The best way to approach the combine is to not let performances completely dictate opinion. Rather, the combine should provide the opportunity to confirm what the tape shows. If there is a discrepancy between past game performance and combine performance, that is when you should go back to the tape with a different focus.
For example, Orlando Brown’s abysmal numbers this weekend should not immediately make him slide. Instead, it should force talent evaluators to look back at his game film. Did Brown succeed purely based on his size and his lack of athleticism will be a detriment in the NFL? Or does he play more athletic than his workout showed? Or maybe he was just out of shape. That is what the combine should be for.
That being said, every year, players rise and fall largely based on their combine performance. Josh Allen may be the number one pick this year, based solely on physical tools and the potential he showed in shorts and a T-shirt. With that in mind, we will examine some names on the Vikings radar whose performance may affect the team’s draft strategy.
The Offensive Tackles
Coming in, the general consensus was that Connor Williams, Orlando Brown and Mike McGlinchey were the top tackle prospects and each could be number one. McGlinchey and Williams did nothing to change that. McGlinchey bowed out of some of the measurements but still proved he has the athleticism of an NFL left tackle. Williams also showed good quickness and change of direction, though his three-cone drill was a little slow.
It was Brown that threw a wrench into everything. His performance was so historically bad that some are predicting his fall will be precipitous. Once a lock to be taken first round, Brown is now a candidate for a day two selection. For what it is worth, in the past, few linemen with Brown’s 5.85 40-yard dash and 14 bench reps have even been drafted, let alone taken first round.
Which brings us to two men that elevated their stock a bit. UCLA tackle Kolton Miller and Pittsburgh tackle Brian O’Neill were arguably the two best athletes on the field for the offensive line drills. While neither have the same overall mass that Brown has, both are roughly the same height with similar arm lengths. Does this mean they have jumped Brown, not necessarily. But they are certainly more intriguing prospects than they were a week ago.
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These performances are all somewhat bad news for the Vikings. While their plan will likely be guard with their first round selection, were Williams or McGlinchey to fall, they would have been potential picks at 30. That is especially true for Williams, who some project will move inside, due to his relative lack of length. But with Brown’s stock cratering, Williams is suddenly perhaps the most highly valued tackle prospect and will likely not fall. Same with McGlinchey. O’Neill and Miller may have slipped to the Vikings second round pick pre-combine, but they likely will be gone by then, as well. As such, Minnesota’s options at tackle in the second may be limited to the most polarizing name at this point in the draft process: Orlando Brown.
Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
Everyone knew that Gesicki was a freakish athlete. Few knew how much he would separate himself from the rest of the tight end pool, however. Gesicki finished first among tight ends in the 20- and 60-yard shuttle, the broad jump, the 40-yard dash and the three-cone drill and was second in bench press. Perhaps most impressively, he led everyone, including receivers, in the vertical jump at 41.5 inches.
Gesicki’s stock is hampered by his slight frame and lack of blocking ability. But there are likely to be teams willing to take a chance on him in the late first, early second round for his receiving and athletic potential alone. That is not great news for the Vikings, who could have been looking at Gesicki in rounds two or three.
Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
Hernandez firmly stuck his foot into the number two guard position with his combine on Friday. He out-benched all offensive lineman and was just a hair behind top prospect Quenton Nelson in every other athletic category. The only thing holding Hernandez back from being a surefire late first-rounder is his length; he is only 6-foot-2 and has short arms, which also helped his bench total.
Aside from that, Hernandez is the total package. He is quick, strong and nasty and does not appear to have any athletic weaknesses. The only question is whether or not Hernandez will even be there for the Vikings at 30. This is an offensive line class that is both top-loaded and deep. But even among high profile names, Hernandez stood out and is no longer hiding in the wings.
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