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With the NFL Draft just 50 days away, it’s time to take a break from the quarterback speculation and look at the talent available in April. Daniel House breaks down eight options across a variety of position groups.
Updated: March 7, 2018, 5:10 p.m.
By: Daniel House
By: Daniel House
With the NFL Draft just 50 days away, it’s time to take a break from the quarterback speculation and look at the talent available in April. After watching the combine and tape on a few prospects, the Vikings have plenty of options at a variety of positional needs. Of course, the quarterback decision will shape the way they approach everything, so I provided a wide swath of options based upon a range of possible outcomes. Each of these players address a positon of need, while thinking about how strategy could play a role in the Vikings’ decision-making. As the draft approaches, stay tuned for more breakdowns on a few of these players I highlighted.
Let’s dive in:
Billy Price, C/OG, Ohio State
The Ohio State center gained a high volume of attention during his career with the Buckeyes. After suffering a torn pectoral muscle during the bench press drills at the Scouting Combine, Price may be unavailable for four months. However, his talent could still justify first round conversation. He has the same physicality and mean streak the Vikings found when the selected fellow Ohio State product Pat Elflein last year. Minnesota met with Price at the combine and he fits the Vikings’ blocking scheme well. He plays with above average strength and his football IQ stands out on tape. Price had no trouble handling stunts or twists inside, which is an important trait for the next level. Despite his injury, Price played in more than 50 consecutive games at Ohio State and durability shouldn’t be a major question mark. If anything, the injury may cause him to slide slightly – just enough for the Vikings to add another solid Ohio State offensive lineman. Drafting Price would allow Minnesota to insert him at guard, while keeping Elflein at center and Mike Remmers at right tackle.
Austin Corbett, OT/OG, Nevada
If the Vikings elect to address another position in the first round, Nevada product Austin Corbett is an option in the second or third round. Fire up Corbett’s tape and you’ll see a player with an incredible mean streak. He drives through defenders and is always searching for work. He adds this physicality to an already athletic skill-set. Corbett ran an impressive 5.15 40-yard dash at 305 pounds. He played left tackle at Nevada, but will translate best to guard in the NFL. His versatility and experience at two positions are attractive to a team like the Vikings. He also displays high football IQ like Price, which is important to the Vikings. Any pressure which came his way was identified, especially against late switches by the defense. His mean streak, paired with above average pass protection skills are a reason Minnesota should strongly consider drafting him.
Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
There might not be a player I’m more intrigued about than Da’Ron Payne. He has size and athleticism inside to fit perfectly into Mike Zimmer’s defense. Payne might not be available when the Vikings pick, but if a run of quarterbacks occurs, there’s a chance. His athleticism is off the charts for a player that weighs 311 pounds. Payne ran a 4.95 40-yard dash at the combine, while adding a 107-inch broad jump, 4.71-second shuttle and 7.58-second three-cone drill. Those numbers jump off the charts. Vikings GM Rick Spielman and defensive coordinator George Edwards were at Payne’s pro day to see his talent on display.
He plays with so much power and may use his hands better than any prospect in the draft class. Payne is the type of player which requires the attention of double teams. More importantly, he can play both three and one techniques, adding to his versatility. The Vikings are one three-technique defensive tackle away from putting their defense in another tier. Payne needs to develop as a pass rusher, but his ability to stop the run is unmatched. Defensive line coach Andre Patterson could do wonders with him. The idea of pairing Payne with Linval Joseph is a scary thought. If the Vikings miss on Payne, Taven Bryan is a name to watch. I’ll be profiling him in a future post.
Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
Many people are having nightmares when they think about what happened to the Vikings’ secondary in the NFC Championship game. Philadelphia shifted their splits inside enough to force the Vikings into less favorable press coverage situations. It was a good scheme decision by the Eagles, but Minnesota should definitely look to add more capable cornerbacks. Isaiah Oliver fits the size mold (6-foot-1) Mike Zimmer looks for when he is evaluating defensive backs. To go along with the size, he has 4.5 speed, which is respectable for his skill-set. He has 33 4/8” arms and all the traits Minnesota actively searches for in a defensive back. His workout at the combine caught my attention as a perfect fit in the Vikings’ defense. Oliver is a very aggressive and physical player, who would complement Xavier Rhodes well. Perhaps the Vikings will decide to address the secondary early in the 2018 draft. You can’t have enough talented defensive backs, right?
Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Another defensive back which may be intriguing is Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander. He would be a second or third round option in the draft. Alexander is a player who could adequately fill the nickel cornerback position. The Vikings could move Mackensie Alexander outside to the boundary, which is a natural fit for him. Jaire Alexander possesses 4.38 speed, is aggressive when playing the ball, and has a ton of the quick twitch skills teams looks for when evaluating defensive backs. He tested better than almost all of the defensive backs at the combine. More importantly, he flashed at Louisville as a punt returner. The Vikings should be actively searching for position players who could also help improve the return units. Alexander certainly doesn’t possess the size or weight traits, but his athleticism and instincts make up for it. Another name to keep a close eye on is Auburn cornerback Carlton Davis, who tested well at the combine.
Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
The Vikings may decide to add a physical wide receiver, especially if they decide it may be time to move on from 2016 first round draft pick Laquon Treadwell. Courtland Sutton tested well at the Combine and his tape provides intrigue. He will likely be a second round pick and could go higher after his strong testing in Indianapolis. Sutton is one of the better contested catchers in the draft class. He has a wide catch radius and is a threat across the middle or in the red zone. Some of his tape looks less impressive because he played with such a widely inaccurate quarterback at SMU. He reminds me of Alshon Jeffery with his 6-foot-4, 218-pound frame. He also tested well in the cone drills and ran a 4.55 40-yard dash with his size. On tape, Sutton uses subtle movements at the top of his routes and and quick bursts to separate. He has the chance to be a dominant player at the next level, especially when he refines himself as a route runner. He is the style of wide receiver the Vikings currently lack right now.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Much of what the Vikings decide to do at the quarterback position will shape how they approach free agency and the draft. If they miss out on Kirk Cousins, they may elect to re-sign Case Keenum, while drafting a future quarterback. Lamar Jackson is arguably one of the most intriguing players in the draft because of his upside. On tape, you see the arm strength, ability to go through his progressions and the lethal athletic ability. If a team can refine his mechanics, Jackson has the chance to be a very special player. As I discussed in a recent post, Jackson might make sense for the Vikings if their quarterback search goes in a different direction. However, I’m growing convinced the team have a legitimate shot to land Kirk Cousins. Perhaps it will be a short-term deal (three years) with part of the salary being front-loaded to alleviate the cap space beyond 2018. If it gets too rich for the Vikings’ blood, Lamar Jackson might be a possibility if he slides to No. 30.
John Kelly, RB, Tennessee
Finally, the Vikings may decide to part ways with Jerick McKinnon, who is likely searching for an increased workload. If they make this move, they’ll need to draft a replacement. Latavius Murray will probably be asked to restructure his deal, but a third down running back is still needed. An under-the-radar prospect is Tennessee running back John Kelly. He shows excellent balance and light feet, but doesn’t shy away from contact. He runs with great pad level and plays larger than his size (5-foot-9). Kelly’s pass protection stood out on tape and he broke a plethora of tackles behind a poor offensive line. When he was asked to catch passes, his route running was also above average. The Vikings could add him in the fourth or fifth round if McKinnon departs, which is becoming increasingly likely. Kelly might not stand out right away, but he’s an under-the-radar player the Vikings should closely evaluate. Kelly didn’t run the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis, so it will be worth seeing what his number is at Tennessee’s pro day.