Wide receiver seems to be the overwhelming choice by fans and analysts alike for what the Minnesota Vikings should do with their first-round selection. However, they may choose to wait until Day 2 to select a receiver this year, depending on how the draft plays out in front of them.
If the players they want are already off the board they may decide to draft another position. If that is the case, one player they could target is Alabama inside linebacker Reggie Ragland. The Vikings were present at his pro day workout and hosted him as part of their top-30 visit, according to the NFL Network.
Ragland is, arguably, the No. 1 inside linebacker in this year’s draft, so it is very possible that he is off the board by the time the Vikings pick at No. 23 overall. If he does fall, however, the Vikings will likely think long and hard about drafting him, even if the top wide receivers are still available.
Vikings’ needs: The Vikings defense was greatly improved last season, which was shown by the fact that they finished as the No. 5 overall scoring defense, allowing just 18.9 points per game. However, a big part of that was because of the success they had defending the pass.
Their defense still struggled stopping the run, finishing the season ranked 17th in run defense, allowing 109.2 yards per game on the ground. Adding a big, strong defender like Ragland should tighten up their run defense and could allow them to move Eric Kendricks to the weak side, which fits his size and skill set nicely.
Measurables: Ragland measures in at 6-foot-1, 247 pounds with an arm length of 32 inches and a hand size just under 10 inches. Even though he is projected as being a first-round draft pick this offseason, he did not blow anyone away with his offseason workout numbers. He recorded a 4.72-second 40-yard dash, 31.5-inch vertical jump, 116.0-inch broad jump and a 4.28-second 20-yard short shuttle at the NFL Scouting Combine. He then recorded a 7.55-second three-cone drill at his pro day, while choosing to sit on the rest of his numbers.
Analysis: Ragland is an old-school inside linebacker who loves to get down and dirty when stopping the run. He does not hesitate to step up into his gap in order to take on a lead blocker and his strength often allows him to shed them and reach ball carrier.
He may not be the fastest player on the field, but he is a very instinctual player that trusts what he sees and gets to the point of attack quickly. He showed a lot of improvement between his junior and senior seasons, cutting down on his number of missed tackles and showing a better understanding of angles and leverage.
Even though he showed improvement in the angles he would take his senior year, he was still inconsistent from time to time and his lack of top-end speed is a concern for some. He also appears to be a liability in man-to-man coverage, but does have the ability to drop back into zone. If the Vikings draft him, though, he will not see the field much in passing situations as Anthony Barr and Kendricks should continue to be the linebackers used in their nickel formation.
Ragland would be used as a run stopper who is asked to blitz from time to time. NFL.com has compared him to former Vikings linebacker E.J. Henderson, which should intrigue the Vikings faithful.