The Vikings hosted a number of the their 30 allotted official visits this week in an event at their facility. The team typically does this as a group function, allowing the players to interact not only with coaches and executives, but other prospects, as well.
Some of the bigger names included first round prospects Mike Hughes and Justin Reid and Minnesota native Frank Ragnow. However, there were quite a few players from small schools that also received meetings. Many of these players have received little publicity, despite high college production. So we will take a look at who these players are and how they could potentially fit if they end up on the Vikings’ roster.
P.J. Hall, DT, Sam Houston State
The lack of buzz around P.J. Hall is both confounding and fortuitous. Maybe it is the relative lack of size. Maybe it is the fact he played at Sam Houston State. Regardless, Hall was one of the most productive defensive players in the country the last four years, and still did not earn a combine invite. As a result, it appears likely that he will slip well into day three. And whoever pulls the trigger is getting a freakish athlete for a man his size, someone who can stuff the run and rush the passer and is above all, disruptive. Oh, and for what it is worth, Hall blew away his pro day with a 40 of 4.71, a 38-inch vertical and 36 bench reps. Read more about Hall here.
Nathan Shepherd, DT, Fort Hays State
Shepherd has emerged as one of the most sought-after Division II prospects in this year’s draft. While he is still raw, Shepherd has elite interior quickness and the frame to hold up to stout NFL blocking. His greatest draw is his pass rush potential, as his quickness and ability to sink and turn the corner are already high caliber. His problem, however, is that he was able to get away with being bigger, stronger and faster than everyone he played while at Fort Hays State. As a result, he can get washed out of plays by down blocks, double teams and any irregular blocking scheme. Shepherd has plus potential, he may just need a few years seasoning to reach it.
Alex Cappa, OT, Humboldt State
Cappa stood out at the NFL combine as the guy with smooth blonde hair and athleticism to match. Though he did not necessarily reflect that athleticism with his combine numbers, Cappa stands out from other Division II offensive linemen with his lateral quickness and nasty streak. Again, his film can be hard to translate, given the competition. But in college, Cappa showed he is fully capable of move blocking in the run game and mirroring quick pass rushers. Whether his short arms and top notch run blocking ability will slide him to guard is to be seen. But as a mid-to-late-round linemen with positional versatility, there is a lot to like about the Humboldt State product.
Jake Wieneke, WR, South Dakota State
As one of college football’s preeminent touchdown machines, Wieneke has caught the attention of several NFL teams. But the marriage with the Vikings may make the most sense. He can work inside and out, he runs smooth routes and is one of the top red zone threats in this year’s class. Adam Thielen emerged as a number one receiver last year, but he generally does his best work from the slot. Wieneke is limited athletically but excels in traffic and on fade routes, so that could make him a potential weapon as an outside threat and allow Thielen to work the slot more. Plus, like Thielen, Wieneke is a local. He graduated from Maple Grove High School in 2013.
Matt Gono, G, Wesley
The only Division III guy visiting the Vikings this weekend, Gono certainly looks the part of an NFL tackle. He is big and long with good quickness and strength, though like others on this list, his tape is to be viewed through a lens of inferior competition. And at Wesley College, he played lighter opponents than anyone else on this list. That being said, the level at which he overpowered said opponents is eye-opening. Gono’s technique is suspect at best, given that his strength and size was all he needed in college. He fires out low and hard in the run game and mirrors well in pass pro, but after that it is anyone’s guess. Still, as a late round pick, he is certainly an intriguing physical specimen, if nothing else.
Davontae Harris, CB, Illinois State
Harris’ strengths and weakness point to a transition to safety. He is stout both in terms of his frame and his play style. He attacks the run hard and effectively, which is rare coming from an outside corner in college. As such, Harris has a lot of experience sliding into the box and blitzing. However, he is also just a decent athlete, despite solid combine numbers. He is also not particularly fluid with his change of direction, so a future as a nickel seems unlikely. As a situational defensive back, particularly as a run support guy, Harris has a future in the league.
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