INDIANAPOLIS — The Vikings left the NFL scouting combine having made a strong impression on one of the many talented defensive linemen in a heralded NFL Draft class.
Versatile Texas defensive lineman Charles Omenihu, a projected mid-round pick in April’s NFL Draft, could be the Vikings’ next project for respected defensive line coach Andre Patterson.
“I definitely had a good feeling with the Ravens, Houston Texans, Minnesota Vikings; the Lions, Dolphins and the Chiefs,” Omenihu said. “Teams like that. Teams that can run multiple fronts that can put me in and out. Those are the teams I feel like are coming at me the hardest.”
The Vikings used one of their 60 formal interviews during the combine last week on Omenihu (6-5, 280 pounds), a freakish athlete with longer arms (36″) than Danielle Hunter. Omenihu is coming off a breakout senior season at Texas featuring 18 tackles for losses. He played multiple positions and said NFL teams asked him about playing both defensive end and three-technique defensive tackle.
A formal 15-minute interview doesn’t guarantee the Vikings’ interest come April, but they’re intrigued by this rookie D-line class. It’s considered one of the strongest positions in this year’s draft, according to NFL Media draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah.
The Vikings met with another late-round prospect, TCU defensive end L.J. Collier, during the Senior Bowl in January. Collier (6-2, 283 pounds) is more of a tweener whom analysts say could fare better as a defensive tackle in the NFL.
“Premier talent and depth at the defensive line position, inside, outside, it’s outstanding,” Jeremiah said, “and it carries deep into the draft.”
The Vikings could need help at both defensive end and defensive tackle, especially if Sheldon Richardson walks in free agency next week. Defensive end Everson Griffen’s future is uncertain with a $10.9 million salary that doesn’t become guaranteed until March 15. He could be let go, leaving the Vikings needing rotation help for Hunter and Stephen Weatherly.
General manager Rick Spielman said his priority is finding which route — the draft or free agency — has the best value to bolster a position. The Vikings likely won’t be in the running for projected top-15 picks like Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat or Alabama’s Quinnen Williams, but a top talent could fall to their first-round pick at No. 18 or perhaps later in the draft.
“You’re looking at all the different buckets and you determine, ‘Well, could we potentially get a starter through the draft early in a round instead of going out and, say, spending eight gazillion dollars in free agency on that position?” Spielman said. “So a lot of it, you have to understand the strengths in each area and maybe you’re patient.”