Senior Bowl Players Who Could Alter the Vikings’ Draft Strategy

Jan 31, 2024; Mobile, AL, USA; American defensive lineman Darius Robinson of Missouri (6) works through a defensive drill during practice for the American team at Hancock Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

The Senior Bowl is a prestigious event held in Mobile, Alabama, every year after the college football season.

Its primary purpose is to showcase the talents of NFL draft prospects by putting them with other draft prospects and coaching them with NFL coaches. Scouts, general managers, and other NFL personnel spend the week on the sideline watching players perform up close. The media and teams also interview the players throughout the week before playing in an all-star game.

A good performance at the Senior Bowl can aid many prospects’ draft journey. It is the first stepping stone to flying up draft boards as they head into the NFL combine. However, players who fall flat during the Senior Bowl will have to fight back against the narratives formed in the media echo chamber between the combine and pro days.

When NFL teams send their coaches to the Senior Bowl, they get experience in different roles designed to prepare them for promotions. They also get an up-close look at players they might select when the draft arrives, and good performances make a lasting impression. Overall, the Senior Bowl provides an excellent opportunity for NFL draft prospects to showcase their skills and take the first step toward their professional football careers.

Minnesota Vikings and the Senior Bowl

Senior Bowl
Feb 2, 2023; Mobile, AL, USA; National quarterback Jaren Hall of Brigham Young (3) practices during the third day of Senior Bowl week at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Over the course of the Adofo-Mensah tenure as GM, the Minnesota Vikings have made 16 draft selections, and six of those selections have involved players who participated at the Senior Bowl.

  • LSU offensive guard Ed Ingram was voted the best offensive lineman of the week. He was lauded for his one-on-one drills against the Packers’ first-round pick Devonte Wyatt, and as a result, the Vikings utilized a second round pick on the guard in 2022.
  • Oklahoma linebacker Brian Asamoah Jr. was named the top linebacker on the National team by OL, TE, and RB groups at the 2022 event before becoming a third round selection that spring.
  • Missouri cornerback Akayleb Evans was a versatile prospect after doing well in two different coverage schemes between Tulsa and Missouri. He had a great week at the 2022 Senior Bowl, standing out amongst a crowded cornerback room. His physicality was apparent, and it earned him a fourth-round selection by Minnesota.
  • USC defensive back Mekhi Blackmon had a great week of practices last spring before being selected in the third round by the Vikings. Scouts raved about his speed and fluidity. He notably locked down Packers receiver Jayden Reed, with Jayden Reed saying Blackmon was the best he faced at the Senior Bowl.
  • Jay Ward, who played safety at LSU, was well-perceived because of his quick acceleration and versatility as a former cornerback. This versatility earned him a fourth-round selection by the Vikings.
  • BYU quarterback Jaren Hall had a rocky week at the Senior Bowl before opting out of the game. He was noted as making many mental errors and for his inconsistency. 

Clearly, doing well in Mobile is important for the Vikings after each player, outside of Hall, was raved about for their weeks of performances. 37.5% of the Vikings draft picks in this regime have been in the Senior Bowl.

Player Fits With Dominant Performances

Dec 2, 2023; Detroit, MI, USA; Toledo Rockets cornerback Quinyon Mitchell (27) breaks up a pass intended for Miami (OH) Redhawks wide receiver Gage Larvadain (10) in the third quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

Darius Robinson, DL/EDGE, Missouri

Robinson kicked off the week with an elite 6’5″ and 286 pounds measurement. The hype train never slowed down as he proceeded to rip through every competitor he faced. Robinson had a powerful performance at the Senior Bowl.

The runway is set for Robinson to take off into the first round. Maybe a top-125 pick before the Senior Bowl, Robinson may have increased his draft stock more than anyone else in Mobile, AL. He should test very well at the NFL Combine, which will only add more fuel to the fire. Robinson will not fall out of the top 50 picks. Book it.

Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo

Mitchell was arguably the best player at the Senior Bowl. There were questions about his level of competition while at Toledo, but he answered those questions at the Senior Bowl.

I had Quinyon Mitchell as a second-round pick before the Senior Bowl, but now he might not make it out of the top 20 picks in April. Mitchell will be a hot commodity going forward and has a chance to establish himself as the top corner in the draft.

Christian Haynes, G, Connecticut

Haynes was excellent in pass protection drills and was voted the top offensive lineman on the American team by defensive linemen and linebackers. He was dominant in Mobile, AL.

In my evaluation, Haynes elevated himself from a top-100 pick to a top-50 pick in April, just from this week’s performances in practice. He can sneak into the back of the first round as the top guard in the class.

Expect the Vikings to Target Senior Bowl Players This Spring

Vikings Had the Worst Draft
Jul 27, 2022; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Senior Bowl is an essential event for the Minnesota Vikings as it provides an opportunity for NFL draft prospects to showcase their skills to NFL coaches, scouts, and general managers.

A good performance at the event can aid a player’s draft journey and act as the first stepping stone to flying up draft boards as they head into the NFL combine. For the Vikings, 43% of their draft picks in the current regime have been in the Senior Bowl. That percentage suggests that the Vikings place a high value on the Senior Bowl and look to it as a way to identify potential draft targets.

Robinson, the defensive lineman from Missouri, had a disruptive performance that majorly increased his draft stock. Mitchell was considered the best player at the Senior Bowl and is predicted to be a top-20 pick in the upcoming draft. Haynes was dominant in pass protection drills and may be the top guard pick in the draft. The Vikings would do well to land any of these three players, and based on their history with the Senior Bowl, they very well might.