Character questions could be coming

The Vikings will have to make some interesting decisions on draft weekend and they might have to weigh character concerns with their first-round draft choice. Rick Spielman talked about the process of weighing red flags against blue-chip talent.

The Vikings have been a popular early mock draft landing spot for a couple of players with questionable histories behind them – quarterback Cam Newton and defensive end Robert Quinn.

Both have been rumored as players who could drop on draft day as a result of character questions. Newton is going to be grilled about his father's apparent willingness to sell off his college rights to the highest bidder. Quinn was suspended for his senior season amid a tutoring scandal in which reports claimed the tutor wrote papers for athletes.

While neither may be enough to significantly destroy their draft stock, it poses this question: When does talent outweigh potential red flags? When Brad Childress was hired, character was a huge issue on draft day. Exceptions have been made over the years – Ray Edwards had character questions after being benched at Purdue after clashing with coaches – but the Vikings have done more than their fair share of background checks in the past.

Given the signing of Randy Moss at midseason, it would seem character didn't outweigh the perception of talent being able to help the team win. So are players like Newton or Quinn going to be dropped down the Vikings draft board? That depends, according to Rick Spielman, vice president of player personnel.

"It's always came down to an organizational decision," Spielman said when asked when talent trumps red flags. "Everyone we have taken, whether we have it built in our system when they get put in boxes that they have issues, that is an organizational decision where our ownership and Leslie (Frazier) and myself have to sit down to say is this guy worth the risk or not? And you have to make that decision before you pick the guy. But that is an organizational decision that we all have to feel comfortable with."

Unlike last year's Vikings draft class, which came to a team returning 22 starters, the Class of 2011 is going to be expected to contribute immediately. Several players from 2010, from Brett Favre on down, aren't going to be back in 2011 and the Vikings are going to create a new identity for next year's team. How that will happen is up to Frazier and his coaching staff, whose input will be vital to determining who the Vikings look to re-sign and who they allow to leave via free agency.

"Leslie will carve that," Spielman said of the new team identity. "I'd rather leave that question to Leslie on the identity of this football team. We're still going to try to get in the best football players possible. As far as offense and defensive scheme and how he wants to be known as a football team, I'd rather have him answer that question."

One thing is certain. The Vikings are going to be a less-experienced team in 2011, starting at quarterback and spreading to other positions throughout the roster. Spielman said there's no question that the Vikings are going to be in a youth movement over the next couple of years and that the rookie classes will play a big role in how they transition from one of the league's oldest starting units.

"We're going to be a younger team for sure going into next season," Spielman said. "Rookies are going to get forced into action. They are going to have to step up and play. I also have a lot of confidence in our coaching staff and their history of developing young guys and getting them ready to play."


  • Spielman was quite adamant that the Vikings will try to reclaim the third-round pick they lost in the Randy Moss trade. The easiest way to do that would be to trade down from the No. 12 pick to acquire an additional pick. Unless there is a player that wows them, don't be stunned to see the Vikings trade down in the first round of the draft.

  • Some of the Vikings' draft preparation is likely to be pre-empted somewhat by the funeral for former Bear Dave Duerson, who committed suicide over the weekend. He was a teammate of Frazier and linebackers coach Mike Singletary on the championship Bears team of 1985. It is unknown whether there will be a public service or if both will attend.

  • Whether it accomplishes anything or not, the players and league officials met for eight hours Sunday – the longest face-to-face meeting the two sides have had to date in their mediation process. The current CBA is set to expire March 3 and there are many who believe a settlement is a long way on the horizon. The two sides have met for a total of 20 hours and have four more days of negotiations scheduled.

    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for 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.

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