The NFL Scouting Combine’s importance to how team’s view certain prospects can, and will, be debated until the end of time but there is little denying that it marks the beginning of the offseason. Players, coaches, executives, and agents converge on Indianapolis and a lot of the groundwork is done over the course of the event.
The Combine is covered wall-to-wall by NFL Network and others, but I just wanted to offer up a few simple observations now that the DVR is rid of all Combine related recordings.
Alex Smith Trade: Today, news became semi-official that the Niners will ship quarterback Alex Smith to the Chiefs in exchange for their second round pick this season and a conditional pick next season. A number of Vikings fans have expressed interest in Smith over the last year, so this news is important in that the Smith-to-Minnesota speculation is finally dead. Second, the move is expected to start a domino effect around the league that could see Matt Cassel playing (maybe even starting) elsewhere, could make Geno Smith and Matt Barkley fall deeper into the Draft than expected, and could set the tone for potential trades involving Matt Flynn or Nick Foles or Ryan Mallett. Lastly, one can’t help but wonder if the Niners and their arsenal of draft picks might be interested in trading for some big names like Derrelle Revis and/or Percy Harvin.
Vikings Create An Odd Impression: The Vikings met with a number of agents in Indianapolis, including those that represent the team’s pending free agents. Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN recently told the Twitter world that the meeting between Vikings brass and agents were “awkward” because the team gave no indication as to their intentions or interest, but instead just asked agents where they stood in terms of money. This sounds like Spielman just being Spielman, just trying to keep his intentions unknown, but the clock is ticking towards the beginning of free agency and the Vikings need to start taking care of some business.
Trying To Limit Winfield… Again: Antoine Winfield was expected to be a part time player last year, and the year before that, but it just hasn’t ever happened. Winfield has had to stay in the starting lineup due to Chris Cook’s inability to stay on the field and inconsistencies at the other starting spot. Leslie Frazier told reporters that he wants to see Winfield play less and that makes every bit of sense, because Winfield is at his best int he nickel position and needs to take limited snaps to stay healthy. Still, Frazier knows all too well that it is a lot easier to say than to do this, and this could be an indication that the Vikings might pull the trigger on another early cornerback in the Draft. Dee Milliner, Johnthan Banks, Xavier Rhodes, and Desmond Trufant all deserve consideration at the #23 spot where the Vikings pick. Frazier’s comments can also be translated to: ”We want Winfield to play part time and get paid like it.” Winfield is expected to cost the Vikings $7.25 million in cap space this season.
Defensive Line Dominates: This class is incredible when it comes to depth at positions along the defensive line. I can almost guarantee there will be tackles and ends available in the second round or beyond that carry first round grades for a number of teams. The Vikings have some needs along the defensive line, especially at defensive tackle, and if you do the math you have to figure a defensive lineman is the odds-on favorite to be the Vikings best player available when they are on the clock. Either Kevin Williams or Jared Allen could conceivably see their future replacement drafted on day one.
Te’o Sideshow: A lot was made of linebacker Manti Te’o's forty time this week, but the most unattractive thing about this prospect has to be the hoards of cameras and reporters that follow him around. The guy is a walking circus ever since his fake girlfriend story hit the internet and that can’t appeal to many teams, regardless of his perceived talent level. Alec Ogletree, Kevin Minter, and Arthur Brown all could end up drafted ahead of Te’o who was considered a possible first overall selection just a few months ago.
Depth Creates A Buyer’s Market: The Vikings may want to trade backwards from the 23 spot come Draft Day, in an effort to pick up more draft choices, but they may have trouble striking a deal because so many others may be looking to do the same. It seems to be an overall consensus that this class contains enough depth that teams will feel confident that they are getting quality players in the third or fourth rounds, and those mid-round selections are going to be highly coveted. A team that is looking to actually move forward might be able to drive the price down by talking to multiple teams and getting themselves the best deal. Wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line, and defensive back all seem to be positions of particular depth in this class.