Spielman: Vikings' draft work just starting

Rick Spielman was working the phones, scanning the practice field, jotting notes, and conducting and overseeing interviews this week at the Senior Bowl. It's just the start of the draft process, as the Vikings' VP of player personnel talked about.

The Vikings haven't played a game in over three weeks, sending fans into predraft speculation mode, but Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said his predraft process is just getting started.

Spielman has been in charge of the Vikings' draft for the last four years, but this year will be different on several fronts. He has a different head coach and a revamped coaching staff, especially on offense, where there is a new scheme, meaning coaches could be looking for different qualities in their players than when Brad Childress was in charge of the team and Darrell Bevell was the offensive coordinator.

New head coach Leslie Frazier has made no pretenses about his desire for a quarterback to lead the team into the future and, as always, there are a numerous flavors available – the athletic quarterback, the pocket passer, the underclassman, the more polished senior.

A few junior quarterbacks – like Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, Arkansas' Ryan Mallett and Auburn's Cam Newton – are rated as first-round picks by many analysts, but Spielman was busy scouting the six senior quarterbacks in Mobile this week during practices leading up to Saturday's Senior Bowl game.

"We're going through that process right now. I haven't had an opportunity to start looking at the younger ones who came out," Spielman said after the last full-pads practice in Mobile this week. "(I'm) looking at these and trying to get a chance to know these kids down here, but there's going to be a group of quarterbacks – even if they're not in the first round – I think there's a lot of depth as you go through the draft that we may be able to grab one or two that potentially could help you down the road as well."

You read that correctly. Two rookie quarterbacks are a possibility to go with a veteran. The Vikings need to solve their quarterback dilemma and Frazier is focused on finding the quarterback of the future in the coming months.

As part of the process, Spielman and his staff of scouts, including Scott Studwell, director of college scouting, were analyzing quarterbacks and every other position by day during the North- and South-squad practices and interviewing them in the evening. Spielman said the team interviewed every player at the Senior Bowl once again – more than 90 prospects in only a couple days.

"We have some interesting questions. I know when we interview the players, we want to keep it as open-ended as possible and try to fire some question at them and see how they think on their feet," he said. "I don't want to hear the rehearsed answers and things like that. We're trying to put them into some situations or some scenarios that they have to think how they would handle that scenario."

NFL teams aren't limited in the number of interviews they can conduct at the Senior Bowl or the East-West Shrine game, another college all-star game held earlier in the month, but at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, teams are limited to 60 interviews apiece. The disadvantage to conducting those Combine interviews in Indianapolis next month is that they are limited to 15 minutes apiece for the formal interviews. The advantage is that most of the draft-eligible juniors will be there, giving teams a chance to catch players that weren't available at last week's East-West Shrine practices in Orlando, Fla., or this week's Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Ala.

But the further along in the draft process it gets, the more agents have a chance to prepare their player-clients for process. Some of them were already schooled up before this week.

"Some of them (yes), some of them not. I think by the time you get to the Combine, they're all polished up," Spielman said. "I've learned from the people that we use for the psychological stuff on how to interview and how to get to those open-ended questions and what type of answers you're looking for. It's the same thing as educating our scouts and educating our coaching staff how to be a good interviewer because I think you have to be a good interviewer in order to figure out and look through what is real and what is not on those players."

Some will leave a favorable impression. Others have started the path to draft-board disqualification already, although Spielman said he hasn't eliminated any 2011 prospects with the dreaded red dot just yet. The team already has most of the background character information they need, but the elimination process hasn't started.

Before he gets to that point, Spielman needs to familiarize himself with the juniors that came out, and there are plenty of them this year, adding depth and talent to an interesting draft class.

"Very excited about (the prospects)," he said. "Think they had a lot of juniors come out. I think it was the biggest class in a while. We're going to have a lot of work cut out for us when we get back (to Minnesota). The depth that we're seeing here at the Senior Bowl, plus with the juniors coming in, we're very excited. I think it's going to be a good draft."

One that doesn't start until three months from today.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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