall pick in the 1st round, the Vikings are last on this list. The top team (Miami) picks 12th overall and another team (St. Louis) has two 1st-round picks (#16 and #22) before the Vikings have their 1st-round choice.

If you want some alternatives at WR should the Vikings go that way in the 1st round, check out what NFL Network’s Mike Mayock had to say while appearing on Voice of the Vikings Radio Network Paul Allen’s 9-noon radio show on KFAN. Also, check out our Senior Bowl coverage from a couple weeks ago, as we identified a talented crop of WRs down in Mobile.


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Out Of Character: Offensive Linemen Generating Buzz At Combine

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 22, 2013 – 11:38 am

Offensive linemen do the dirty work – they battle in the trenches and pave the way for flashy playmakers to score touchdowns and make the highlight reel. But this year’s crop of offensive linemen at the Combine are having an out-of-character experience, at least for the moment. Granted they have been here the longest and are the furthest along in the Combine schedule, but even compared to last year this crop of offensive linemen are generating plenty of interest.

What does that mean for the Vikings? One could argue that it doesn’t mean much right now because the Vikings aren’t though to be a team looking to tab an offensive linemen with their 1st round pick (#23 overall). Keep in mind, though, that GM Rick Spielman is a stickler when it comes to finding value and disregarding positions of need. Look no further than 2011, when he scooped up TE Kyle Rudolph in the 2nd round at a time when Jim Kleinsasser and Visanthe Shiancoe already had spots locked down on the roster for the next season. Spielman couldn’t pass by an opportunity to take the best player at his position with a 2nd-round pick.

I’m not suggesting offensive line is where the Vikings will go at #23 or at any other point in the draft. Nor am I suggesting offensive line is a position of need for the Vikings – hopefully we’ll have all 5 of our starters back from 2012. But you can never have too many good players in a position group that calls for 5 starters.

Here are a few notes from the Combine regarding offensive linemen…

– NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock has given high praise to Alabama OG Chance Warmack, even suggesting he might be the best prospect in the entire draft. Now, you aren’t going to see many teams willing to draft an interior linemen with the top pick. But the top prospect is the top prospect. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com noted that Warmack measured in at 6-2, 317 pounds, and that of the 9 interior linemen drafted in the 1st round over the last 5 drafts, Warmack would be the smallest. Jeremiah also noted, though, that Warmack’s arms were measured at 34¾ inches and that many scouts’ concerns were alleviated after that. I’m not sure how true that is, but it’s interesting to get a glimpse into all the different aspects of a players ability are measured.

– Another former Alabama offensive lineman was also the subject of some buzz over the past couple of days. OT DJ Fluker weighed in at 339 pounds, which is actually lighter than many expected. Fluker was at the Senior Bowl a couple of weeks ago, and if the feedback he got from teams was that he needed to reduce his weight, than Fluker will get a lot of credit from teams at the Combine because he did just that.

– Azusa Pacific OT Luke Marquardt measured in at 6-foot-8½ and 315 pounds. Wow, that’s huge. Furthermore, he has 34½ arms. He may have played at a small school and he may be raw, but those measurables will have some scouts and coaches excited to get their hands on him. Others will feel the opposite and will dock him for not fitting the ideal position specifics. We won’t know who is right until a year or more down the line.

– Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson was a QB, TE and DE in college before moving to OT. He’s been timed in the 4.7s in the 40-yard dash at times. It will be interesting to see how he times in the 40-yard dash and other drills here at the Combine. He’s an intriguing prospect.

– Here’s what Jeremiah wrote about another dynamic OL prospect – Florida State OT Menelik Watson: “Watson is another player with a unique sporting background. He grew up as a basketball player in England before attending Marist College in New York to play hoops. He has also has a boxing background and actually spent time working out with Oscar De La Hoya’s trainer. He is a raw football player but a freaky athlete. He should break 5.0 in the 40 at 6-6 and more than 300 pounds.”

– Oh, and by the way, many are projecting that the first overall pick in the draft will be an offensive linemen – Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel. My submission that OL are generating buzz at the Combine is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that a mention of Joeckel doesn’t come until the last line of the blog entry.


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Friday’s Combine Schedule

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 22, 2013 – 8:03 am

Here’s a quick rundown of a few things to watch for today at the Combine…

Players – Offensive linemen, place kickers, special teams players and tight ends enter Day 3 of the Combine schedule, which includes: an NFLPA Meeting; Psychological Testing, PK/ST on-field workout; Bench Press; Interviews. Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers are in Day 2 of the Combine schedule and will have Measurememnts, Medical Examinations, Media Obligations and Team Interviews. The arrivals today are DL and LBs. They’ll go through Registration, Hospital Pre-Exam and X-rays, Orientation, and Interviews.

Vikings Personnel – Head Coach Leslie Frazier will head to the media center this moring, just as Rick Spielman did on Thursday. He’ll swing by the KFAN broadcast booth to chat with Voice of the Vikings Radio Network Paul Allen during his radio show. PA will be joined by Charch again today as they do their final show from radio row inside Lucas Oil Stadium. – Frazier will also have his press conference here at the Combine and will appear at the podium – we’ll pass the time along via Twitter when we know for sure he’ll be at the podium.

I will also join PA and Charch on-air today.

Combine Coverage – Once again, you won’t see wall-to-wall daily Combine coverage on NFL Network or ESPN until Saturday most likely, but you will see that type of coverage right here on vikings.com. So be sure to check back with us regularly to catch interviews of players, our coaches and personnel executives, yours truly, PA and Charch, and several other well-known national NFL media members. – Be sure to follow us on Twitter for even more updates. You can follow the Vikings (@Vikings) and me (@wobby) for those updates.


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Highlights From Spielman’s Media Availability

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 22, 2013 – 7:02 am

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman spent some time in the media center on Thursday at the 2013 Scouting Combine, and in so doing was asked to address a variety of topics. We have his press conference available in on-demand format and we’ve also posted our one-on-one interview with Spielman. In addition, Spielman spent some time with Voice of the Vikings Radio Network Paul Allen during his radio show, which he’s hosting along with Paul Charchian from here in Indianapolis.

But I thought I’d share a few of his quotes that stood out to me during his time in the media center…

Draft is deep, maybe not splashy
The overwhelming majority of people I’ve spoken with here at the Combine are characterizing this year’s draft class as being deep with talent. At the same time, people are acknowledging that there aren’t the splashy types of playmakers in this draft, either. There are no obvious top picks like an Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III from last year. It’s not obvious who the top receiver is, like it was with Justin Blackmon last year.

“From a personnel standpoint and a football standpoint, to me it’s a very deep draft,” Spielman said. “There are a lot of guys who don’t get the recognition, but can make a huge impact on your roster. They’re just not a splash positions.”

This is good news for the Vikings, and bad news for teams who happen to have higher picks.

“I think we’re going to get an excellent football player at 23, if we’re there,” Spielman said. “I think through the first four rounds, to have that extra fourth-round pick this year, will be valuable as well. I think the depth of this draft class…you’re going to get some pretty significant players that can help you win ballgames.”

The other part of the Combine
We’re all here in Indianapolis for the Scouting Combine as all 32 teams continue their evaluations of this year’s draft class. But much more than draft evaluation happens here in Indianapolis during the Combine. This is the time and place where teams and agents get together to discuss the futures of their players.

It all combines for an exciting time, and a period of the year that Spielman enjoys.

“We’ll start meeting with some of our own UFA (unrestricted free agent) agents, and then that process  will continue over the next three or four days,” Spielman said. “I’m anxious to get started on the (Combine) workouts, and we start our formal interviews tonight (Thursday), so it’s an exciting time.”

Spielman said not to expect any big news for the Vikings at this point because he anticipates many players set to be free agents to test their potential market before deciding to sign.

“I don’t know if anything will specifically get done immediately just because a lot of times those deals don’t get done until the eleventh hour,” Spielman explained. “I’m anticipating some of the guys waiting until they can actually start negotiating with other teams in that three-day window (March 9) to get a true gauge of what their value is or what they see as the potential market for that player. So it’ll be a lot of dancing and getting to know each other from that standpoint, and we’ll see how it progresses.”

Are you a DE or an OLB?
One of the trickiest player evaluations to make centers around defenders who fit a hybrid DE/OLB mold. A current NFL player who fit this profile is Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware. He may look more like a DE, but in Dallas’ old 3-4 scheme (they’ve switched to a 4-3 this offseason) he actually played standing up as an outside LB would.

“The biggest thing I think between the 3-4 and the 4-3 teams are those hybrid outside linebackers,” Spielman said. “Are they designated pass rushers? Are they big enough to hold up and play as a right or left defensive end in a 4-3 scheme? Can they potentially be strong-side linebackers for you? Can they play from a stacked position? There are players who are very good athletes who are coming out in this draft, and we’ll have a lot of discussions on those hybrid types. Can they fit what we do?”

Greg Childs update
Spielman was asked if he thought Adrian Peterson’s ability and determination to comeback from his knee injury would serve as inspiration for Greg Childs as he tries to come back from a knee injury as well. While Spielman did acknowledge that Childs could learn a lot from Peterson’s mindset, he also noted that Childs is determined in his own right to make it back to the field.

“Greg is a very driven individual and wants to do well and show people he can be good,” Spielman said. “He’s attacked his rehab that way. He’s one of those guys that fit our profile – guys that love ball, have passion for the game. He’s shown that so far through his rehab.”


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Combine Memories: Blair Walsh

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 21, 2013 – 11:50 am

No, we haven’t yet seen a blistering-fast 40-yard dash time from a cornerback or receiver. We haven’t witnessed a defensive lineman or offensive lineman put up a herculean effort in the bench press. And no quarterbacks or middle linebackers have yet to craft a perfect Wonderlic score. But it’s only because  they haven’t had the opportunity to do so yet.

Before much of that can occur, it’ll be the place kickers who take the field at Lucas Oil Stadium for their on-field work. That will take place on Friday. While it may not be as interesting to pay attention to the on-field performances of the place kickers, it’s still an important part of the Combine process. Look no further than your very own Vikings for an illustration of that point. It was after an impressive Combine showing and then a pre-draft visit from Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer that put Blair Walsh on the Vikings map a year ago.

“Tremendous kickoff leg,” Vikings GM Rick Spielman quickly said when asked to reflect on Walsh’s Combine performance last year. “And then Mike Priefer seeing some technical flaws that he had and then when we went down and worked him out in Athens (GA), how quickly he adapted to some of the stuff that Mike adjusted with him.”

The Vikings were rewarded for doing their due diligence on a kicker before, during and after the Combine. Eventually the Vikings tabbed Walsh with a 6th-round choice and he went on to have a Pro Bowl rookie season, converting 35 of 38 FG tries and hitting 10 of 10 attempts from 50+ yards along the way. He also set a team record for touchbacks and he finished the regular season with 141 points, the second-highest scoring season in team history.


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3 Offensive Players To Watch At The Combine

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 20, 2013 – 2:11 pm

The Senior Bowl opened my eyes to this draft class’ crop of pass catchers. I arrived in Mobile, Alabama for the week excited to see Marshall WR Aaron Dobson, but I came away as impressed with Elon’s Aaron Mellette. Baylor’s Terrence Williams struck me as the most NFL-ready, but I was surprised with Texas’ Marquise Goodwin and blown away by Louisiana Tech’s Quinton Patton. And I’d be remiss to leave out Arkansas’ Cobi Hamilton and Kansas State’s Chris Harper because they both had solid weeks.

But the good news is that was just the beginning of our assessment of this year’s entire class of receivers. The individuals mentioned in the above paragraph were just a few of the top senior WRs in this class. There are other seniors and a bunch of underclassmen who are jumping to the NFL in 2013.

Here we’ll look at 3 offensive players to watch during the Combine this week. They all play the same position – WR. I’m not saying WR is the most important position to watch this year, rather, I feel this is a deep and talented position AND I feel the Combine can reveal the kind of information that will enable us to distinguish these receivers from each other more than it can reveal similar information that will allow us to distinguish players at other positions from each other. Also, this list focuses on players who were not at the Senior Bowl, since we’ve already gotten a good luck and have had plenty of conversation about them.

Anyway, let’s just get to the list…

WR DeAndre Hopkins (Clemson)
This is a guy who is growing on me more and more as I continue to talk about him and watch him. He had 82 receptions for 1,405 yards and 18 TDs last year as a junior for Clemson – impressive numbers. Depending on where you look, Hopkins is listed at anywhere from a half-inch over 6-0 to as high as 6-2, and usually always around 200-205 pounds. We’ll get an official measurement when he arrives at the Combine. Regardless, I actually think he plays bigger than even a 6-2 receiver. I say that because he does a great job of shielding defenders from a pass and making sure he puts himself between the defender and the QB. Also, he high-points the football with consistency and tenacity. NFL.com’s Josh Norris compares him to Roddy White, but I actually see more Anquan Boldin. I know scouts typically despise comparisons like that, but comparisons help fans develop a mind’s eye picture of a player.

On top of playing like a big receiver, Hopkins is also an explosive athlete. I’m not sure he has the explosive skills of a Quinton Patton and surely not of a Tavon Austin or Marquise Goodwin, but the explosion he has is good enough that, when put in combination with his size and catching ability, makes me excited about his NFL future. Besides, that’s one function of the Combine – analyzing measured speed/quickness of a player. If Hopkins times well in the 40-yard dash, he will definitely move up in my WR rankings.

This guy is definitely one to watch.

WR Kenny Stills (Oklahoma)
It’s a good idea to take a close look at mid-round prospects as well as 1st-round prospects, and that’s one of the reasons I’m including Stills on this list. He’s consistently listed at 6-1, 190 pounds. I don’t think he has elite speed or suddenness. And he doesn’t have a 1,000-yard receiving season to his credit at Oklahoma. Those are all pretty good reasons as to why he’s not considered a top-end WR prospect at the moment.

But for what he lacks in elite measurable qualities I think he makes up for in toughness, intangibles and competitiveness. Just take a look at the block he makes at the 2:02 mark of this clip. And then watch the rest of the highlight clip to see the kind of physical ability he brings to the table.

WR Robert Woods (USC)
Last year at this time, Woods was one of my favorite prospects. The trouble was, I didn’t realize until I arrived at the Combine that Woods had one more year left at USC. Fast-forward a year later, and I still like Woods. He’s listed at 6-1, 190, which won’t strike you as a prototypical height-weight combo for an NFL WR, but that shouldn’t turn you off from Woods.

As a sophomore in 2011, he had 111 receptions for 1,292 yards and 15 TDs. Those are incredible numbers and you can see why I was so high on him last year. His numbers were not as good this past season – 76-846-11 – but he’s hardly to blame for that. USC’s passing offense went primarily through another talented WR – Marquis Lee – and Woods production fell off as a result. But he still had 11 TDs, and he’d already proven he could produce at an elite level for an elite program.

I believe he’ll be able to produce at the NFL level, too, if he lands in the right situation. Is that right situation in Minnesota? I don’t know, that’s a question that will be answered much higher than my pay grade or knowledge level. But I’m excited to see him this week at the Combine because I think he’ll be a good player in the NFL.


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New Combine Test Set To Debut This Year

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 20, 2013 – 10:59 am

Part of the reason the NFL continues to reign king of the America sports landscape is its ability and willingness to adapt and evolve. More than many other sports leagues, the NFL adjusts and tweaks its rules to accomplish two primary objectives: enhance player safety and improve the overall product and fan experience.

This year at the Scouting Combine, the NFL is showing that the ability and willingness to adapt transcends what happens between the white lines and extends into the offseason as well. As NFL Network’s Albert Breer reported earlier this week, the NFL will implement a new, expanded player-assessment test designed to provide a comprehensive look at a player’s non-physical capabilities, aptitudes and strengths. This may sound like a test that already exists at the Combine – the Wonderlic. But this new test will not replace the Wonderlic, rather, it will supplement it.

The new test will be implemented for the first time at this year’s Combine and it will be administered similarly to the Wonderlic, according to Breer. In his report, Breer cited a memo that was sent to all 32 clubs. The final paragraph of that memo, which was displayed on NFL.com, reads as follows:

“This is an exciting innovation that brings updated best practices from corporate America to the NFL football operations. By giving clubs new and more relevant information, it offers additional information to supplement your decision-making in the draft. One of the most interesting aspects is that new information on player learning styles can potentially help our coaches’ work more effectively with young players.”

This new test seems like a win-win. It provides teams with more information as they attempt to select players who best fit their organization. And it also sheds more light on how players are wired so that teams are better-equipped to help college players transition to the professional world, where their responsibilities expand to more than just Xs and Os.


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