Minnesota Vikings: 2014 Countdown to combine

Countdown to combine: Vikings QBs

February, 20, 2014
INDIANAPOLIS -- We're wrapping up our Countdown to combine series this morning, since, well, the NFL scouting combine is here. Things get started at Lucas Oil Stadium today, so we'll conclude our preview by looking at one last position of need for the Vikings.

Position of need: Quarterback

This is an obvious one, isn't it? The Vikings have had a hole at the position for years, and could be back in the market for a quarterback three years after their ill-fated selection of Christian Ponder in the first round of the 2011 draft. At the moment, Ponder is the only quarterback on their roster after Matt Cassel opted out of his deal, and the Vikings have said they'd like to bring in a young quarterback. They might not have a shot at the top quarterbacks in the draft with the No. 8 overall pick, but they could find options in the second or third round of the draft, as well.

Three players the Vikings might be targeting:

Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: The odds of Johnny Football still being available at No. 8 are slim, and the price to trade up and get him would be steep, but you never know. Some teams could pass on Manziel because of his size (we''ll see at the combine if he checks in under 6 feet) and his reputation for enjoying the spoils of his position. But he was the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy, and it's tough to argue with his performance at Texas A&M. Russell Wilson and Drew Brees have proved short quarterbacks can succeed in the NFL, and the Vikings could use a dose of Manziel's swagger.

Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville: Another quarterback who could be gone by the time the Vikings pick, Bridgewater will nonetheless merit a long look from the Vikings. He might be the most polished quarterback in the draft, though his arm strength isn't on par with Manziel or Bortles, and his mobility will certainly attract plenty of attention. Though Adrian Peterson has said he'd like to play with Manziel, the possibility of Bridgewater and Peterson in the same backfield is enticing, too.

Blake Bortles, Central Florida: Some mock drafts have Bortles going ahead of Bridgewater or Manziel, which means there's a good chance he'll be gone by No. 8. He's probably the most traditional of the big quarterbacks in this draft -- he stands 6-foot-4, weighs 230 pounds and has an above-average arm -- so if the Vikings were to get a shot at him, they'd be acquiring a quarterback who could fit well in Norv Turner's offense.

Countdown to combine: Vikings DBs

February, 19, 2014
INDIANAPOLIS -- Hello from Indiana, where we're setting up camp in advance of the NFL scouting combine. We're back at it with our Countdown to Combine series, looking at four positions where the Minnesota Vikings need help heading into the 2014 draft. It all leads up to our coverage of the combine, which begins on Thursday.

Position of need: Defensive back

The Vikings allowed more points than any team in the league last season, and a secondary that suffered in the wake of Antoine Winfield's departure was a big part of the problem. Josh Robinson struggled to fill the slot corner position Winfield had played so well -- to the point where the Vikings nearly brought Winfield out of retirement before their Sept. 29 game in London -- and cornerback Chris Cook continued to struggle in man coverage, exposing the team's passing game during a season when their safeties were beset with injuries.

Three players the Vikings might be targeting:

Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State: The cornerback would give the Vikings another big cover corner to pair with Xavier Rhodes. He's at the top of Mel Kiper Jr.'s cornerback rankings Insider, and could be the kind of player the Vikings can get if they wind up trading back a few spots from the No. 8 overall pick. New coach Mike Zimmer will likely use more man coverage than the Vikings have employed in the past, and being able to put Gilbert with Rhodes would be an impressive foundation for the Vikings' secondary.

Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State: He isn't far behind Gilbert in many rankings, and would bring a similar skill set; Dennard can also be a press corner, and like Gilbert, he would give the Vikings a corner with a knack for making big plays. That element, in particular, would be a welcome addition to the Vikings' secondary; Cook has started the second-most games in NFL history without recording an interception.

Jason Verrett, TCU: The 5-foot-10 corner would provide a different kind of option from Gilbert and Dennard; he would likely be able to step in and play slot cornerback, if the Vikings' new defensive staff didn't feel Robinson had grown enough to handle the job. In any case, it might behoove the Vikings to have another option for the position.

Countdown to combine: Vikings LBs

February, 18, 2014
MINNEAPOLIS -- We're back at it with our Countdown to combine series, looking at four positions where the Vikings need help heading into the 2014 draft. It all leads up to our coverage of the NFL scouting combine from Indianapolis.

Position of need: Linebacker

In many ways, this has been a position that's needed upgrading for years. Chad Greenway made the Pro Bowl in 2011 and 2012, but the Vikings' production at middle linebacker has suffered since E.J. Henderson retired, and it became obvious last year they needed a dynamic, playmaking linebacker, as well as a permanent solution in the middle of their defense. It's possible both of those needs could be met in the same player.

Three players the Vikings might be targeting:

Khalil Mack, Buffalo: The 6-foot-3 linebacker has been linked to the Vikings in a number of mock drafts and with good reason; he'd be the kind of athletic linebacker who'd make offenses take notice. As dependable as Greenway has been, the Vikings haven't had a true thumper in their linebacking group for some time. Mack would likely start at weakside linebacker, assuming the Vikings liked what they saw of Audie Cole enough to give him another try in the middle. If Mack played there, he might also give the Vikings some of what they thought they'd get with Desmond Bishop in that spot last year -- a physical linebacker who can rush the passer.

C.J. Mosley, Alabama: If the Vikings were looking for a middle linebacker, Mosley might be their best option. He's particularly strong in pass coverage -- where Erin Henderson flailed at times last year -- and he's got the size to help in the run game, as well. Mosley sustained a nasty knee injury in the 2012 BCS National Championship, and dislocated his elbow last year, but if he shows himself healthy enough to merit first-round consideration, he could get a strong look from the Vikings at No. 8. General manager Rick Spielman has also talked about the possibility of trading back for more picks, and if the Vikings did that, they might still be able to get Mosley at, say, No. 10 or 12.

Anthony Barr, UCLA: He could be gone by the time the Vikings pick at No. 8, particularly if there's a team that sees him being able to bulk up enough to play defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, but he'd be another strong option at outside linebacker. Barr is 6-4 and nearly 250 pounds, so he'd certainly have the size to be an imposing outside linebacker. His best fit could be with a team looking for a 3-4 outside linebacker, but Barr's pass-rushing skills could make him an attractive fit in the Vikings' scheme, as well.

Countdown to Combine: Vikings

February, 17, 2014
MINNEAPOLIS -- Welcome to our Vikings-specific preview of the NFL scouting combine, which kicks off on Thursday in Indianapolis. We'll be previewing four positions this week the Vikings could address in the draft. I'm inclined to stay away from the quarterback position, since we've talked so much about it already (and will continue to talk about it). This can be a place to look at the other areas the Vikings could address, many of them being on defense. We'll get started there, with a look at the defensive line.

Position of need: Defensive line

The Vikings could be facing a time of transition at the position, with both Jared Allen and Kevin Williams set to hit free agency after burnishing their Hall of Fame credentials in their time in Minnesota. Defensive end Everson Griffen is a free agent, as well, though the Vikings seem likely to re-sign him. But the team could still be in the market for a taller defensive end along the lines of the ends new coach Mike Zimmer had in Cincinnati, in addition to another defensive tackle.

Three players the Vikings might be targeting:

Louis Nix (DT), Notre Dame: Nix is an absolute load at nose tackle, and could give the Vikings the kind of impenetrable force they haven't had since Pat Williams. He could free Sharrif Floyd up to be the kind of upfield pass-rusher Zimmer had in Bengals' three-technique tackle Geno Atkins (and the Vikings had for many years in Kevin Williams). There are concerns about Nix's health after he had surgery to repair a torn meniscus, and he could have knee problems at his size (6-foot-2, 342 pounds), but he'd immediately change the face of the Vikings' run defense.

Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota: The Vikings should know plenty about the 6-foot-6 Hageman already, and they could give him a chance to continue his career in TCF Bank Stadium, where they'll play the next two seasons. The 6-foot-6 Hageman profiles as an interior lineman. He might not be refined enough to play defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, where he'd be asked to rush around the edge, but his size and athleticism could pique the Vikings' interest, whether he'd be an interior lineman or merit a look on the outside.

Kony Ealy, Missouri: We're assuming Jadeveon Clowney will be gone by the time the Vikings pick at No. 8, but a player like Early or Notre Dame's Stephon Tuitt could make sense if the Vikings are in the market for the kind of tall defensive ends new coach Mike Zimmer had in Cincinnati. Ealy had eight sacks last season, and at 6-foot-5, 275 pounds, he'd give the Vikings a player with a similar physical profile to Allen, who is a free agent this spring.