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Small School Spotlight: RB Kerwynn Williams (Utah State)

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 22, 2013 – 10:49 am

The “small school” tag is not the only stigma this nimble, smooth-striding RB will have to overcome to make it in the NFL. He’ll also be characterized as a one-year starter who faced lesser competition. To his defense on those two charges, he played behind a pair of 2012 draft picks – Seattle 4th-rounder Robert Turbin and Tampa Bay 7th-rounder Michael Smith, and when he finally did assume a starting role in 2012 he dominated.

Kerwynn Williams, Keith Smith, James Orth

Here was his senior line as a RB: 218 carries for 1,512 yards (6.9 per carry) and 15 TDs. He also had 45 receptions for 697 yards and 5 TDs as a pass catcher out of the backfield, illustrating his ability to play all 3 downs as a versatile offensive weapon (20 total TDs). During his time at Utah State, Williams was also a talented returner, the type of player the Vikings could be looking to add in this draft. In 4 seasons at Utah State, Williams totaled 91 kickoff returns for 2,272 yards (25.0 per return) with 1 TD, and he was also an occasional punt returner (15 career punt returns). As a freshman, he was the full-time kickoff returner, averaging 27.2 yards per return with a TD.

The production is obviously there, in several facets of the game. The raw ability is there, too, as Williams was a top performer among RBs at the Combine with a 4.48 time in the 40-yard dash and a 4.15 time in the 20-yard shuttle. He also recorded explosive measurements in the broad jump and vertical leap.

Outside of the small-school, one-year starter and lesser competition tags, Williams will also be docked for his size – he measures in at 5-8, 195 pounds. Maybe that will prevent him from ascending a depth chart and becoming a bell-cow type of RB in the NFL. But maybe it won’t, either. Regardless of that, this small-school prospect who glides swiftly across and down a football field like a hockey player down the ice could be an impact player as a returner and receiver out of the backfield.


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Draft Preview: Drilling Down On Defensive Tackles

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 20, 2013 – 9:33 am

Vikings fans have a very high standard when it comes to defensive tackles. After all, this is the home of the Purple People Eaters, of Keith Millard, of John Randle and Henry Thomas, and of the Williams Wall. So we approach this category with great respect to what fans demand out of their defensive tackles.

We also approach the preview of this position group knowing that we’re painting with a broad brush in categorizing them as defensive tackles. When it comes to defensive tackles, there are 3-techniques, there are under tackles, there are 5-techniques and there are nose tackles. There are players who fit primarily in the 3-4 or 4-3, and there are defensive tackles who can fit in both. Our goal here is not to distinguish between these categories, rather, the point is to assess this class of players and see which of them can help the Vikings defense continue to improve.

Without further ado, here’s a look at this year’s crop of defensive tackles. We’ll group them into four categories and place them alphabetically within each category. As usual, we’re interested in your feedback, so leave your thoughts in the comments section below this entry or email them to me for possible inclusion in a future Pick 6 or Monday Morning Mailbag.

Game-Changers
Sharrif Floyd (Florida) – Having played both DE and DT at Florida and with elite size/athleticism combo, Floyd is likely to be the first DT off the board next week.

Johnathan Hankins (Ohio State) – Those looking for a Pat Williams clone will find something close with this 6-3, 320-pound gap stuffer. At this point he doesn’t have the instincts and cat-like quickness Williams had to be a game-changer in the NFL, but maybe he’ll get there one day.

Star Lotulelei (Utah) – In a 4-3 scheme such as the Vikings, Lotulelei is the perfect match to Kevin Williams. A heart condition could cause him to slide, but my guess is his ability to dominate centers and overpower double-teams will be too appealing to allow him to slide even close to the Vikings.

Sheldon Richardson (Missouri) – At 6-2, 294 pounds, Richardson has the size and strength to anchor in the run game but he also possesses the athleticism to rush the passer, run sideline-to-sideline and chase plays down from the backside. Would be a steal for the Vikings at #23.

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Sylvester Williams (North Carolina) – Completely dominated two practices I watched at the Senior Bowl and was a game-changer during that game. He can play three downs, is great in short-area battles and has the strength to anchor and the motor to chase. Would be a nice complement to Williams in the Vikings defensive front.

Instant Impact
Jonathan Jenkins (Georgia) – Tremendous size at 6-4, 336 pounds and with 34-inch arms, Jenkins is the type of defender whose impact is not measured in the stat sheet. He eats up blockers and yields opportunities for others. It’s fair to question his fit in a 4-3 and he might be better-suited as a nose tackle in a 3-4 alignment.

Kawann Short (Purdue) – The 2-time team captain at Purdue seems to be a polarizing player among scouts, but it’s hard not to like his 48.0 career tackles for loss and school record 8 blocked kicks in 4 productive seasons. His size (6-3, 299 pounds) and production combo is impressive.

Brandon Williams (Missouri Southern State) – Suggesting a 2nd-round grade on a player with concerns that include durability, level of competition and height deficiency sounds like suggesting a reach. But when you look at Williams’ production, raw ability and athletic traits, I think a 2nd-round grade makes sense. In 4 seasons at Missouri Southern State, Williams set the school record with 27.0 sacks, totaled 52.5 tackles for loss, batted down 14 passes and earned the 2012 Division II National Defensive Player of the Year award. For good measure, he bench pressed 225 pounds 38 times at the Combine and was a standout at the Senior Bowl.

Eventual Starters
Jordan Hill (Penn State) – You’re more impressed with his technique, movement skills and pass-rushing ability than his sheer strength versus blockers and destructiveness versus the run.

Bennie Logan (LSU) – His athleticism and size along with his pedigree (played at LSU) will intrigue teams who think they’ll buy low on a potential star. But proponents of Logan’s will point to a lack of production, an inability to beat double teams and stamina as concerns.

Akeem Spence (Illinois) – At 6-1, 307 pounds and with moderate-to-solid production in college, Spence is a lunch pail guy with lots of starting experience in a Big 10 program. He’s strong and has good range vs. the run, but needs to improve his explosiveness off the ball and technique versus double teams.

2-Down Run-Stuffers
TJ Barnes (Georgia Tech) – A 6-6, 369 massive nose tackle who will likely be a 2-down player but who could develop into a legitimate run-stopper. Would be nice to have him on the field in short-yardage and goal line scenarios.

Kwame Geathers (Georgia) – Another massive run-stopper at 6-5, 342 pounds, Geathers has NFL bloodlines because his father, two brothers and uncle all played or play in the League. Geathers didn’t have tremendous production, but he played an important role on a SEC defense. Maybe more of a fit for 3-4 teams?

Cory Grissom (South Florida) – Big and powerful run-stopper with moderate production and 3 years of starting experience. At 6-1, 306, most reports say he can fit in a “30” or “40” front but will most likely be a 2-down player.

Jessie Williams (Alabama) – The former rugby player from Australia played 2 seasons at Alabama and possesses the strength to play at the NFL level. Teams that like him will be okay with his lack of experience and will look forward to developing a raw, 6-3, 323-pound playmaker from one of the best programs in the country.

Could Make Roster
Josh Boyd (Mississippi State) – Good size at 6-3, 310 pounds and production early in his career. He caught scouts’ eyes a year ago when teammate Fletcher Cox was being watched and was eventually chosen in the 1st round. Most reports site Boyd’s effective swim move, but they also point out his dip in production without Cox and point out his small hands and short arms.

Everett Dawkins (Florida State) – One of the harder players for me to get my arms around. Not a bunch of production and seemed to change positions and wait a bit at Florida State. Has good size (6-2, 292 pounds) and played a regular role on some good teams.

Montori Hughes (Tennessee Martin) – Gigantic frame at 6-4, 329 pounds but scouts say he doesn’t play to his size enough. Can anchor versus the run, occupies blockers and fights double teams, needs to mature more.

Previous Draft Previews
Sorting out the inside linebackers
Rounding up the receivers
Corralling the cornerbacks


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Small School Spotlight: DE David Bass (Missouri Western State)

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 15, 2013 – 5:18 am

As the 2013 NFL Draft draws closer, some of the country’s top players from most of the country’s top college football programs are anxiously awaiting to find out their professional destination. While you can be sure that college football powerhouses such as Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State and USC will produce plenty of pros once again this year, you can be just as sure that some of the country’s smaller schools will yield some professional talent as well.

Jerry Rice, the best receiver in NFL history, is a produce of Mississippi Valley State. Our own John Randle, another Hall of Famer, played at Texas A&I – Kingsville. We see it all the time – players from small schools in college can make a big impact in the NFL.

In recognition of this, we’ll run a series called “Small School Spotlight” to highlight a few of this year’s intriguing prospects who may not get the attention they deserve because they come from smaller schools.

We’ll kickoff the small school spotlight with one of my favorite sleepers in this entire class – DE David Bass from Missouri Western State. You don’t see Missouri Western play its games on TV. They play the likes of Emporia State University, Pittsburgh State and Minnesota State – Mankato, and those matchups aren’t going to be featured on prime time network TV. But if you did see Missouri Western State football, you’d notice Bass right away.

David Bass

He measures in 6-4, 262-pounds and he was moved between left DE and right DE because of his effectiveness and versatility. Bass was a 4-year starter at Missouri Western who at one point started 50 consecutive games. He’s the school’s all-time sacks leader with 39.5 and he recorded 56.0 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and 22 pass breakups in his career. I don’t care where you’re playing, that kind of production is worth serious consideration when it comes to transitioning into the NFL.

Bass lacks the burst and play-with-your-hair-on-fire demeanor that makes defensive linemen such as Jared Allen so special. But Bass does have the potential to play in the NFL, and if a 3-4 team likes him I think he can stand up as an outside linebacker in that scheme. At some point it’s hard not to wonder if the “small school” tag is too much of a factor for folks putting together pre-draft rankings. Bass is generally an underrated prospect in my view, and this point is illustrated by the fact that he’s the 24th-ranked DE in NFL.com’s rankings. Not the 24th-ranked defensive lineman – the 24th ranked DE. For my taste, that’s simply too low.


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Talkin’ Trade – Two Possible Scenarios For The Vikings

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 10, 2013 – 11:03 am

Last year at about this time we began discussing the prospects of a trade market emerging for the Vikings 1st-round pick (#3 overall). As it turned out, the Vikings consummated a draft-day trade with the Cleveland Browns that moved them back one spot to #4 overall and also netted them three additional selections (4th, 5th, 7th rounds).

While the Vikings don’t hold such a high-value pick this year, they do possess a pair of 1st-round selections (#23 and #25 overall). This gives them flexibility. They can use one of those two selections in a trade back to accumulate more selections and still come away with one 1st-rounder. They can use one (or both) of them in a trade up to grab a player they covet who may not be available when they go on the clock. Or they can stay put and use both selections to add a pair of talented players to the roster. This flexibility is good for the Vikings because it will allow them to consider multiple options in an attempt to improve the roster.

For the purposes of this blog entry, though, let’s focus on the aspect of this flexibility that could create a robust trade market for one or both of those 1st-round picks. Whether or not the Vikings end up agreeing to a trade in the 1st round remains to be seen, but in the mean time we can start discussing potential opportunities that could arise for the Vikings.

The primary focus for now will be on players who could be available at #23 and #25 and who would generate trade interest from teams slated to select after the Vikings. Here are two possible scenarios…

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Scenario #1 – Eddie Lacy
The trade the Vikings made in the 1st round last year was predicated on Cleveland’s interest in the draft’s top RB – Trent Richardson. Our first scenario for a trade this year is similar – perhaps the Vikings will be presented with an option to trade back once again by a team looking to grab the draft’s top runner.

Lacy will likely be the top RB on teams’ draft boards (although North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard has the highest grade in NFL.com’s rankings). If a mock draft has Lacy going in the 1st round, it’s typically to either St. Louis at #22 or Green Bay at #26. A trade back for the Vikings involving a team that covets Lacy, then, likely wouldn’t occur until after St. Louis’ pick at #22 – if the Rams pass on Lacy, then a team looking to tag Lacy will feel compelled to move up to #25 to jump the Packers at #26. One possible team to look at in this scenario is the Denver Broncos at #28.

BE THE GENERAL MANAGER: If you were the Vikings GM, would you trade the #25 pick to the Broncos for the #28 pick and a 4th-rounder this year?

Scenario #2 – QB de jour
Our second and final scenario for today would likely involve the Vikings second 1st-round pick (#25 overall) and a team from the early part of the 2nd round looking to move up into the latter part of the 1st round to satisfy their desire to draft one of the class’ remaining top QBs. Why would a QB-needy team sitting in the early part of the 2nd round feel compelled to trade up into the end of the 1st round where a bunch of playoff teams from last year reside and where, consequently, a bunch of teams with resolved QB situations reside? A team may do this because they want to go to bed on Thursday night at the conclusion of the 1st round knowing that their QB problem has been addressed, and knowing that some other team with a similar need isn’t going to work out a deal overnight to leapfrog them in the early part of the 2nd round to grab the QB they want.

It’s hard to gauge at this point which QBs will still be on the board when the Vikings are on the clock at #25. For the purposes of this discussion, let’s say only Geno Smith is gone. That leaves Ryan Nassib, Matt Barkley and EJ Manuel for teams in the first part of the 2nd round. With a new head coach running the show, might the Philadelphia Eagles choose to trade the 3rd pick of the 2nd round (#35 overall) to move up into the Vikings spot? How about the Arizona Cardinals with the 6th choice of the round (#38 overall)? Or the NY Jets with the 8th pick of the 2nd round (#39 overall)? Buffalo with the 10th pick (#41 overall)? The Vikings could receive an attractive package of picks from one of these teams for the drawback of dropping a mere 10-15 spots (after having already netted a 1st-rounder at #23 overall).

BE THE GENERAL MANAGER: If you were the Vikings GM, would you trade the #25 pick and one of your 6th-rounders to the Jets for the #39 pick and their 3rd-round pick (#72 overall)?


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Draft Preview: Rounding Up The Receivers

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 9, 2013 – 5:59 am

Other Draft Previews
Sorting out the inside LBs

Of the 8 mock drafts highlighted in last week’s Mock Madness, 7 of the analysts projected the Vikings to use one of their two 1st-round selections on a wide receiver. Of the 8 analysts with mock drafts at NFL.com’s Mock Draft Central, 6 have the Vikings taking a receiver in the 1st round and one of the analysts predicts the Vikings will choose a receiver with both of their 1st-round selections.

With all this talk of the Vikings taking a receiver early in the draft and with how deep the WR group is in this year’s class, it’s time for us to examine this talented crew of playmakers. We’ll break the entire group of draft-eligible receivers into our own preferred tiers (alphabetical within each tier), and I’ll provide a comment from time-to-time on several of the individuals.

We want you to get in on the action, too. Let us know what you think by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below this entry or emailing them to me for possible inclusion in an upcoming Pick 6 or Monday Morning Mailbag.

Blue-Chippers

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Tavon Austin (West Virginia) – If you can get over the “undersized” tag (5-8, 174-pounds), Austin may be this drafts most versatile playmaker. He scored 40 total TDs in college as a receiver, runner and returner.

Keenan Allen (California) – Didn’t have elite college production, doesn’t have elite measureables and dealt with injuries at Cal, but has the frame, raw ability and potential to be a reliable, versatile and productive NFL receiver. Good fit in the Vikings offense.

DeAndre Hopkins (Clemson)

Cordarrelle Patterson (Tennessee)

Immediate Impacters
Stedman Bailey (West Virginia) – Overshadowed in this draft by his college teammate (Tavon Austin), Bailey was every bit as much a playmaker for West Virginia. In 2012, there were only two games in which he didn’t score a TD, and he recorded a 5-TD and 4-TD game during the season. Bailey had 114 receptions and 25 TDs last year – those are not typos.

Aaron Dobson (Marshall)

Chris Harper (Kansas State) – Senior Bowl standout who is tough, sure-handed and deceivingly fast.

Justin Hunter (Tennessee) – Great height for the position at 6-4, but needs to bulk up on his 196-pound frame. Has great ability and needs to grow into frame – sounds a lot like what we said about Sidney Rice the year the Vikings selected him in the 2nd round. Hmm…

Quinton Patton (Louisiana Tech) – Fast and quick with good size, Patton is a natural at the position and was ultra-productive in college. Plays bigger than he looks, has good wiggle after the catch and looks the part. Intriguing.

Markus Wheaton (Oregon State)
Terrance Williams (Baylor)

Robert Woods (USC) – Wrote about him in a recent Monday Morning Mailbag. In a typical year, he’d be a sure-fire 1st-rounder. But this class is so deep that he blends in, which means some team will take him and realize great value in doing so.

Potential Playmakers
Josh Boyce (TCU)
Corey Fuller – Virginia Tech)
Cobi Hamilton (Arkansas) – Improved as the week went on at the Senior Bowl; another Arkansas WR in Minnesota?
Marquise Goodwin (Texas) – Ran a 4.27 40-yard dash at the Combine; may be the best returner in this class.
Aaron Mellette (Elon)
Da’Rick Rogers  (Tennessee Tech)
Rodney Smith (Florida State) – Great size (6-6, 219); played with Christian Ponder; mid-to-late-round value?
Kenny Stills (Oklahoma) – One of my favorite sleepers in this position group; tough and makes the difficult catches; productive at OU.
Ryan Swope (Texas A&M)

Developmental
Alan Bonner – Jacksonville State
Marlon Brown – Georgia
Chad Bumphis – Mississippi State
Dan Buckner – Arizona
DeVonte Christopher – Utah
Keenan Davis – Iowa
Marcus Davis – Virginia Tech
Blake Emory – Auburn
Tyrone Goard – Eastern Kentucky
Mark Harrison – Rutgers
Erik Highsmith – North Carolina
Josh Jarboe – Arkansas State
Darius Johnson – SMU
Brandon Kaufman – Eastern Washington
La’Rod King – Kentucky
Tavarres King – Georgia
Javone Lawson – Louisiana-Lafayette
Alec Lemon – Syracuse
Mamal Miles – Arizona State
TJ Moe – Missouri
Uzoma Nwachukwu – Texas A&M
Denard Robinson – Michigan
Zach Rogers – Tennessee
Ray Roundtree – Michigan
Marcus Sales – Syracuse
Lanear Sampson – Baylor
Russell Sheppard – LSU
Ryan Spadola – Lehigh
Kenbrell Thompkins – Cincinnati
Marquess Wilson – Washington State
Ace Sanders – South Carolina
Conner Vernon – Duke


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Draft Preview: Sorting Out The Inside Linebackers

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 8, 2013 – 5:12 am

The Vikings don’t have a returning starter at middle LB (Jasper Brinkley signed with Arizona), they have 11 picks overall and 6 selections in the first 4 rounds of this year’s draft, and both of their 1st-round selections sit in the area where many expect a few inside LBs to come off the board. Add it all up, and it’s fair to wonder if the Vikings will be in the mix to take one of the draft’s top inside LBs.

There are many factors to consider when evaluating a linebacker’s chances of making it in the NFL. Is he a 2-down or 3-down LB? Does his college position transition well to the NFL? Or will he have to go through a position change? Those are relevant questions and will be part of the evaluation process for teams as they examine this year’s crop of LBs.

The highest-profile player in this class is Manti Te’o, the leader of the country’s 2nd-ranked defense (Notre Dame) this past season. Those draft analysts who don’t have Te’o atop their boards likely have Georgia’s Alex Ogletree rated #1. Others often included in the top tier are LSU’s Kevin Minter and Kansas State’s Arthur Brown. The analysts in our most recent Mock Madness are virtually split between Ogletree and Te’o at #1 and #2, then it’s generally Minter who rates #3 and Brown comes in at #4. There is one mention of Kevin Reddick by ProFootballWeekly.com.

Only time will tell if the Vikings tab one of the class’ top LBs early in the draft or if they choose to rely on the position’s depth and lean on the middle rounds. For now, all we can do is assess the options. Here’s a look at this year’s crop of LBs (alphabetical order)…

Arthur Brown – Kansas State
An instinctive player with over 100 tackles as a senior in 2012, Brown possesses an adequate frame (6-0, 241) to play middle LB in the NFL. He redshirted his first season with Kansas State (transferred from Miami) before starting all 13 games as a team captain in 2011. After collecting 100+ tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss (TFLs), Brown was named the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year and was also 1st-team all-conference for the Wildcats. His success continued in 2012 as he amassed a second consecutive 100-tackle season and also tallied 7.0 tackles for loss (TFLs), 4 pass breakups (PBUs), 2 INTs and a sack.

Cool fact: Brown intercepted both Robert Griffin III and Geno Smith during his career at Kansas State.

Kevin Minter – LSU
Because the LSU Tigers consistently boast one of the country’s top defensive units, it’s easy for an individual to become overshadowed. After all, it was the likes of Michael Brockers, Morris Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu, Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery and Eric Reid who (deservedly) received much of the hype. But through it all, Minter was a solid contributor. The 6-0, 246-pound junior earned consensus 1st-Team All-SEC honors and was named his team’s MVP in 2012 following a campaign in which he totaled 130 tackles, 15 TFLs (which led the team), 5 PBUs, 4.0 sacks and a forced fumble.

Cool fact: Squatted 545 pounds as a redshirt freshman at LSU.

Alec Ogletree – Georgia
Athletic and productive, Ogletree enters the NFL draft after his junior season. In 30 games at Georgia Ogletree was productive, tallying just short of 200 tackles, 20.0 TFLs, 8 PBUs, 6.0 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 1 INT. He was the Bulldogs’ leading tackler over the final 6 games of 2012 and was named All-SEC 1st Team after the season. The 6-2, 242-pound Ogletree came to Georgia as a safety and started his first game there, but quickly converted to LB and formed a talented duo with fellow draft class member Jarvis Jones. Ogletree missed the first 6 games of 2011 due to a broken foot and was also suspended the first 4 games of 2012. But when on the field, Ogletree is a difference-maker.

Cool fact: Has a twin brother who played FB for Georgia.

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Manti Te’o – Notre Dame
One of the most decorated defensive players in the history of college football, Te’o prepares to enter the NFL following an ultra-productive 4 seasons at Notre Dame in which he started 49 of 51 games (had 47 straight starts) and became the second player in school history to tally 100+ tackles in 3 consecutive seasons. Te’o was a consensus 1st-Team All-America by the Associated Press, Walter Camp and American Football Coaches Association. He finished runner-up in Heisman voting after this past season and helped lead Notre Dame to the national championship game. An off-field situation during the 2012 season in which he was the victim of an elaborate hoax captivated the sports world, but more relevant to Te’o’s football future is that he was one of the most productive players in the history of one of the country’s best programs and he has top-notch work ethic and intangible traits that will increase his chances of success at the NFL level.

Cool fact: Was teammates at Notre Dame with current Vikings S Robert Blanton, TE Kyle Rudolph and S Harrison Smith.

Don’t forget…
Kiko Alonso – Played 4 seasons at Oregon, led team in TFLs (14.0) in 2012 and was named 2nd-Team All Pac-12 after the ’12 season.
Jon Bostic – Senior from Florida known as big-time hitter against the run.
Kevin Reddick – A 4-year, productive starter at North Carolina who possesses traits that give him position flexibility.
Vince Williams – Key to Florida State ranking #2 in total defense during 2012 season and started 25 games the past 2 seasons.

Mid- and late-round prospects (as rated by NFL.com)
Michael Mauti (Penn State)
Nico Johnson (Alabama) – Nick Saban-coached, productive, smart, lunch-pail type of player who can step in and battle in the trenches.
Kenny Cain (TCU)
Bruce Taylor (Virginia Tech)
Steve Beauharnais (Rutgers) – Doesn’t jump out at you, but a solid and experienced player who may have been overshadowed at Rutgers.
Kenny Demens (Michigan)
Shaq Wilson (South Carolina)
Tom Wort (Oklahoma)
AJ Klein (Iowa State) – I’d rate him higher; 3-year starter in college; could play multiple positions in NFL; will be special teams star
John Lotulelei (UNLV) – No relation to Star Lotulelei; undersized; 121 tackles in 2012
Uona Kaveinga (BYU)
Jonathan Stewart (Texas A&M)
Will Compton (Nebraska)
Brandon Hepburn (Florida A&M)
Nick Clancy (Boston College)


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No Shortage Of Stars At Southern Cal Pro Day

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 26, 2013 – 6:52 pm

On Tuesday morning we previewed Notre Dame’s pro day. On Wednesday, another high-profile football program known for pushing out professionals will hold its pro day, too. NFL GMs, coaches and scouts will descend upon the University of Southern California campus to continue their tour of the country in the lead-up to the 2013 NFL Draft.

The big news out of USC’s pro day will be the workout of QB Matt Barkley, as he looks to mitigate his senior season slide. A year ago, Barkley would likely have been considered a lock to go in the 1st round. But he chose to return to USC for his senior season, and a combo platter of performance and injury has led to a reduced draft stock. In his final season, Barkley threw fewer TDs, more INTs, took more sacks, threw for a lower percentage and registered a lower passer rating than he did during his junior season. On top of that, he suffered a sprain of the AC joint in his throwing shoulder, causing him to miss USC’s final two games.

Wednesday marks the first time Barkley has thrown publicly since suffering the shoulder injury, so expect to hear a lot of reaction to that.

But there are others who will perform at USC’s pro day who are worthy of mention. I was impressed with S TJ McDonald in watching him at the Senior Bowl in January, and it’s hard to not be impressed whenever you watch WR Robert Woods. Over the past 2 seasons at USC, Woods hauled in 187 receptions for 2,138 yards and 26 TDs. For fans of a team that is in the process of upgrading its WR corps, those numbers are tantalizing.

Roberts Woods, Matt Barkley

Others participating in USC’s pro day include: C Khaled Holmes, DE Wes Horton, CB Nickell Robey and S Jawanza Starling.


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Ranking The Draft’s “Explosive” Prospects (And Finding One For The Vikings?)

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 26, 2013 – 8:47 am

Pat Kirwan is one of my favorite NFL analysts. I first became familiar with him because he was a writer and analyst for NFL.com. He’s now a contributor to CBSSports.com, but his best work in my opinion is done as co-host of Sirius NFL Radio’s Moving the Chains. Kirwan’s most recent written piece explains the place “explosiveness” has in the NFL, offers a method of measuring explosiveness, and then identifies and ranks the Top 20 Explosive Players in this year’s draft.

Before you click the link to check out Kirwan’s rankings, there’s something you should keep in mind. The top-ranked explosive player on his list is a player who was much discussed right here on the vikings.com Blog earlier this year. His name is Cornelius Washington, and he played DE for the University of Georgia. I wrote extensively about one of Washington’s Senior Bowl practices, going so far as to say that he may have matched the dominance that DT Sylvester Williams showcased at the Senior Bowl as well.

SEC Championship Football

The point of this entry is not to promote Washington as a selection for the Vikings in the 2013 NFL Draft, although I’m not opposed to that at this point. Rather, it’s interesting to note not just how well Kirwan explains the place explosiveness has in the game of football but how he’s chosen to try and measure an athlete’s ability to explode and, consequently, his potential ability to make an impact at the NFL level. His piece is worth a read.

Once you’re done reading Kirwan’s piece, though, make sure to come back to vikings.com to stay up-to-date on all Vikings and 2013 NFL Draft news.

Click here to review our coverage of the 2013 Senior Bowl.

Click here to review our coverage of the 2013 Scouting Combine.


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Te’o To Take Center Stage At Notre Dame’s Pro Day

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 26, 2013 – 6:14 am

One of the highest-profile football programs in the country will host its pro day on Tuesday, and that will set the stage for one of the highest-profile prospects in this year’s draft class to workout in front of what will surely be a packed house of NFL GMs, coaches and scouts at the Loftus Sports Center.

Senior LB Manti Te’o is that player, and his performance will likely be the top story in the Tuesday NFL news cycle.

Te’0 was impressive at the Combine last month in terms of his on-field drills, media obligations and, reportedly, in the team interview process as well. But he ran a slower-than-expected time in the 40-yard dash, prompting his detractors to question whether or not he could cut it in pass defense as a starting LB in the NFL. He was clocked with a 4.82 time in the 40-yard dash. On Tuesday, Te’o will have a chance to dispel his detractors and reassert himself as one of the top defensive prospects in this year’s draft. If Te’o can cut the time down to the mid-4.7s, that could do enough to restore the confidence many lost in him following the Combine.

There will be 14 Notre Dame players participating in Tuesday’s pro day, according to the school. Those players are: WR John Goodman, OL Mike Golic Jr., OL Braxston Cave, RB Theo Riddick, WR Robby Toma, TE Tyler Eifert, RB Cierre Wood, DE Kapron Lewis-Moore, S Zeke Motta, S Jamoris Slaughter, LB Manti Te’o, P Ben Turk, LS Jordan Cowart and S Chris Salvi.

Here’s a schedule of all pro days leading up to the NFL draft at the end of April.

teoclob


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DT Star Lotulelei Shines At Pro Day

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 21, 2013 – 6:09 am

Star Lotulelei’s ability to play football has never been a question. The 6-4, 325-pound DT was a 2-time First-Team All-Pac 12 selection at the University of Utah and he was also a Morris Trophy winner in 2011. What has become a question, though, is Lotulelei’s health.

During Lotulelei’s medical evaluation at the Combine last month, an echocardiogram revealed that his left ventricle was pumping at below average levels (44%). Officials would not let Lotulelei continue with Combine activities, so he went back to Utah for more testing. Those developments caused teams to take a step back and re-evaluate Lotulelei’s pro prospects.

Lotulelei was cleared by doctors to participate in Utah’s pro day, which occurred on Wednesday. And it should come as no surprise that he impressed teams with his performance. Lotulelei hoisted the 225-pound bench press 38 times, registered a 30-inch vertical leap and clocked a 4.65 in the shuttle. The 38 reps would’ve tied him for the most in his position group at the Combine.

Star Lotulelei, Isi Sofele

Those numbers are very good, and they certainly confirm the feelings most scouts and coaches had about Lotulelei being one of the top defensive linemen in this year’s draft. So, once again, Lotulelei’s ability to play football isn’t a question. It’s his health that is the question.

This is the type of issue that will divide teams. A player with a medical condition such as the one Lotulelei has may be researched and cleared by one team, but a different team may look at the same information and flag the player. While NFL teams do share much of the medical information they obtain at the Combine, different teams have different thresholds of tolerance for different issues.

Where NFL teams – and, specifically, the Vikings – stand on the issue of Lotulelei and his heart condition remains to be seen. What we do already know is that Lotulelei looks to be a future star in the NFL if the heart condition doesn’t plague him.


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