The NFL scouting combine gets underway this week as draft prospects report to Indianapolis for the annual ogle and gush activities. On-field drills do not begin until Friday, but players already have begun the medical and psychological testing that go along with physical assessments that separate first-rounders and open the door for under-the-radar talents.
But much of what will get accomplished by the Vikings and other teams this week includes current players and shaping their start to free agency. Negotiations are expected to heat up between teams and agents since this year the legal tampering window begins Tuesday, a day after the combine ends. Then free agency officially opens March 9.
The Vikings enter the period with 14 unrestricted free agents and likely have other contracts to address.
“I think there’s going to be a greater sense of urgency of potentially getting our own players, who we want to sign back, done during the combine,” Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said.
Setting the stage: Captain Munnerlyn, Terence Newman, Matt Kalil and Cordarrelle Patterson highlight the Vikings’ pending free agents for which contract figures certainly will be floated in Indianapolis this week. Deals can be finalized with their own players. While negotiations aren’t allowed with representatives of other free agents until March 7, some of those talks are bound to take place before then.
‘Strongest’ RB class: Spielman enters the combine feeling good about his chances of finding a running back in the draft. He called this year’s class “the strongest I’ve ever seen,” which could serve them well because of Adrian Peterson’s uncertain future and Matt Asiata’s pending free agency. The Vikings elected Tuesday to not exercise the option on Peterson’s contract, which makes finding a solution at the position even more urgent. Some potential mid-round backs to keep an eye on include Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara and Texas’ D’Onta Foreman.
What about O-line? The combine is another chance for players to separate themselves from the rest, but according to the top draftniks the Vikings are entering a tough year to be in dire need of tackles.
“Trying to get a starting tackle in this draft is going to be difficult,” NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock said this week. That’s especially true without a first-round pick. A team like the Vikings has more options to draft a starter at guard, according to Mayock, including Indiana’s Dan Feeney and Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp. Potential second-round tackles to watch include Troy’s Antonio Garcia and Western Michigan’s Taylor Moton.
Three Gophers: Former Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner will be one of 15 passers evaluated this week. He’ll be joined by two former teammates in safety Damarious Travis and cornerback Jalen Myrick. The University of Minnesota has had at least two players selected in each of the past three drafts, a first since 2000-02.
A coin flip: The NFL draft order will be set when a coin flip Friday breaks a tie between the Vikings and Colts. An identical record and strength of schedule means the Vikings will need a coin flip to decide whether their first pick will be slotted at 46th or 47th overall. The Eagles have the Vikings’ top pick at 14th or 15th overall.