The Vikings, perhaps on the hunt for their next three-technique defensive tackle of the future with Sharrif Floyd’s career in jeopardy, got a close look last month at one of the most enigmatic prospects in this draft.
Head coach Mike Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman personally worked out Malik McDowell, a first-round talent who could still be on the board with they are first on the clock midway through the second round, at Michigan State’s pro day, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
While that kind of hands-on scouting is not uncommon for Zimmer, it is still noteworthy that they craved the extra face time with McDowell.
Despite earning second-team all-conference honors twice, McDowell, once a top-50 recruit, was a disappointment at Michigan State. He had only 1.5 sacks last season as the Spartans surprisingly lost nine games. That has led some scouts and analysts to question his toughness.
On this week’s Access Vikings podcast, we asked Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, one of the best NFL draft analysts in the business, for his opinion of McDowell, a Michigan native who does not turn 21 until June.
“Inconsistency is a huge issue with him,” Miller said. “There are times he looks like a top-10 player. And then there are times where you just wonder if he even likes playing football. But he is a perfect Mike Zimmer fit because he is 6-6, super long arms, really good athlete.”
Miller added: “I think the athleticism and potential with McDowell are really, really exciting but he’s just not done anything with them.”
Yes, it is true that Zimmer covets big, athletic defensive linemen with long limbs. And the selection two years ago of defensive end Danielle Hunter, who had only 1.5 sacks in his final season at LSU, shows that Zimmer doesn’t worry too much about what a defender put on the stat sheets.
But he does not have much tolerance for players who don’t love football and aren’t committed to the team — questions surrounding McDowell.
“I have not met anyone at Michigan State who likes him,” Miller said on the Access Vikings podcast. “I think his teammates just felt like he coasted on talent. He was one of the top players in the country when he was recruited and you could argue that he never got better in college.”
Given that, it is not surprising that Zimmer and Spielman wanted to work out McDowell personally, probably in the hopes of getting under his hood and seeing what makes him tick. If they conclude that McDowell does have the drive to make it in the NFL, he could be a second-round target.