Heading into the Vikings' first NFL draft under their new leadership duo of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O'Connell, all we could do is guess as to what types of physical traits, numbers, or measurements they would emphasize with their selections.
For example, because of Adofo-Mensah's previous experience in Cleveland and his relationship with Browns GM Andrew Berry, I assumed he would emphasize youth in the draft. Berry was a significant outlier in that regard during his first two drafts with the Browns, picking younger players on average than any other GM.
That theory didn't exactly pan out. The Vikings' ten draft picks are roughly 23 years old on average, which is basically average within the context of the entire draft. Early picks like Lewis Cine, Andrew Booth Jr., and Brian Asamoah II are on the younger side, but players like Ed Ingram, Ty Chandler, and Esezi Otomewo are not.
What we did learn is that there might be one specific athletic testing number that the Vikings prioritize above the rest: the ten-yard split of the 40-yard dash. That was absolutely true during this year's draft, so it'll be interesting to see if that remains the case going forward.
Here's how each of the Vikings' picks did in the ten-yard split relative to the position they play, with the grade numbers out of 10 coming from Kent Lee Platte's relative athletic scores. (Shoutout to Nick Olson for this observation).
- Lewis Cine: 1.45 seconds (9.98 grade, fastest among safeties in 2022 class)
- Andrew Booth Jr: N/A (but likely would've tested well)
- Ed Ingram: 1.68s (9.89 grade)
- Brian Asamoah II: 1.55s (9.72 grade)
- Akayleb Evans: 1.54s (8.35 grade)
- Esezi Otomewo: 1.71s (4.46 grade)
- Ty Chandler: 1.46s (9.93 grade, fastest among running backs in 2022 class)
- Vederian Lowe: 1.75s (9.03 grade)
- Jalen Nailor: 1.52s (9.44 grade)
- Nick Muse: 1.63s (8.16 grade)
So out of nine players with ten-yard split times available, three ranked in the 99th percentile at their position among 2022 rookies, three more were at least in the 90th percentile, and two more were above 80. The only exception was Otomewo.
If you needed further proof that the Vikings want guys with good ten-yard splits, look at the tryout linebacker they signed to the 90-man roster this week.
There's another 99th-percentile score.
But what does that specific measurement actually indicate? It's all about explosiveness. Focusing on the first ten yards instead of the entire 40 makes it more about quickness and acceleration than top-end long speed.
Allow Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell to explain why that's valuable.
"No matter what position you’re really at, I think that first step, those initial bursts of being able to go do your job just a little quicker in those first couple of steps, might be the difference between getting a hand on the ball or springing a big run because you get a great fit on a block," he said. "Receivers, that initial burst, we’re always coaching our guys to run off the football and really that’s every position because when you can play fast in those first 10 yards, a lot of times, really good things will happen.
"And then ultimately, when you’re talking about the awareness and the instincts that you kind of try to track and evaluate, it’s great to have awareness and instincts. But even like what we talked about with Lewis Cine, he can see it, but then when it’s time to go, he can go and in those first 10 yards, I think you can really determine what is in a guy’s body to be able to explosively go move to do whatever job they need to do within playing this game. Because as much as we play on a big field, you try to stretch, spread them out on offense, try to attack defenses, try to attack defensively against offenses in space. Ultimately, the make or break type of plays in this league happen in that 10-yard, 5-to-10-yard confined area where guys can really separate themselves."
Now that we've got this first year of data, it'll be fun to see which 2023 draft prospects do well in the ten-yard split and if that's something the Vikings continue to emphasize in years to come.
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