One of the first pro days that the Minnesota Vikings showed a strong presence at was the one held at the University of Minnesota on March 7. They reportedly had a majority of their coaching staff present and were the ones to run most of the drills.
To be fair, the Vikings always have a strong presence at the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ pro day. The two teams try to keep a good relationship with one another, so the Vikings are willing to help out each year. Still, this visit could have been more than just friendly assistance.
The Gophers have three defensive players – linebacker De'Vondre Campbell, cornerback Eric Murray and cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun – that have a chance of being drafted and it is possible that the Vikings have interest in all three of them.
There was an obvious lack of depth among the linebackers for the Vikings last season and while the team has signed a couple linebackers this offseason in free agency, adding depth and competition would never hurt. At 6-4, 232 pounds, Campbell looks the part of an NFL linebacker.
He is very athletic for his size, which was shown in the 4.58-second 40-yard dash he ran at the combine, which was one of the fastest times among linebackers. The biggest problem with him is that he appears to be lacking the natural instincts that teams will be looking for.
Now, he is smart, he earned an Academic All-Big Ten, so there is a good chance he could pick up on the little nuances of the position, but he is not ready to step into a defense and start from Day 1. It will likely be a couple years until he is really ready to play in the NFL, but if he is available in one of the later rounds he could be a good depth player to have on the roster.
It has been well-reported that the Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer loves to work with defensive backs, so he had to love seeing two talented cornerbacks working out in his own backyard. Both Murray and Boddy-Calhoun have the opportunity to play in the NFL, but it’s not likely they will be every-down starters on the outside. Instead, it’s likely that they will both be limited to roles of slot cornerbacks because of their size.
Boddy-Calhoun is the smaller of the two, coming in at 5-9, 193 pounds. He plays well in press coverage and works with smooth hips, which should allow him to stick with the shifty slot receivers he will face at the next level. He still needs to work on his physicality some, as he appears to be lacking that chip on his shoulder that a lot of smaller cornerbacks have.
He also does not have the top-end speed that a lot of smaller cornerbacks have, which can lead to him getting burned deep downfield.
While Boddy Calhoun is almost certainly going to be labeled as a slot defender, there is the possibility that Murray could play outside. He measures in at 5-11, 197 pounds, which is smaller than the six-foot corners teams usually look for, but it’s not far off.
Murray plays with great technique and has the ability to lock down any route ran underneath him and also has the burst necessary to catch up to a ball over the top if he gets beat deep. The thing he needs to work on is the fluidity of his hips. They can get tight at times and that can really hurt a cornerback in the NFL.
The best thing that Murray has going for him entering into the draft is the fact that he is a special teams ace. He will be able to contribute on special teams from Day 1 and that will really help his stock rise in the eyes of NFL teams. Especially ones like the Vikings who really put a premium on special teams.
The Vikings have shown a tendency to bring in players with a connection to Minnesota in one way or another, and that trend could continue in the later rounds of this year’s draft, or even post-draft.