There is going to be a lot of emphasis placed on the Vikings' quarterback depth chart this offseason. Depending on whom you believe, there is the chance that, by the time the Vikings pick at No. 12, quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton and Ryan Mallett could all be gone. There is also the chance that two, if not all three, could still be on the board. With Stanford's Andrew Luck out of the mix, there is no slam-dunk, can't-miss QB in the rookie class, but there are several intriguing prospects that will come off the board in the first three rounds. With all eyes on the first-round pick – it's understandable fans want an impact player since the last three first-round picks produced Chad Greenway, Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin – the Vikings may need to address the position early. Spielman said the team Will Do more than just cursory due diligence on the QB crop of 2011.
"It is a very important decision and we will probably emphasize it, from whether we go to set up private workouts with these guys to everything else that we normally do," Spielman said. "But you know, you want to make sure you do everything you possibly can to make the right decision, and if that's going out and meeting with a kid's family, if that's going out there and working with a kid individually, if that is spending a day with a kid on the board (drawing up plays), doing a lot of things. I think when we do go out this spring and work these guys out – you're not going to be able to get all those questions answered in a 15-minute interview at the combine – you're going to have to do a lot more than that. We already spent a lot of time with these guys down at the Senior Bowl. Now we haven't gotten our hands on the juniors yet, but that time is going to come at the combine, that time is going to come in the spring.
Spielman said the key will be weighing the opinions of not just his scouting staff, but the coaching staff as well – especially offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, who will have to work closely with any young QB brought in.
"It will be something that is a collaborative effort," Spielman said. "It is my job to make sure how the coaches feel about him, how the quarterback is going to fit into the scheme. Bill has a very good reputation of developing young quarterbacks from what he did with Matt Ryan (in Atlanta) to what he did with (Matt) Schaub before he was traded to Houston to (quarterbacks coach) Craig Johnson, who has come in and had a lot of success, (and) with Steve McNairs of the world when he was in Tennessee. There are a lot of questions that have to get answered. I don't want to say it is easy, but you can see what you see on tape. Sometimes the things as you sit there and go in detail on all these quarterbacks, not getting into specifics, but some of the stuff the media reports on these guys you may disagree with after you get through this whole process. I'll leave it at that."
Spielman said the quarterback class compared to other positions has considerable depth, but there isn't a Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco (guys with the can't-miss tag) in this group. He said the next couple of months will be focused on where they project a player to be and the Vikings may be active in the first round – willing to trade up or trade down in the first round if they're confident in a specific player.
"It is going to be deep in certain areas in the draft," Spielman said. "I don't know where it is all going to end up yet, but if you're at (pick No.) 12 and you feel very strongly, do you have to go up and get a guy? You have to know. There are a lot of teams above us that need quarterbacks. If you feel very strong about a guy and you can move back in the draft and still feel you can get that guy, you can do that. You can say, ‘We have some other holes and this guy is so unique at the 12th pick that we don't take a quarterback there' and we swing back (in the) second, third round, assuming we get our third-round pick back, which I am hopefully planning on doing, that you swing around and get one of those guys then."
The Vikings may go after a quarterback early in the draft and still pursue a big-name veteran quarterback in the trade market as well. Spielman said the Vikings aren't going to pigeonhole themselves in any direction – keeping their options open and weighing them against one another in making their decisions for 2011.
"I think it's a case-by-case basis on how quickly you think, if we do draft a quarterback, how quickly do we think he'll be able to come in and help, "Spielman said. "(Does) Joe Webb (have) that potential for how he's developed, how quickly he developed toward the end once he started getting playing time? If you bring in a veteran, is he the right fit? If you bring him in, you already have one young quarterback, say you bring in another young quarterback, is he the right fit or the mixture to fit in with the chemistry in the room and understanding the situation? If you do draft a quarterback early, more than likely you're saying that guy's going to eventually be your guy. Does a veteran fit that role or fit that characteristic? Is he willing to accept that?"
For years, there has been a mindset in the NFL that the most successful young quarterbacks are those who have been given time to develop instead of being thrown into the fire immediately. However, that trend has changed in recent seasons, given the success of Ryan, Flacco and Mark Sanchez. Not every team has the opportunity of using a first-round pick on a QB like Aaron Rodgers, who spent two years behind Brett Favre before getting his shot at stardom. Spielman said each case is different and each young QB's learning curve is different.
"I know the media and the fans, you take a quarterback high, they want to see him out there whether he's ready or not," Spielman said. "I think that gets down to how ready you think he is. Can he go out there and handle that or not or is it something where he needs to be brought along? Sure, it's great if you have the luxury of what Green Bay did, and that's outstanding. They won a Super Bowl by having a Favre and bringing in Rodgers. Maybe Rodgers wasn't in Year One what he was when he took over as a starter. I think every team would like to have that luxury to do that, but in today's day and age, I don't know if you have that luxury."
There is going to be a lot of pressure for the Vikings to take a quarterback in the first round, even if it might involve reaching a bit, but Spielman said the Vikings aren't going to change their draft philosophy simply because they don't have stability at the position right now. He said that players will be graded out and, if there is a player at a different position that rates perceptibly higher than quarterback, they won't abandon their philosophy – for a QB or anyone else.
"If we feel that strongly about a quarterback, and I understand the quarterback is something that you definitely have to look at, but if there's a guy up there who's a potential MVP in the league at some other position, knowing that you have some depth behind you, we're still going to stick with the best player available at that slot," Spielman said.
Anyone who follows football knows the teams that are the most successful are ones that have top-tier quarterbacks – the Tom Bradys and Tony Romos of the world are the exception to the rule. Will the Vikings seriously consider quarterback with their first pick? No question. However, they won't be honor-bound to taking one – which could be the Russian Roulette the franchise plays in 2011 with uncertainties about when they may be able to try to add a veteran QB to replace Favre.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Vikings consider all options with first pick
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