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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Strong combine performances from interior D-linemen who could be on Vikings’ radar

By Matthew Coller

The Minnesota Vikings are heading into free agency and the draft with only Linval Joseph and Jaleel Johnson as their only interior defensive linemen. Naturally that pushes D-lineman up toward the top of the most likely positions the Vikings will address at No. 30 overall – even if they do re-sign free agents Tom Johnson and/or Shamar Stephen.

The defensive line class was on display in Indianapolis on Sunday and the top players did what they were supposed to do – with the exception of Michigan’s Maurice Hurst, who was a likely late-first but went back to Michigan to address a heart condition discovered at the Combine.

Here are the top names (outside of the No. 1 interior D-lineman Vita Vea, who is a NT) and how they stood out in Indy:

Da’Ron Payne, Alabama

Mike Mayock’s No. 2 defensive tackle did not have huge sack numbers in college, but there’s a belief that he could have more of an impact on the pass rush in the pros. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote:

“Payne possesses one of the most impressive combinations of strength and athleticism that we’ve seen from an interior lineman. He will be the premier run-stuffer in this draft, but he may have enough in the pass rushing toolbox to project as a better pro than college pass rusher.”

On Sunday he ran an impressive 4.91 40-yard dash with a second 10-yard split faster than Joey Bosa and close to Solomon Thomas.

Payne’s Combine performance combined with his excellent college football playoff might push him up too far up the board for the Vikings to have a chance.

Taven Bryan, Florida

Bryan may fit the mold of a three-technique DT that the Vikings are looking for. He is under 300 pounds and is known for his athleticism and explosiveness. Mayock has made comparisons to JJ Watt. He ran a sub-5.0 40-yard dash, ranked sixth among defensive linemen in the bench press and fourth in the broad jump.

NFL.com said:

“His instincts and feel are below average so his development could take time, but when he is a finished product, Bryan has the ability to become a disruptive, highly productive talent with a very high ceiling.”

Bryan also didn’t have huge production in college, picking up 4.0 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss this season for the Gators.

Harrison Phillips, Stanford

Unlike Payne and Bryan, Phillips did put up numbers in college, totaling 14.5 sacks and 27 tackles for loss in the last two seasons for the Cardinal. On Sunday, Phillips out-lifted Vita Vea, benching 42 reps. At 6-foot-4, 307-pounds, he might not fit the typical profile of a Vikings three-tech, especially with a 5.2 40-yard dash.

NFL.com said:

“Phillips has a feel for blocking schemes and is able to handle down blocks and double teams while allow linebackers to flow to the ball. As a former wrestler, he’s a natural scrambler with non-traditional ways of finding the football and finding the quarterback. He has early starter potential and could find snaps on passing downs as well.”

Rasheem Green, USC

Green is a fit if the Vikings want to replace Tom Johnson, weighing in at 275 pounds with a 4.73 40-yard dash – the fastest of any DT. But there are concerns about whether he can fit as an interior defensive lineman.

NFL.com said:

“He has obvious upside that is waiting to be unlocked and unleashed, but he must get stronger and play with better technique and toughness. Green doesn’t have the sand in his pants to hold up at the point of attack as an interior defender.”

The bottom line

While the Vikings will be looking closest at an impressive offensive line class, the defensive line group will have a number of prospects who could be available at No. 30 or in the second round. They will still likely have to look at D-line in free agency even if there are plans to draft a player in that spot.

The post Strong combine performances from interior D-linemen who could be on Vikings’ radar appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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