Visits roundup: First-day interests

After a busy last three months of tracking Vikings interests in the draft, has uncovered close to two-thirds of the visits the team entertained at Winter Park this month. Here are the first-day interests that we've uncovered.


Tackle Eben Britton, Arizona: As explained in a couple of articles on Friday, Britton may not be a leftover choice at No. 22 for the Vikings. In comparison to the other top four tackles in the draft, Britton more than holds his own. In fact, he easily graded out as the most efficient and reliable tackle among them, according to grades handed out by draft biographer Dave-Te Thomas.

Britton's athleticism helped him earn Freshman All-American honors in 2006, when his blocking consistency graded out as the second highest in the Pac 10. He improved his blocking consistency in 2007, when he led the nation's right tackles in that statistic, and he went on to earn All-Pac 10 and All-American honors in 2007 and 2008.

He played in his first 24 games at right tackle for the Wildcats and his last 13 at left tackle.

WR Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina: Nicks is considered one of the more polished receivers and a physical player with solid route-running skills. Those skills translated into 68 receptions for 1,222 yards and 12 touchdowns for North Carolina in 2008, including three touchdowns in the Tar Heels bowl game. He credited that game with influencing his decision to declare himself eligible for the NFL draft after his junior season.

He also drew the attention of the Vikings at the NFL Scouting Combine and interviewed with them there. The team tends to concentrate on juniors at the combine and interview seniors more at the all-star games.

Tackle Michael Oher, Ole Miss: At 6-foot-4½ and 309 pounds, Oher has actually lost weight since he enrolled at Mississippi as one of the top prospects in the nation. He received numerous awards as a high school senior and was ranked the eighth-best prospect in the South by coming out of Briarcrest Christian in Memphis.

Oher has started since the third game of his freshman year, playing guard his freshman season before being shifted to left tackle as a sophomore. He has become a three-time All-SEC selection, including first team in 2007-08, All-America in 2008 and a finalist for the Outland Trophy in 2008.

WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland: In his final (junior) season at Maryland, Heyward-Bey had 42 receptions for 609 yards and five touchdowns. In his first two seasons with the Terrapins, he averaged 49 catches for 740 yards and four touchdowns. His 138 receptions rank third in Maryland history and his 2,089 receiving yards is second. He is also third with 13 touchdowns and sixth with four 100-yard receiving games.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound speedster said at the combine that he wasn't considering leaving school early, but others were telling him it was time.

WR Kenny Britt, Rutgers: The tall, productive receiver named the Vikings among four teams he felt had the most interest in him during an interview on Sirius NFL Radio and ended up visiting the Vikings. Britt said Vikings wide receivers coach George Stewart also attended his pro day at Rutgers, and the college's web site reported that 41 scouts and 27 NFL teams were represented at the March 17 event.

Britt is considered a physical receiver with big potential, but his ego has been called into question.

Tackle Phil Loadholt, Oklahoma: Loadholt checked in at 6-7¾ at the combine in February and 332 pounds, down about 10 pounds from his playing weight. He said he studies the taller offensive tackles in the NFL to see how flexible they are when it comes to bending their knees, a prime consideration for the position.

Loadholt has been honored every year in college, first as a two-time Junior College All-America selection and then as a two-time All-Big 12 selection at Oklahoma. His immediate goal is to prove he belongs among the elite in a deep position of the draft. He might have to wait until the second round to hear his named called, but most expect him to be gone before the Vikings' second pick, the 54th overall.

WR Juaquin Iglesias, Oklahoma: Iglesias' past production indicates he has a chance to be selected in the second round, as he hauled in 142 passes for 2,057 in his final two seasons with the Sooners.

The 6-foot-1, 211-pounder has an appreciation for gaining yards after the catch – one of the most coveted skills for a receiver in the West Coast offense.

QB Josh Freeman, Kansas State: During his final two seasons at Kansas State, Freeman completed 61.2 percent of his passes. Over the course of his three-year career, he completed 59 percent of his passes, which broke the school record previously held by former Viking Chad May, who never did play an NFL game.

Freeman ran for 404 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2008, and had 20 rushing touchdowns in his college career, which was fourth in the history K-State quarterbacks. But, more than running for touchdowns, Freeman is known for his arm strength and would like to think that he has professional ability to move in the pocket, comparing himself to the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger "for the size and ability to move around the pocket and extend the play. And also Donovan McNabb, just the way he harnesses his athletic ability and is still able to sit in the pocket and be a pocket passer," Freeman said.

That elusiveness helped Freeman blow past the previous Kansas State record of 6,208 career passing yards (previously held by Lynn Dickey) and move the bar way up, to 8,078 yards. He also finished with 179 more completions than Dickey, as Freeman had 680. Freeman also holds the Wildcats' record with 44 touchdown passes.


CB Darius Butler, UConn: As a cornerback, Butler amassed 180 tackles and 19 passes defensed with 10 interceptions – none of those interceptions coming in his senior season, when he wasn't challenged as often. In fact, his tackles in his senior season were also the lowest of his final three years because of offenses avoiding him more often, but his overall athletic ability has caught the attention of draft analysts.

He registered a 43-inch vertical jump at the NFL Scouting Combine, best among those participating, and ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash. He also topped the cornerback class at the combine with an 11-2 broad jump.

He is considered a tremendous athlete, playing some wide receiver and returning kicks and punts, both areas the Vikings would like to improve.

DT Evander Hood (Ziggy), Missouri: Hood ended his college career with 165 tackles and 15 sacks and started 32 of 48 career games. He was named All-Big 12 honorable mention in 2007, but his numbers were down a bit in 2008, when he registered 23 tackles (2.5 of them for losses) and 1.5 sacks.

As a captain for the Tigers last year, Hood was disappointed with Missouri's 10-4 record.

CB Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest: At 5-foot-9, 193 pounds, Smith is considered a small cornerback, but he is only the second player in Atlantic Coastal Conference history to reach 20 career interceptions, and the first since Dre Bly ended his college career. Fifteen of Smith's 21 interceptions came in the last two years, when he also amassed 81 tackles, 23 passes broken up, 15 interceptions and six forced fumble.

While Smith only ran a 4.47 at the NFL Scouting Combine, he brings the added plus of returning kicks and punts.

CB D.J. Moore, Vanderbilt: Like Smith and Butler, Moore also has returned kicks and punts. However, like Moore he is only 5-foot-9, short by NFL cornerback standards. He also timed in at 4.56 at the Combine. However, his athletic abilities are proven in winning three state high school championships as a basketball player in South Carolina.

Moore has been starting at cornerback since his freshman year. The last three years, he's had 178 tackles, 13 interceptions, 19 passes defensed and four fumble recoveries.


WR Percy Harvin, Florida: Harvin has been discussed in-depth on this site with his abilities as a versatile receivers who can catch the ball and maneuver in space, take the end-around and has the projected potential to return kicks and punts.

However, Harvin also has a very checkered past that includes being suspended from competition twice, being arrested on an assault charge and being one of the few players ever banned from athletic competition by the Virginia State High School League. All those red flags could be why Vikings coach Brad Childress reportedly went to Florida on Wednesday to meet with him.

While Harvin's character and physical durability are concerns, his athletic skills aren't in question. He became a starter midway through his redshirt freshman season and, in his three years with the Gators, he caught 133 passes for 1,929 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushed a whopping 194 times for 1,905 yards and 19 touchdowns

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