There were a couple players that could be expected to go in the first couple rounds of this year's draft participating in Michigan State's Pro Day on March 16. All 32 teams were present, but some teams, like the Minnesota Vikings, were probably there for players expected to go in the middle or late rounds.
Heading into the offseason it was clear that offensive line was going to be a priority for the Vikings, but the only question was whether they were going to address it in free agency or the draft. Multiple mock drafts had the Vikings taking Michigan State offensive tackle Jack Conklin at No. 23 overall, but after signing multiple offensive linemen in free agency it no longer seems as though that will be the case.
One other big name at the Michigan State Pro Day was quarterback Connor Cook. But with Teddy Bridgewater in place and a young backup the coaches seem to like in Taylor Heinicke, drafting Cook seems out of the question for the Vikings.
Instead, there were some players who are expected to go in the middle to late rounds that the Vikings were likely keeping their eyes on, one of which is defensive tackle Lawrence Thomas.
Thomas measured in at just under 6-foot-4 at his pro day and weighed 294 pounds. He is a little undersized to be an every-down defensive tackle, but it’s expected that he will be more of a rotational player at the next level. He is a player that will work his hardest every play and leaves it all out on the field; the kind of players that head coach Mike Zimmer likes to have on his team.
He has great athleticism for his size, which was shown by the times he posted during his pro day. He ran a short shuttle in 4.45 seconds, the three-cone drill in 7.55 seconds and also did 24 reps of the 225-pound bench press.
While Thomas always gives it his all on the field, the production is not always there to match it. That’s a big reason why he is expected to be drafted in the late rounds, but he is still a player that the Vikings could pick up and one that could see the field as a rookie. The Vikings need some depth at defensive tackle and Zimmer has shown in the past that he is willing to reward hard work, no matter when the player was drafted.
Another player that the Vikings likely had some interest in is wide receiver Aaron Burbridge. He measures in at 6-0, 206 pounds and, while fans want the team to draft a bigger receiver this year, both Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman have made it clear that height is not as important to them as some others when looking for a receiver. They want a player that can compete, go up and battle for the 50/50 balls and separate himself with the routes he runs.
Burbridge is a player that will try to outwork any cornerback covering him, but he may not have the athleticism necessary to break away from them on a consistent basis. He also does not have the most consistent hands at this point, but has shown on numerous occasions the ability to contort his body in the air and come down with spectacular catches. This was on display at his pro day as he reportedly made a great catch along the sidelines during his workout.
The senior receiver ran the 40-yard dash twice during his pro day and recorded times of 4.53 and 4.49 seconds. They are decent times, but look even better this year because of the slow times run by receivers across the board.
Even though he is not the fastest player on the field, he is able to create separation by the routes he runs. Burbridge is noted as being a detailed route runner who has the ability to go in and out of his breaks with suddenness, which helps create extra space for timing throws.
Burbridge is expected to be drafted somewhere in the third or fourth rounds and it’s believed a move into the slot would benefit him the most. Right now, it’s expected that the Vikings will take a wide receiver earlier in the draft than the third round, but Burbridge is the type of player the Vikings like and that could lead to them selecting him later on.