The Vikings are preparing for an influx of draft prospects to visit Winter Park on Tuesday and Wednesday, but their predraft preparations don't end there.
The team has scheduled a private workout next Friday with former Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez, according to Scout.com's Ed Thompson.
It is one of the more surprising workouts or visits we've uncovered this year. They have scheduled extra time with cornerbacks, offensive linemen and even wide receivers, but given the production of Visanthe Shiancoe and the draft value of Hernandez – he is projected to be drafted anywhere from late in the first round to the third round – their interest in a receiving-first tight end is a bit of a surprise.
With Jim Kleinsasser entering his 12th NFL season, it would seem that finding a blocking tight end of the future might be more of a priority, but Hernandez admits that his blocking needs work.
"I would definitely say point of attack and blocking, which is what everyone says," he said when asked what part of his game needs improvement. "I don't think I'm a horrible blocker, but I feel like I definitely have room to improve a lot of things in my game and that's one of them.
"I feel like I didn't do a horrible job in college. I was just a smart player who knew how to be in the right position so my man didn't make the play. But I never had that many reps going straight up with a defensive end at the point of attack, but I feel like I always can improve at that."
Making 29 starts in 40 games played, Hernandez caught 111 passes (a Florida tight end record) for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also holds the Gators single-season record for tight ends with 68 catches in 2009, the most by any tight end in the college football.
With that many catches, he also showed a lot of consistency, having 14 games with 50 yards or more and nine games with at least five receptions.
After all of his success, he made the decision to turn pro following his junior season.
"I felt like I had a good opportunity to get drafted. I talked it over with my family and they thought it was the best decision for me," he said. "It was tough because I loved all the coaches at Florida. I loved playing in The Swamp. It's a great organization to be in. It was definitely tough to leave. I was close to all the coaches, but it was a decision I had to make."
One thing that might hold him back is literally his back. He suffered a torn muscle that kept him from working out at the NFL Scouting Combine and has had back issues in the past.
The Vikings could be interested in getting some updated medical data on him, and they did interview him during February's Combine as well, giving them some insight to his personality off the field.
On the field, he's been producing for a long time. He was the top-rated tight end by Scout.com and Rivals.com coming out of high school and continued his success at Florida, becoming the first tight end from the SEC to win the John Mackey Award. He also earned Sporting News and AP All-America honors, as well as all-conference selections and academics honors.
He has relied on his "cutting ability, vision and inside knowledge of the game" to get him this far, he said. Now it's just a matter of continuing to impress teams and waiting a few more weeks to find out where he'll continue his football career.
"I'm really just hoping for the best. It's a dream to play in the NFL," he said. "If I'm a first-rounder, I'm an emotional guy. I'm going to probably be in tears like Vernon Davis was. But it's just a dream. I want to be happy whether I go in the first round or fourth round just because it's a dream to play in the NFL. So I won't be mad about anything. I'm just trying to focus on doing my best for the coaches and hoping for the best."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Vikings to work out surprising prospect
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