It's been a long time since the Vikings entered the NFL Scouting Combine and NFL Draft with new leadership at the helm, particularly in the general manager role.
General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell are both new to Minnesota and their respective positions, so there's plenty of intrigue around how the duo will attack this offseason process.
NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah is certainly excited to keep an eye on the Vikings approach not only in the combine and draft but also in what offensive scheme the team will implement.
Jeremiah spoke with NFL media members via videoconference Friday, during which he was asked what he expects the Vikings philosophy to be entering this week's combine.
"I'm fascinated to see how it all comes together," Jeremiah said. "Because when you look at Kevin coming in there from a coaching standpoint, I don't know that scheme-wise it should be that dramatic of a shift. But I do think it's very quarterback friendly."
View photos of new Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell during his first day at the TCO Performance Center on Feb. 17.
Jeremiah explained why he's not concerned about the Vikings offensive line, which has drawn some criticism over the past handful of seasons.
"I've talked to some buddies around the league about this, kind of the proliferation of coaches from the [Mike and Kyle] Shanahan and [Sean] McVay tree, and … when you look at these Super Bowl-winning teams over the past five years, only three of those 25 offensive linemen were home-grown, first-round picks," Jeremiah said. "You don't have to have the most talented offensive line in the league to be successful because [with] all [those] stretch [plays], you're moving the pocket, there's the boot stuff off of that, there's getting the ball out of your hands quick.
"You're not getting yourself in too many unfavorable situations down-and-distance wise because you're throwing the ball on early downs," Jeremiah continued. "That whole system that they're bringing in there – and [the Vikings have] used it somewhat previously, but I think they'll take it to the next level – it's not going to be as offensive-line dependent as maybe some other teams."
Jeremiah is interested to see how Adofo-Mensah works to "add weapons" to Minnesota's arsenal.
"They're in a pretty good spot [offensively but will] continue to add to that, and then defensively they need some work," Jeremiah said. "They need more pass rushers. We'll see what they do with Danielle Hunter, but they definitely need some help with more pass rushers. And it feels like we've been talking about corner still being something they're looking for on a yearly basis."
During the media call that lasted nearly two hours, Jeremiah graciously responded to a whole spectrum of questions, from individual player- or team-based inquiries to those with a big-picture focus.
View photos of new Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah during his first day as a Viking at the TCO Performance Center on Jan. 26.
Below are three additional topics of interest Jeremiah discussed:
Combine has changed but still has worth
The NFL Scouting Combine has changed over the years, and some wonder if the annual training-and-testing event holds the same benefit it once did.
The question particularly is a relevant one as the NFL prepares to reconvene for the combine after cancelling last year's event due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Jeremiah, who will provide coverage for NFL Network, is on Team Combine, though.
"I think it's still valuable from the standpoint of watching these guys all move around on the field together," he said. "When you've got corners, and you've got four corners that you've got the same grade on and you think they're potential starters, have them all kind of in your third-round stack and they're out on the same field at the same time doing the same drills, it really helps you separate those and evaluate those guys in terms of how they move.
"I have always said the combine, the all-star games, they don't provide wild swings, but they can break ties, and I think there's still value there," Jeremiah added. "I think some people would say, well, you see everything on the tape … [But] you know what? If I watch a corner and he never plays press, I want to see how he moves when he gets up in there. If you watch a corner and he's always in a side turn, I want to see how he pedals."
Jeremiah noted that the combine can help evaluators "fill in some of the gaps" on potential things the players haven't previously done.
Safeties are 'more valuable than ever'
Minnesota of course isn't slated to draft until Pick No. 12, so several of the questions regarding the first few players off the board don't feel as relevant for Vikings fans.
That being said, though, questions around Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton, whom Jeremiah projected to Houston with the third overall pick, brought up interesting conversation.
"There's a real debate going on around the league about just how high you take safeties. I'm a little more biased in favor of them," Jeremiah said. "You know, calling the Chargers games for the last four years and seeing every game that Derwin James has played there and the impact that position can make.
"I think today I'd argue it's more valuable than it's ever been because it's such a space game, and you need tacklers," Jeremiah later added. "You need guys back there that can cover and guys that can tackle, and then if you have the versatility to be able to do multiple things, cover in the slot or match up with tight ends, I just think it's never been more important to have guys like that."
Depth at interior OL this year
Jeremiah delved a bit into various positions and at one point was asked specifically by a Cowboys reporter about guard and center depth of this year's class.
"If you're looking for an interior offensive lineman, I would wait. I would want until Round 2 and try to find one there," Jeremiah said. "I think there's going to be some good options."
He specifically noted Kentucky guard Luke Fortner, whom he is projecting to be a long-term starter, and Boston College guard Zion Johnson.
Jeremiah pointed out that not only does Fortner have athletic talent, but is stacking master's degrees. According to Fortner's bio with ukathletics.com, he earned a degree in mechanical engineering in 2019 and completed master's degree requirements in aerospace engineering for an official graduation in May 2022. He also is working on a master's degree in business that he plans to complete this spring.
"Luke Fortner, Zion Johnson, all those guys are intelligent," Jeremiah said. "So you've got guys that can move and guys that are really, really smart.
"There's actually a lot of love on the streets in talking to folks around the league for Luke Goedeke from Central Michigan, too," Jeremiah later added. "There's a good group of interior guys. I think if [a team] wants to find somebody that could potentially plug and play, they don't necessarily need to do that with their first-round pick. I think they can do that outside of Round 1 with this group."