The Vikings are starting to line up their final-30 visits before the draft, and one of those visits will be Massachusetts offensive lineman Vladimir Ducasse.
NFL teams are allowed to bring 30 draft prospects to their facilities in the weeks before the draft, and the Vikings have been bringing the majority of those prospect all in at once for meetings, dinner and socializing. That will take place in early April against this year, and Ducasse is the first known visit.
Scout.com's Chris Steuber uncovered the visit and Ducasse's agent, Joe Linta, confirmed it, although details are still being worked out.
Steuber has Ducasse listed as the No. 2 guard prospect on Scout.com draft rankings, but Linta said he could play tackle or guard. At the Senior Bowl, he was used at left tackle, which could help elevate his draft stock even more.
At the NFL Scouting Combine last month, he was in demand, conducting 22 formal interviews with teams that wanted to find out more about him. Some of those questions undoubtedly centered on his Haitian upbringing and the relatives that remain there after the earthquake that devastated the island nation.
"It was a little setback when I found out what happened. When I heard from my family and that everyone was OK, after the two days I came back and started working out again," said Ducasse, who still has his father, two uncles and a few cousins living in Port Au Prince, Haiti. "The whole city was hit. Our house went down actually. Pretty much everything. They have to find another place to stay at."
Ducasse went through that process when he was 14 when he moved to the United States and began living with an uncle.
Since the NFL isn't that popular in Haiti, according to Ducasse, he didn't even start playing until his junior year in high school when his high school coach and some friends convinced the then-275-pounder to give it a try.
Not surprisingly, he said he is still a student of the game, and that education continued when he decided to go to UMass because, well, it was the first scholarship offer he received and it was close to his home in New Jersey, where his uncle drove taxi overtime to support his family, Ducasse and his brother.
Now, more five years later, Ducasse is confident he has the skills and attitude to make a solid contribution at the NFL level.
"I like competing, I'm physical. Up at this level, everybody is talented, everybody is athletic, everybody is fast," he said. "They just want to be able to see you finish and be physical and that's what I think I bring to the table."
It would appear that NFL coaches agree.
"Offensive line coaches love him," said Linta. "The kid's a football player."
A football player whose stock has risen the last couple of years and is learning his weaknesses as well.
"One thing I've learned is that the inside move – the problem was that I was oversetting and getting out too much. I need to be a little more patient," said Ducasse.
Now the big man that gave up just one sack in 2009 and who checked into the Combine at 6-foot-4½ and 330 pounds is ready to represent the undersized things in his life – his small school (UMass) and his small native nation (Haiti).
The Vikings have been busy on the scouting circuit lately, attending pro days for Purdue, Boston College and Fordham this week, according to Steuber.
Minnesota was one of 17 teams represented at Purdue's pro day. The top prospects there included DT Mike Neal and CB David Pender.
QB John Skelton is Fordham's draft chance this year, but Boston College has a number of players on scouts' radars – center Matthew Tennant and linebacker Mike McLaughlin are the key ones. About 20 NFL teams were represented at Boston College's pro day.
For all of Scout.com's draft rankings (by position, school, name or other listings), click here.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Vikings start lining up visits
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