Did Senior Bowl put Jake Locker, Colin Kaepernick in play for Vikings?
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The Minnesota Vikings entered the offseason with several well-documented needs, including finding a quarterback of the future and re-signing a haul of unrestricted free agents. Shawn Zobel, founder and publisher of DraftHeadquarters.com, got an up-close look during Senior Bowl practices this week in Mobile, Ala., at several players who could be candidates for the Vikings in April's NFL Draft. Here's a breakdown of seven of them:
Jake Locker, QB, Washington: No player in attendance was less consistent than Locker (6-foot-3, 230 pounds). A prototypical pro-style quarterback whose physical tools and intangibles are off the charts, Locker's accuracy and precision as a passer were fairly erratic over the three days of practice. Coming into the week, he was looking to impress to the point that being a top-10 pick could be realistic. That didn't happen, and Locker's looking like a mid-to-late first-round pick right now. With the Vikings picking at No. 12 overall, they should be in prime position to select Locker if they like. While his inconsistent play raised some red flags, he may be too good to pass on.
Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: This 6-8, 314-pound mammoth is a former tight end whose athleticism is among the best in the draft on the offensive line. With the Vikings having plenty of trouble there in 2010, having allowed 36 sacks, there is going to be some interest in upgrading what once was one of the strongest units on their team. Solder is a pure left tackle prospect who ideally could move Bryant McKinnie from left tackle to the right side and kick Phil Loadholt inside to guard. With a top combine performance expected from Solder next month, he could be coveted in the first half of the first round.
Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor: A technician whose technique and fundamentals are among the best in the draft on the offensive line, Watkins is a polished product who offers the size (6-4, 312) and skillset needed to step in and start immediately at the next level. Watkins played left tackle at Baylor but projects best inside at guard in the NFL, which is where he has played at the Senior Bowl. Watkins is projected by DraftHeadquarters.com as a second-round pick.
Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada: If the Vikings land a quarterback through free agency or trade, they will still be looking to add a developmental signal-caller in the middle of the draft. Kaepernick had the best week of any quarterback in Mobile for the game. He has a long, lanky frame at 6-4 and 225 pounds, and he is just the third quarterback in college football history to throw and rush for 20 touchdowns in a season. (Tim Tebow and Cam Newton are the others). There was plenty of talk in Mobile that the Vikings had interest in Kaepernick, and he could be a player they'll have their eyes on in the second or third round.
Ahmad Black, S, Florida: Smaller than ideal at 5-9 and 183 pounds, Black is one of the quickest and most agile defensive backs in this year's draft. His ability to cover ground quickly, as well as his production and experience playing at Florida, has won scouts over. As a result, his draft stock is on the rise. With big problems at the safety position in 2010, Black could be a player the Vikings may want to consider if he's available in the third round.
Jarvis Jenkins, DT, Clemson: It's expected veteran free agent Pat Williams won't be back with the Vikings, and as a result, the defensive tackle position opposite Kevin Williams becomes a priority to fill this offseason. While some think that Letroy Guion could be a candidate to take over, the Vikings may be best served to address this position through the draft. Jenkins is a large prospect at 6-3 and 309 pounds, and he was dominant in Mobile, consistently pushing the pocket in pass-rushing drills as well as anchoring effectively in run defense. He'd be an intriguing player to look at if he's still available in the early third round. If the Vikings are looking for another massive player to fill Williams' shoes, Baylor's Phil Taylor (6-3, 337) could be another prospect worth looking at.
Mason Foster, LB, Washington: With Ben Leber expected to leave via free agency, the Vikings will be on the lookout for a draftable prospect at linebacker who could come in and contribute right away. One of the top coverage linebackers in this year's draft, Foster is a fluid athlete whose ability to change direction in the open field is among the elite for his position this year. Foster had an impressive week in Mobile and projects as a second- to third-round pick.
The Senior Bowl will be played at 3 p.m. Saturday. It will be televised live on NFL Network.