While everyone seems convinced that the Vikings will selected a quarterback in the first rounds – an assessment that head coach Leslie Frazier has done little to dispute – the team’s vice president of player personnel, Rick Spielman, tried to throw a little cold water on the hot topic.
“We’ll look at it, but we’ve always had the philosophy of going with the best player on the board,” Spielman said Friday in an interview on KFAN-AM 1130.
The Vikings have the 12th overall pick in the draft, and the opinions are so varied on the quarterback prospects, with each of them drawing different concerns from the analysts, that it’s possible the Vikings bypass the position with their first pick and go with a position like defensive end that is strong and deep with this year’s draft class.
“This is the strongest defensive line group that I’ve seen in the long time,” Spielman said, estimating that as many as 22 of them could go in the first two or three rounds.
Even if the Vikings don’t draft a quarterback in the first round, Frazier has repeatedly talked about the importance of the position and noted several times this offseason that the other teams in the division – Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers, Chicago with Jay Cutler and Detroit with Matthew Stafford – all have young and highly regarded quarterbacks. Spielman said the evaluation process is continuing and that he is about 75 percent there on lining up the quarterback prospects on the team’s draft board. However, he cautioned that the Vikings can’t “force” a pick to be quarterback, meaning if they don’t think the value is their when their draft position arrives they may go with another position.
“We’ve been pretty patient. There have been some big-name quarterbacks that we have passed on because some of the criteria didn’t fit what we were looking for,” he said. “We need to continue to use that philosophy even as we go forward with this draft.”
Last year, QB Sam Bradford was the first overall pick for the St. Louis Rams, but there isn’t a quarterback in this year’s draft that is considered to be in Bradford’s class. Another quarterback wasn’t selected until No. 25 (Tim Tebow by the Broncos) and the Vikings decided to trade down out of the first round instead, bypassing Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen and Texas Colt McCoy at No. 30 and again at No. 34.
The key with the quarterbacks, according to Spielman, isn’t just their accomplishments on the college football field but the intangibles that follow them into the NFL.
“The quarterback position is something that’s a little bit more unique because you have to really define what you want in a quarterback, and it may not be all the things that you see on tape. It may be other intangibles,” Spielman told KFAN’s Paul Allen. “We have to make sure if we do go that route that he fits exactly what we’re looking for. You don’t want to force an issue that’s not there because that’s when you make mistakes.”
The Vikings have been represented at most of the pro days for the top quarterbacks, but Spielman said the private workouts can give the team’s scouts and coaches a better idea of how a player reacts to unscripted workouts.
“A lot of it is scripted,” he said of pro days. “When you go do some private workouts with these kids it’s totally unscripted. You get a chance to see how he reacts to your coaches and some things that they’re putting him through that he’s maybe not prepared for.”
In private workouts, they are looking to see how the quarterback reacts to Vikings’ coaches, how he is at diagnosing defenses in the film room and understanding schemes drawn up on a board, as well as trying to see how he handles adversity.
“There are so many other facets that go into that position, more than any other position,” Spielman said.
“… It doesn’t all have to do with ability on the field. So we’re trying to do our due diligence.”
NFL teams are allowed to bring up to 30 draft prospects to their team headquarters for predraft visits. In the past, the Vikings have hosted most, if not all of them, at one time. This year, there will be a few individual visits, but most of those 30 visits will be lined up over the same two-day period in April, when the team will welcome them in the afternoon, have them meet team personnel (from trainers and coaches to other staff member to a psychologist) and have dinner with all prospects at once
“Everybody gets tested from all facets of the organization.” Spielman said.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.