Winners and losers of the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
Information in this aggregation was pulled from NFL.com and NFLDraftScout.com.
With the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine in the books, it's time to review the winners and losers through the Minnesota Vikings' lens of need. We'll recap two winners and one loser for four positions the Vikings could be looking to improve through May's NFL Draft.
Draft stock up
Aaron Donald - Relatively too small to be the true nose tackle the Vikings need, Donald still continued to impress after his standout 2013 season at Pittsburgh. Donald's 4.68 40-yard dash ranked fifth among all defensive linemen at the Combine as he continued an upward trend in the wake of his impressive Senior Bowl performance last month. Donald put up the second-most reps (35) in the bench press among defensive linemen. While some marveled at Jadeveon Clowney's 4.53 dash, Donald's 4.68 at nearly 20 pounds heavier is just as impressive. The decorated defensive tackle assured his first-round projection as he hit high marks in all the measurable categories.
Caraun Reid - Princeton product Caraun Reid fits the mold for nose tackle. At 6'2" and 302lbs, Reid ran an impressive 4.91 dash, but could only put up 20 reps of 225lbs in the bench. While Reid didn't impress with his strength, the big body's quickness reveals decent footwork. Reid posted the best three-cone drill time for any defensive lineman weighing 300 pounds or more at 7.59 seconds on Monday. Reid is currently projected as a fourth-round draft pick in May.
Michael Sam - Sam did little to pull the focus back to football after posting relatively poor numbers in the 40 (4.91), bench (17) and vertical jump (25.5) at the Combine. There were already questions that he could be a three-down defensive end (too small) or linebacker (too raw). The Southeastern Conference's defensive player of the year was ranked No. 90 on NFLDraftScout.com's big board as the ninth-ranked defensive end, but failed to reach those marks in any category at the Combine.
Draft stock up
Khalil Mack - Mack likely cemented his place as a Top-10 pick at the Combine after ranking among the top linebacker prospects in the 40 (4.65, 4th), vertical jump (40, 2nd), broad jump (128, 2nd) and 20-yard shuttle (4.18, 5th). If he were to fall to the Vikings at No. 8, depending on the quarterbacks available, Mack could serve as an immediate difference maker alongside Chad Greenway as the other outside/nickel linebacker.
Kevin Pierre-Louis - Out of Boston College, Pierre-Louis wasn't on top of many draft boards despite standing out as an All-ACC linebacker after a 104-tackle season, including 10.5 for a loss and six sacks in his final season as an Eagle. He topped all linebackers at the Combine with a 4.51 40-yard dash, third in the vertical jump (39) and tied for second in the broad jump (128). He was projected as a sixth or seventh-round pick before the Combine and undoubtedly helped his draft stock with an impressive outing on Monday in Indianapolis.
Anthony Barr - This one may be controversial, but considering Barr's unanimous status as the second-best outside linebacker - he didn't dazzle in the stat sheet from the Combine. The UCLA product finished last among all linebackers participating in the bench press (15) and was bested by 11 linebackers in the broad jump and by 13 in the vertical jump. However, Barr impressed in speed drills - finishing a tick behind Mack (by 0.01) in the 40 and sixth in the 20-yard shuttle among all linebackers. One report claims the Atlanta Falcons (No. 6 overall) favor Mack over Barr, which could force Barr up the Vikings' draft board in May if the right QB isn't available at No. 8.
Draft stock up
Johnny Manziel - If it's possible for the most-hyped quarterback prospect to improve his draft stock without throwing, Manziel did it on Sunday. The Texas A&M product finished fourth in the 40 (4.68), first in the 20-yard shuttle (4.03) and second in the three-cone drill (6.75) among all quarterbacks. Manziel also had the fifth-largest hands of 19 quarterbacks at the Combine - measuring 9 7/8", which is important for a quarterback under six-feet tall.
Blake Bortles - Bortles was the only of the top-three quarterback prospects to throw at the Combine and just happened to be wearing the No. 1 Combine jersey during Sunday's workouts. That's how he came out of the workouts as the big-armed, 6'5", 232-pound Bortles impressed with throws - including his final throw that ended as a 45-yard post completion to Pittsburg State receiver John Brown. From USA Today's Jim Corbett: "It was the sweetest rope by any quarterback in the morning group, which included Alabama's A.J. McCarron, Clemson's Tajh Boyd and Eastern Illinois product Jimmy Garoppolo."
Teddy Bridgewater - Bridgewater elected to not throw, not take part in the 40-yard dash and therefore did little to claim he's the No. 1 overall passer in the 2014 class. NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock called Bridgewater's decision "kind of silly," yet claimed he's the "most NFL-ready" draft prospect among all passers. All Bridgewater has to do is play catch up with the likes of Bortles and Manziel as he waits to show off his arm at Louisville's Pro Day instead. The only other QBs to not run the 40 were Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray, both currently rehabbing ACL injuries.
Draft stock up
Justin Gilbert - The fastest defensive back at the Combine, Oklahoma State's Gilbert also put up 20 reps of 225lbs (2nd) on the bench and a 126-inch broad jump (7th). NFLDraftScout.com's top-ranked cornerback Darqueze Dennard posted a 4.51 40-yard time, trumped by Gilbert's blazing official time of 4.37. Gilbert (6'0", 202lbs) had seven interceptions in his final season with the Cowboys and his size and strength may spring him ahead of Dennard (5'11", 199lbs) in May's NFL Draft.
Jason Verrett - One of the smaller cornerback prospects, Verrett did nearly everything he could at the Combine to boost his stock. Verrett (5'9", 189lbs) ran a tick behind Gilbert with a 4.38 official time in the 40-yard dash. The co-Big 12 defensive player of the year out of TCU, Verrett was called an "ideal for the slot" pick in May's NFL draft by Mayock which is where the Vikings need the most help in the secondary after allowing opposing teams to throw for more than 1,000 yards on that position last season (per ProFootballFocus.com). Verrett tied for third among all defensive backs in the vertical jump (39 inches) and in the broad jump (128 inches) during Tuesday's workouts.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste - Nebraska's Jean-Baptiste impressed at the Combine with jumps, leading all defensive backs with a vertical of 41.5 inches and a broad jump of 128 inches that tied for third. However, only five defensive backs ran slower 40 times than his 4.61 and only four backs had a slower 20-yard shuttle than his time of 4.33 seconds. Jean-Baptiste has rare size for his position at 6'3", which may lead teams to take a chance on him, but as NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks writes: "his disappointing 40 times could make him a hard sell to teams looking for speedy cornerbacks...Jean-Baptiste lacks the quick-twitch ability that coaches covet in corners. He could be destined for safety at the next level."