The NFL scouting combine starts up Wednesday morning in Indianapolis, though the actual workouts themselves don’t begin until Friday.
Those workouts, in addition to private interviews with team officials and testing drills such as the 40-yard dash, are additional pieces to the puzzle for the Vikings, who have already started assembling their draft board. The Vikings surely have some favorites already, but here in late February, they don’t know whom they will end up drafting two months from now.
Despite all that, mock draft season is already in full swing, with several different first-round prospects being linked to the Vikings, who have the 23rd overall selection in April’s draft, in the pre-combine mock drafts from national analysts. So let’s take a look at some premature projections from a few prominent draftniks to gauge whether they actually seem realistic.
Mel Kiper, ESPN: Cody Whitehair, G, Kansas State.
His reasoning: “The Vikings need help at both tackle and guard, and while Whitehair played left tackle, I’ve had him listed as a future NFL guard for two years now. If he comes off the board in this range, an inevitable (and fair) comparison will be Zack Martin, whom Dallas drafted in 2014 as a left tackle they immediately plugged in at guard with great results.”
My two cents: Since Martin was an All-Pro guard as a rookie two years ago, he has been the player comparison for seemingly every college lineman who might not be able to cut it at offensive tackle. I don’t know if Whitehair is the one who will actually be the next Martin. But selecting a pro-ready prospect with positional versatility does make sense for the Vikings.
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor.
His reasoning: “Coleman would team up with Stefon Diggs to provide Teddy Bridgewater with two young and explosive playmakers.”
My two cents: The Vikings do need to add another weapon or two for their third-year QB. But Coleman, who could end up being measured at 5-foot-9 this week, doesn’t possess the size they sorely need at the position. Still, he might be able to help Bridgewater and the Vikings out.
Rob Rang, CBS Sports: Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State.
His reasoning: “[The Vikings] could be looking for a younger, cheaper alternative at outside linebacker than veteran Chad Greenway, a pending free agent. … Lee has the awareness and closing speed to star against the run and in coverage, making him a potentially ideal replacement.”
My two cents: With all due respect to Rang, this one is a head-scratcher. The Vikings used a first-round draft pick on Anthony Barr in 2014 and their second-rounder on Eric Kendricks in 2015. And they only used their 4-3 base defense on about 40 percent of their snaps last season. So it is hard to envision them spending their top draft pick on a part-time player.
Peter Schrager, FOX Sports: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss.
His reasoning: “Treadwell’s the most fascinating prospect in this entire draft class. I am downright intrigued to see where he ends up in April. He’s a crisp route runner who does it all on tape. He produces. But he will be underwhelming in the 40-yard dash and the vertical and broad jump this week in Indianapolis. This will be your classic case of production versus measurables. And for that reason, he may slip all the way to No. 23.”
My two cents: I would think the Vikings wouldn’t mind getting their hands on this 6-foot-3 wideout. But given his size and ability to make contested catches down the field, it seems highly unlikely Treadwell will be there at pick No. 23 unless he runs the 40-yard dash in five or six seconds flat.
Josh Norris, Rotoworld: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State.
His reasoning: “Decker pulled out of the Senior Bowl, but all signs point to Decker being the third tackle selected [behind Laremy Tunsil and Ronnie Stanley]. The Vikings need an infusion of aggressiveness and nastiness, and Decker plays until the whistle and sometimes beyond.”
My two cents: Decker has a ton of starting experience at tackle and was the Big Ten’s top lineman in 2015, noteworthy given the talent in that conference this past season. This mock selection is pretty logical.
Five other combine prospects being mocked to the Vikings: Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson; Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan St.; Josh Doctson, WR, TCU; Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville; Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio St.