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 in the first round 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. 3: Safeties
Harrison Smith is due for a contract extension, and the front office's work is also expected to resume on the spot next to him. Anthony Harris is scheduled to be a free agent on March 17. Josh Metellus, Curtis Riley and Myles Dorn are the only other safeties under contract. There are a few projected free agents with connections to new Vikings coaches, but another draft pick on the back end makes sense.
PROSPECTS TO KNOW
Nasirildeen (6-4, 212 pounds) is going to entice an NFL team looking for a rarely-built tackling machine and potential starting strong safety. Before suffering a torn ACL in December 2019, Nasirildeen was involved on 192 tackles in his sophomore and junior seasons, during which he added three interceptions and three forced fumbles. He didn't return to play until last November. More of a work in progress in coverage. Florida State's pro day is March 22.
Davis (6-0, 206 pounds) is the kind of player who could potentially develop into the centerfield-type coverage safety that would pair well with Harrison Smith. Analysts say he showed range and solid tackling ability for an undersized free safety. He has missed parts of two seasons due to injuries, including five games last fall. Florida's pro day is scheduled for March 31.
Mike Zimmer couldn't turn down a player from his alma mater, right? Uphoff (6-3, 195 pounds) is the type of unique athlete on whom the Vikings like to take chances. He was a standout on defense and special teams for the Redbirds, which didn't play in the FCS last fall. But Uphoff reportedly stood out at the Senior Bowl and could be a late-round fit for a Vikings defense needing prospects with his kind of upside.
After dealing with injuries early on with the Hokies, Deablo (6-3, 226 pounds) found some consistency with 22 games over the past two seasons, with a career-high four interceptions last fall. That included a pick off Clemson's Trevor Lawrence in December. Deablo is a physical strong safety who started to show flashes of what he could do in coverage. Virginia Tech's pro day is March 26.
San Diego St.
A possible late-round prospect, Thompson (6-0, 200 pounds) was a four-year starter with 47 consecutive starts since arriving on campus for the Aztecs. He was a do-it-all defender while playing a hybrid role that had him line up almost everywhere in the secondary. He's not the most athletic prospect, but analysts say he showed good instincts and play recognition in college. San Diego St.'s pro day is March 25.