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Vikings Use Analytics to Dive Deep on Combine Drills

Posted Feb 24, 2016

Gone are the days when NFL teams evaluated prospects just on basic measurements such as height and weight.

With improved technology and new ways of thinking, teams such as the Vikings are going beyond standard test results gleaned from the NFL Scouting Combine drills.

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman told Minnesota beat writers Wednesday morning in Indianapolis that, while analytics aren’t the be-all and end-all stat, they certainly help teams get a clearer picture on prospects. 

“In how we’re continuing to evolve with that, it’s not the final decision, it’s just another tool,” Spielman said. “Hopefully it helps you make good decisions. This is a part of it, but I think there are five or six other areas that we add into it. Guys a lot smarter than me came up with 17 different algorithms.”

While the Vikings have used analytics in the past, Director of College Scouting Jamaal Stephenson said Minnesota’s scouts have recently ramped up the process.

“Around the league, you see that analytics are becoming a big part of this thing,” Stephenson said. “We’re preparing for that, and I would think most teams around the league have an analytics department now.

“We’re headed in that direction and we’re excited that we’re adding that piece,” Stephenson added.

Spielman said analytics influenced the Vikings decisions to draft third-round picks Jerick McKinnon in 2014 and Danielle Hunter in 2015.

“Specific numbers that come out of here relate to specific positions,” Spielman said. “Not to give you any answers, but a running back for example, we may look at times or jumps for him compared to an offensive or defensive lineman.

“There are certain things they get tested on and it’s more important in some areas that other areas,” he added. “It’s specific to some positions and not others.”

Spielman also noted that analytics aren’t the final element in deciding whether or not to draft a player. In some cases, it simply elevates one player over another on the Vikings draft board based on the hard data.

But Spielman and the Vikings will undoubtedly continue to dive deep into combine drills and numbers.

In the end, they’re looking for the best athletes who can help them win.

“I’ve seen (analytics) starting to work,” Spielman said with a laugh. “If it didn’t work then I would be like, ‘OK, next.’

“But to be honest with you, it’s always going to come down to your gut instinct.”