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Bleacher Report – Vikings

NFL combine’s top-end sprinters have landed high on Vikings’ radar

By Andrew Krammer

INDIANAPOLIS — Trae Waynes pocketed $100,000 from Adidas for sprinting faster than any other cornerback at last year’s NFL scouting combine. And he ran his way toward even more money as the Minnesota Vikings’ first-overall selection in the draft.

The 40-yard dash, which begins Friday with offensive linemen, specialists and running backs, is highly publicized and somewhat scrutinized, but serves as a useful verification for the Vikings’ personnel department. Run down the list of the Vikings’ last two drafts and you’ll see half (10) of their selections posted 40 times ranked in the top 10 of their respective position groups.

This includes their first three picks last year in Waynes, linebacker Eric Kendricks and defensive end Danielle Hunter. In fact, three of the Vikings’ top five picks had the fastest time among their position mates between Waynes (4.31), Hunter (4.57) and tight end MyCole Pruitt (4.58). The drill alone isn’t an ‘aha moment,’ say Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman, but rather a verification of their scouting.

“The measurements kind of clarify in your mind what you’ve seen on tape,” Zimmer said this week from the team’s hotel in Indianapolis. “So if you watch a guy on tape and you see him and you say, ‘I’m not sure how fast he is’ and he runs a 40, you’ve got a pretty good idea.”

The half of the Vikings’ last 20 picks who didn’t post a top-10 time include three non-participants (Teddy Bridgewater, Antone Exum, Brandon Watts) and three offensive linemen (David Yankey, Tyrus Thompson, Austin Shepherd).

Of course, speed is more important for certain positions and isn’t the only trait coveted by the Vikings. Zimmer likes long arms on defense — “length gives you an advantage,” he said. He’s also fond of the vertical jump, “because it shows explosion.” And since the Vikings hired Zimmer in January 2014, they’ve become more flexible in taking talented athletes who haven’t fulfilled their potential on the football field.

Perhaps no player is a better example than Hunter, who had just 1.5 sacks as a junior at LSU before the Vikings took him with the 88th-overall pick. Hunter led all defensive linemen in last year’s scouting combine with a 4.57 40-yard dash and measured with longer arms (34 1/4?) and slightly smaller hands (10 1/2?) than Houston’s J.J. Watt.

A trust in the coaching staff permeates through every player addition, free agency or draft, though is also exemplified by Spielman’s selection of 3-4 outside linebacker Anthony Barr with the ninth-overall pick in 2014. Barr quickly turned into a force for the Vikings’ 4-3 defensive system, and his 4.66 time in the dash ranked sixth among all linebacker prospects that year.

Barr’s speed paid off big during the Vikings’ win in Atlanta last season. Running back Tevin Coleman’s 45-yard run into the red zone ended in a lost fumble after Barr chased him down and punched the ball out. The play was especially impressive considering Coleman ran a 4.4-second dash at his pro day, faster than any running back at last year’s combine.

“You see the development of these football players,” Zimmer said. “Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes, Anthony Barr coming in and not playing that position before. I think our coaches have done a great job.”

It’s now news when a top prospect doesn’t put his speed on display here in Indianapolis. One of this year’s examples is Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell, who is projected as a first-round pick in ESPN Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft. Treadwell opted not to run the 40-yard dash this week.

“I switched facilities in the mid-training process,” Treadwell said. “Just wasn’t getting the work I needed to run my best time. Now I’m getting comfortable at the new spot and learning my techniques. I figured if I have enough time to work on it, I’ll get the time I want.”

Opting out could hurt his stock in the eyes of the Vikings.

“I’m one of the guys that gives speeches to the kids. I’ve seen it blow up a couple of times,” Spielman said. “They don’t do anything here, even though they’re capable and healthy enough to do everything here, and then you go down to their pro day and sure enough their first 40 they pop a hamstring or something.

“To me, if you’re healthy and you’re a competitor, why wouldn’t you want to compete on a stage like this on national TV with millions of people watching you with every major decision-maker in the NFL in one spot? Wouldn’t you want to reach out and thrive in that competition and show this is why I am who I am?”

The post NFL combine’s top-end sprinters have landed high on Vikings’ radar appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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