The NFL Scouting Combine kicks off in Indianapolis next week, and teams will get an up-close look at 330-plus of the country's best draft-eligible athletes.
Just around the corner from the combine will be the opening of free agency, where experienced players will change hands and don different-colored jerseys for the 2019 season.
NFL.com's Marc Sessler recently took a stab at free agency predictions and opined one player to every team in the NFC. When it came to the Vikings, he made an argument for Minnesota to sign Rodger Saffold, who started all 16 games at left guard for the Rams in 2018. Sessler wrote:
After inking a massive pact with Minnesota last offseason, Kirk Cousins was sold as the final puzzle piece for a club with Super Bowl aspirations. The veteran passer was better than most believe, but Minnesota's crumbling offensive line caused wire-to-wire chaos as Cousins spent too many games on the run.
Sessler said the Vikings "cannot sit still" in free agency and could sign the 30-year-old lineman to bolster their O-line group.
As for the other three teams in the NFC North, Sessler said the Bears should consider signing safety Lamarcus Joyner, the Lions could add cornerback Ronald Darby and the Packers should set their sights on edge rusher Preston Smith.
We're still learning what kind of front office the Packers are running under second-year general manager Brian Gutekunst. After a flurry of aggressive moves last offseason, how about padding out Mike Pettine's defense with one of free agency's hidden – or not-so-hidden – gems? The uber-consistent Smith spent last season as football's eighth-ranked 3-4 outside linebacker, per Pro Football Focus. With edge rusher arguably Green Bay's greatest need, Smith deserves a long look.
Rudolph speaks to sold-out crowd at alma mater
Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph recently returned to his hometown as the guest speaker at his alma mater, Elder High School, for its 43rd annual sports stag. Mike Dyer of WCPO Cincinnati wrote:
An estimated 1,180 attended the sold-out event, including an overflow crowd in the wrestling gymnasium, and everyone wanted to see "Rudy."
According to Dyer, Elder football coach Doug Ramsey described Rudolph as "a five-star guy with a five-star heart."
Rudolph, a 2008 Elder graduate, stopped to take photos, chatted with friends and caught up with the Elder High School community.
He spoke on a variety of topics. There were light-hearted moments, including some inside stories about being at the Pro Bowl.
There were was emotional times discussing his family and eloquently described his Elder experience and the support he received. He also emphasized the importance of giving back to a community like he has in the Twin Cities.
Earlier in the afternoon, he chatted with the Elder students, enjoying every moment and completing interviews with a smile. He also gave out his phone number to some of the football players, saying he would be there if they needed advice.
Dyer quoted Elder basketball coach Joe Schoenfeld, who guided Rudolph's athleticism on the court before he committed fully to football.
"I always thought how difficult it must be to be 'Rudy' and to be in the public eye with everyone watching his every move," Schoenfeld said. "Then I realized it's probably not as hard as I thought because Kyle is just a genuinely nice person. He is authentic – being 'Rudy' is not an act."
PFF grades Cousins as second-best QB in NFC North
The grades are in – from analytics site Pro Football Focus, that is – and Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins ranked second in his division.
PFF posted a graphic to Twitter this week that graded each quarterback of the NFC North's four starting quarterbacks. Cousins' grade of 79.3 came in behind Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, who received an 89.7.
Coming in at third and fourth, respectively, according to PFF's grades were Detroit's Matthew Stafford (77.8) and Chicago's Mitchell Trubisky (63.0).