Vikings met with versatile D-backs

The Vikings met informally with three defensive backs at the Scouting Combine that all had some position flexibility in the defensive backfield.

The Vikings were busy at the NFL Scouting Combine, working their allotted 60 formal interviews of 15 minutes each, but also using the extra time in between sessions to get a little extra familiarity with informal interviews. NFL Combine Coverage
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Of course, they likely looked at all the positions in that regard, but we uncovered a few informal interviews that targeted defensive backs.

Utah safety/cornerback Eric Rowe (6-1, 201) is ranked 20th among cornerbacks and somewhere around a fourth-round value, but also has the ability to play free safety, and he had an informal interview with the Vikings.

“I prefer corner to safety because I feel like it’s more of a challenge going out on an island and covering man-to-man or even zone. I just feel like it’s more of a challenge and I love challenges,” said Rowe, who played corner until the end of the season and then switched to safety.

“I feel like I had more success at corner, playmaking-wise, and I love the challenge of going one-on-one with receivers.”

Stanford’s Jordan Richards (5-10½, 205) has similar versatility to play cornerback or safety and was the 10th-ranked safety by before the Scouting Combine.

“I love football. It’s crazy that after all these years that this is the door I stand at now,” Richards said. “That’s why I’m so appreciative of all of the coaches, family members, mentors that I’ve had that have helped me get to this position.”

And Texas CB Quandre Diggs (5-9½, 200) is the smallest of the three that we found did informal interviews with the Vikings. He was ranked 24th among cornerbacks and is considered a late-round pick.

“They like me as a nickel guy. I’m a guy that can move outside. Special teams guy, of course,” Diggs said.

Here are the pre-Combine analyses on those players from draft analyst Dave-Te’ Thomas:

ROWE, Eric (FS) | Utah | CB | Sr | 06:01.1 | 201
Rowe has always been the classic overachiever, especially since joining the Utah program. As a 175-pound freshman, he earned All-American honors at free safety, collecting 69 tackles with an interception and 10 pass breakups. He was named to the All-Pac 12 Conference teams the next two seasons, as the free safety posted 64 tackles with an interception and six deflections in 2012, followed by 69 tackles, seven breakups and a fumble recovery as a junior. When Rowe returned for 2014 fall camp, the coaches decided to shift the defensive back with 4.39-second speed to left cornerback. He responded with 57 tackles, three for losses, as he scored on an 11-yard interception return, blocked a kick, recovered a fumble and batted away 12 passes.

Rowe has good field vision and intelligence. He knows his role in the defensive scheme and can play either corner spot, in addition to being physical enough to take on slot receivers as a nickel back or “man up” to tight ends at the free or strong safety slots. He has a good knowledge of coverage assignments and keys. He has no problems carrying out assignments in front of him.

With his exceptional speed. Rowe has no problem maintaining inside position when challenging a receiver, especially when working along the sidelines. He has the speed, closing burst and ball reaction skills to stay tight with any opponent, whether they are quick and fast or tall and physical. He needs to improve his strength base, so not to get backed off by the bigger receivers at the next level, but has the frame to add the power needed. He has become a solid press man, as he uses his hands very well to jam and run with his opponent down the field.

Rowe can mirror the underneath receivers in the short area, but does struggle a bit changing direction when having to play off. He can get a little inconsistent in his technique when backing off, but has worked on his bump technique, showing the ability to quickly recover. He is becoming effective playing the trail, cover or cushion, showing good plant and drive ability to mirror the receiver. He is smooth in his movements and has the speed to stay on his opponent’s hip, when he does not get too upright coming out of his pedal. He has very good closing ability and is very good at staying active with his hands in order to press.

RICHARDS, Jordan (CB) | Stanford | SS | Sr | 05:10.4 | 205
Versatile and quick enough to play either safety position or be utilized as a slot cornerback, Richards repeated his 68-tackle, three-interception 2012 performance again in 2013, earning league honorable mention both times. He elevated his postseason status to league first-team accolades in 2014, as he ranked third on the team with 79 tackles, adding three interceptions with five pass breakups, as he also caused three fumbles in 2014.

Richards has an athletic build with adequate height. He is fluid and smooth dropping back in pass coverage and shows impressive short-area burst and make-up acceleration. He can turn and run vertically with just about any receiver he faces and is extremely quick in his backpedal. He has an explosive closing burst and can make up a lot of ground when the ball is in the air, demonstrating very quick feet and good lateral movement skills. He plants and drives on the ball coming forward with no wasted motion, and his ability to stop and start on a dime is impressive. He has good leaping ability and will challenge for the jump ball.

The Cardinal displays natural instincts finding the football quickly and putting himself into position to make the play. An aggressive and physical safety that is not afraid to lay his body on the line, he reads quarterback’s eyes well and is able to get a good jump on the ball in flight. He closes quickly when receivers catch the ball in front of him and shows good closing speed coming off the edge.
The safety has the body control to avoid blockers in the backfield when asked to blitz. He has adequate fluidity in his hips, as he is able to turn and run with some bigger slot receivers in man coverage. He takes sound angles to the ball and is aggressive, possessing decent hands for the interception, along with the leaping ability and timing that will allow him to knock down some passes he can’t intercept. In run support, he attacks downhill immediately after recognizing the play as it develops. He will look for the knockout blow when given the opportunity and is effective when lined up in the box, doing a solid job of breaking down when making open field tackles.

DIGGS, Quandre | Texas | CB | Sr | 05:09.5 | 200
The former prep running back, quarterback and cornerback possesses a special blend of speed, quickness, smooth hips and ideal change-of-direction skills. The younger brother of Quentin Jammer, a three-year starter and All-American defensive back at Texas (1997-98; 2000-01) who played for the Denver Broncos in 2013 after spending 11 seasons with the San Diego Chargers (2002-12), Diggs’ cousin, Cedric Woodard, was a three-year starter on the defensive line at Texas (1996-99) and played six seasons in the NFL.

The versatile athlete started 11 games as a freshman, posting 51 tackles while picking off four passes and batting down 15 other throws, averaging 20.1 yards via nine punt returns and 19.5 yards on 19 kickoff returns as a freshman. He started all year at boundary cornerback, posting 59 hits as he picked off four passes, deflected seven others and made four stops-for-loss in 2012. As a junior, he delivered 58 tackles to go with 10 pass deflections. He began the 2014 season as the field cornerback, moving to nickel back during Week 2 before returning to the corner for the final three contests. He closed out his senior season with a career-high 73 tackles, knocking down five throws and making three interceptions, tallying 241 stops, 37 deflections and 11 interceptions as a Longhorn.

While a bit height-challenged vs. the bigger receivers, Diggs is such a hard hitter he could also fill in as a slot corner or eventually shift to free safety at the next level. He has good speed for man coverage assignments at cornerback, but shows the quickness needed to close on plays in front of him for a potential move to free safety. He lacks great backpedal technique and appears to have some hip stiffness, but somehow manages to change direction effectively. He needs to sharpen his angles a bit, but shows good urgency and forward charge to close on the ball. He is very physical when making the tackle and shows good intensity getting to the rush lanes.
Diggs has enough change-of-direction agility to cover along the sidelines and shows above-average hand usage and extension to attack the ball in the air and reach around the receiver to deflect the pass. As a pass thief, he shows natural hands and is very effective using his reach and timing to knock down passes. He uses his hands well to snatch the ball at its high point and also has a strong punch that he uses with force to reroute and press the receiver. He is active coming up to support vs. the run, keeping his hands active to prevent the bigger blockers from locking on and riding him out.

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