EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Fire up the airplane, we’re smack in the middle of Pro Day season.
College football programs around the country are holding their annual workouts for draft-eligible players, events that give NFL coaches and front office personnel a chance to get a closer look at potential prospects.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer told “Voice of the Vikings” Paul Allen on Tuesday’s 9 to Noon Show on KFAN that he has plenty of trips scheduled to check out players the Vikings could draft in April.
Zimmer said he’ll attend Pro Days at Michigan State University on Wednesday before hitting up Ohio State on Thursday and Michigan on Friday.
Zimmer said he judges a player’s burst and athleticism during on-field drills, as well as their demeanor and attitude.
“The No. 1 thing I’m looking for in most of the players, but not every position, is how fast can they get from point A to point B,” Zimmer told Allen. “The acceleration … when someone tells them to do something or go somewhere, how fast can they get from point A to point B.
“The other thing I’m always curious to see is how they interact with other players out there, how they react to coaches,” Zimmer added. “When a coach is putting them through the drills, and sometimes it’s me, how they listen, if they pay attention, how they take to the coaching. When I work them out, I go in there and tell them what to do and see if they’ll do it.”
Zimmer and Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman have been busy in other college towns as they visited the University of Oklahoma two weeks ago.
Zimmer told Allen one of the players he visited with Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, who was not invited to the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine because of an off-field incident.
“I did meet with him,” Zimmer said. “We just wanted to get a feel for him, really.
“We talked about a lot of things,” Zimmer added. “A lot of things in his past, how he’s going to change and so on and so forth.”
Surveying more offensive options
But Zimmer said the Vikings might not be done adding to the skill positions on offense, primarily at wide receiver and running back.
“I do think we need some more receivers, yes,” Zimmer said. “I think it’d be important for us to get some guys that can stretch the field a little bit.
“That’s not saying I don’t feel good about the guys we have, but we lost a couple in free agency and we’re going to have to add one or two,” Zimmer added.
Zimmer noted that there could be a number of strong running back options available in next month’s draft.
“There’s really all different types,” Zimmer said. “There’s big, strong, powerful, fast backs … there’s guys who are scat backs, guys who catch the ball well out of the backfield.
“I think there’s a lot of different kind of guys,” Zimmer added. “Just thinking about them on the top of my head, there are five or six of them who have a lot of big-play ability, and I’m hoping there’s a chance we can get one.”
That doesn’t mean Zimmer thinks the Vikings will snatch one up right away. He said he’s also impressed by the depth in the running back class and that a team could wait a round or two and still get a solid player.
“You never know how the draft is going to go,” Zimmer said. “But I do think there’s a chance we’re going to find a guy we really like when we decided to pick one.”
A glance at the defense
Allen asked Zimmer about the status of defensive tackle
Zimmer said Floyd has been rehabbing and is focused on getting ready for the 2017 season.
“It’s all up to Sharrif, really,” Zimmer said. “He’s trying to get healthy … he’s got this thing in his leg.
“We’re waiting on him to get healthy and if that’s the case, I think he can have a good year,” Zimmer said.
While a handful of players stepped up in Floyd’s absence last year, the Vikings will also be looking for a new nickel cornerback after Captain Munnerlyn joined the Carolina Panthers.
Zimmer said cornerback
“Yes,” Zimmer said. “And what he does with it is up to him.”
The evolution of the linebacker
The Vikings are also looking to fill the void left by linebacker Chad Greenway, who retired earlier this month.
Zimmer and Allen chatted about the possibility of using a hybrid safety-type player in that role, someone who is typically able to provide run support near the line of scrimmage but can also drop in coverage like a defensive back.
“I think that’s what’s part of coming into the league now,” Zimmer said. “I think we have to be able to adapt and adjust with it.
“There are some big safeties in the draft this year,” Zimmer added.
Zimmer said he liked what he saw from linebacker
“Kentrell showed a lot of good things this year, special teams especially,” Zimmer said. “He did a nice job on the scout team and when we had practices.”
Kendricks, Zimmer said, is a “playmaker.”
Longing for London
Zimmer said the Vikings recently held a meeting to discuss the planning of the team’s upcoming trip to London this season.
Zimmer said he couldn’t offer many details, but said he was looking to put the Vikings in the best spot to be successful.
“We’re trying to figure out what to do and what’s the best way to go about getting a win,” Zimmer said.
Minnesota will be the visiting team at Twickenham Stadium in England against the Cleveland Browns. The game will be played in either Week 7 (Oct. 22, 2017) or Week 8 (Oct. 29, 2017).