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Vikings draft prospect microscope: Alabama DT Da’Ron Payne

As we lead up to the NFL Draft here at 1500ESPN, we will take a closer look at the prospects who could end up as Minnesota Vikings. For this edition, we focus on Alabama DT Da’Ron Payne…

Why the Vikings could draft Da’Ron Payne:

While the Vikings signed Sheldon Richardson to play alongside Linval Joseph, he’s only in Minnesota on a one-year deal, leaving the door open for the Vikings to find their future DT in this year’s draft. Payne is only 20 years old and needs development, but has a very high ceiling, which was on display in the National Championship game. For 2018, he should be an NFL-ready run stuffer, so he could fill the shoes of Shamar Stephen, who signed in Seattle. And for the future, Payne has the potential to be a dominating all-around interior D-lineman.

What experts are saying:

NFL.com draft profile:

Payne possesses one of the most impressive combinations of strength and athleticism that we’ve seen from an interior lineman. He will be the premier run-stuffer in this draft, but he may have enough in the pass rushing toolbox to project as a better pro than college pass rusher. Payne is a game-ready starter who immediately upgrades a defense’s ability to slow the run. If teams view him as just a run-down player, then his draft value could fall a little, but he could become a Pro Bowl defender early in his career.

CBS Sports:

Chiseled defensive tackle who thrives as block-shedding two-gapper. Super strong. Has mastered the technique. Flashed pass-rushing ability with quickness and hand use. 

NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah:

Payne is a powerful, run-stuffing defensive tackle with pass-rush upside. Against the run, he launches out of his stance and quickly shoots his hands to generate knock-back against single blocks. He will also use a quick slap/swim to disrupt. He holds up well vs. double-teams and has tremendous lateral range. As a pass rusher, he has a quick get-off, but he needs to develop a plan. Most of his pressure is the result of his swim move. He needs to work on counter moves. His effort is excellent. Overall, Payne is built to dominate on run downs right now. He has the athletic ability and power to emerge as a much better pass rusher in the near future.

What the numbers say:

Overall, Payne’s production left a lot to be desired. He came away with just 2.5 sacks over the past two seasons and ranked 19th in Pro Football Focus’s Run Stop Percentage. His overall grades from PFF in each area were not exciting. But Payne was the highest graded player in the the entire National Championship Game.

Graphic via Pro Football Focus

Payne’s quickness stands out, especially compared to his weight. His Relative Athletic Score compares fairly closely to former Viking Kevin Williams.

Graphic via Mockdraftable 

Bottom line:

There is some risk involved with drafting Payne, but the Vikings have not steered clear of players who didn’t put up big sack numbers in college (See: Hunter, Danielle). In a class that has only a few very good defensive tackle prospects, the Vikings may consider the Alabama DT if they are thinking about the long-term outlook of the three-technique position. If Minnesota’s front office is focusing more on players who can make a huge impact in 2018, they will go in a different direction.

Watch Da’Ron Payne:





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