Pro days this month at several college football programs will serve as the de facto NFL scouting combine, which was canceled amid the pandemic.
These trips are where the Vikings personnel department will get the bulk of data from measurements, athletic testing, and position drills for 2021 draft prospects. Medical evaluations, often called the most important piece of the combine, are expected to be scheduled regionally later. Minnesota has the 14th pick on April 29.
The Vikings' roster needs will further crystallize through free agency, beginning soon with decisions coming on the current roster. We've already got our list of the team's five biggest needs to begin March, and five prospects you should know as pro days get underway.
Need No. 5: Receiver
The addition of phenom Justin Jefferson with Adam Thielen maintained the offense's stellar 1-2 punch, but the position's depth remains a question. Bisi Johnson and Chad Beebe have been inconsistent. K.J. Osborn and Dan Chisena are special teamers. Could a mid-round addition provide some versatility?
PROSPECTS TO KNOW
The Vikings got their version of a Ja'Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle last year in Jefferson. Bigger needs require addressing with the 14th pick. So, the projected mid-round standouts may start with Moore, if he doesn't go sooner. Moore trailed only Alabama's DeVonta Smith with 86 catches last fall, doing so in eight games. He's a small receiver — listed 5-9 and 184 pounds — but he's a former four-star recruit who lived up to that billing in the SEC. He's one of the top slot receiver prospects and might require a Day 2 investment. Ole Miss' pro day is March 25.
Overshadowed on a Gators offense featuring Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney, Grimes is a former five-star recruit who flashed that talent on a 50-yard touchdown catch, in which he sailed over Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II in the SEC Championship Game. Grimes brings a very different skill set — listed 6-5 and 214 pounds with speed that makes him a mismatch problem for defenses. In what's being called another loaded receiver class by draft analysts, Grimes could be a Day 2 or Day 3 gem. Florida's pro day is March 31.
One of the 2021 burners, Stevenson — who says he has clocked himself running a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash — might've been a star of the combine athletic testing. He still put plenty of standout plays on film. Stevenson, listed 6-0 and 190 pounds, scored 27 touchdowns (22 receiving, three returning, two rushing) in the past three seasons, averaging 14.5 yards per touch from scrimmage. Twenty of Stevenson's touchdowns came in 2018-2019, as he suffered an ankle injury last year and appeared in just five games. Houston's pro day is April 9.
Another potential NFL slot receiver, Eskridge (listed 5-9, 190 pounds) had a remarkable college career at Western Michigan, where he bounced between receiver and cornerback. He settled back into his role as a receiver in 2020, and has since drawn strong reviews from analysts for his play at January's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. Eskridge averaged an incredible 18.5 yards on 121 catches in the Mid-American Conference. He was also a dangerous kick returner in college. Western Michigan's pro day is March 25.
Newsome is another smaller receiver (5-11, 190 pounds) projected as an NFL slot and return man. He might have to wait until the draft's third day to hear his name called, but he may be one of the more reliable prospects based off his track record. Newsome caught 188 passes over four years for the Tar Heels, which included 18 touchdowns over the past three seasons. He also handled 48 punt returns — averaging 11.1 yards per. North Carolina's pro day is March 29.