Minnesota Vikings: Names To Watch For 2018 NFL Draft

With the NFL Draft just a few weeks away, it’s time to look at the talent available for the Minnesota Vikings in April. After watching the Combine and tape on a few prospects, the Vikings have plenty of options at a variety of positional needs, and I see a wide swath of options based upon a range of possible outcomes. Each of these players addresses a position of need while thinking about how strategy could play a role in the Vikings’ decision-making.

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, as predicted here. 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. If you look at Corbett’s tape, you will 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

Even though the Vikings just signed Sheldon Richardson to a “show me” one-year deal, the need is there for an interior defensive lineman. Alabama’s Payne has the 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 who 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. 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.

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.

Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

The Vikings may decide to add a physical wide receiver, especially after cutting Jarius Wright, and possibly moving on from 2016 first round draft pick Laquon Treadwell. Sutton tested well at the Combine, and his tape provides intrigue. He will likely be a second/third 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 tapes look 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 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 now.

John Kelly, RB, Tennessee

Finally, the Vikings saw Jerick McKinnon leave via free agency, and Latavius Murray restructured his deal. However, a third-down running back is 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. Kelly might not stand out right away, but he’s an under-the-radar player that could remind people of a poor man’s Darren Sproles.

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Nick Ficorelli
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