Spielman: Vikings Discussed Defensive Line Prospects for Nearly 13 Hours

Posted Feb 24, 2016

The Vikings had a deep and impactful defensive line in 2015, boasting a strong blend of veterans and younger players that helped Minnesota to an 11-5 regular season and playoff appearance. However, that doesn’t mean that Vikings General Rick Spielman and other personnel aren’t watching every position at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week.

“Just looking at the whole big picture, I think the defensive line is one of the strongest I’ve seen in a long time,” Spielman said in a media session in Indianapolis with reporters Wednesday morning.

“There are some good DBs, there are some talented linebackers, but this is a deep class,” Spielman added. “I mean, we spent almost 13 hours on defensive linemen one day, just because of the depth of the defensive line.”

NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock echoed Spielman’s sentiments during a conference call Tuesday, saying the breadth of talented defensive tackles is the largest he’s covered since starting at the combine.

The benefit to having such a deep pool of options is that teams won’t need to feel an urgency on selecting a defensive lineman if that’s not the most pressing position need.

“This is how good it is,” Mayock said. “You could wait ’til the third or fourth round this year and get a defensive tackle that in past drafts was a first or second rounder. I’ve heard first-round grades on plus or minus 10-12 defensive tackles this year.”

Last year, Minnesota’s first defensive line draft selection was defensive end Danielle Hunter, picked in the third round (88th overall). The rookie had an early impact on Minnesota’s defense, finishing second on the team for sacks (6.0) and ranking second in the league among rookies. Hunter proved to be a good option for rotation with veteran defensive end Brian Robison.

Robison stepped into a different role in 2015 than in his previous eight season with the Vikings, but his willingness to occasionally move inside on the line and take on a new responsibility served Minnesota’s defense well.

“Brian played very well for us. I think he still has a lot of play in him,” Spielman said. “How his role increases or decreases, that will be determined as we go through training camp and this offseason, but he still is not only a valuable football player for us but he’s also extremely valuable from a leadership standpoint.”

Mayock noted the significant role that pass rush played in Denver winning Super Bowl 50. He expects teams across the league to continually add defensive dynamos to counteract a pass-prolific league.

“You can never have enough pass rushers,” Spielman said. “So I will say this: we are not boxed in to not taking a defensive lineman.”

During the 2015 season, Minnesota’s defense held its opponents to an average of just 18.9 points per game, good enough for fifth in the league. The Vikings defensive linemen combined for 294 total tackles, 63 tackles for loss, 215 quarterback hurries and 30 sacks.

Minnesota is scheduled to pick 23rd overall in the 2016 NFL Draft. The last time the Vikings selected from that spot, they tabbed defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd.

This year’s group of defensive line prospects are scheduled to arrive in Indianapolis Thursday, have their measurements taken Friday and participate in on-field workouts Sunday.