Others talk about talent, but I talk about production and attitude. The Vikings get a strong grade from me in those areas as well because their draft picks are saying things I love to hear.
Q: What were your general impressions of the draft overall?
A: A lot of fans that don't totally understand football weren't very happy with the Vikings taking Kevin Williams rather than Terrell Suggs. But people have to realize this was a great draft, the best draft they've had in years. When you take a defensive lineman like this, especially a tackle, a lot of things happen. Number one, you've opened up Chris Hovan. You've made him a better pass rusher, less chance for double teams. And also it helps the defensive backs because when you have somebody up the middle, the quarterback doesn't have as good of a view of his receivers and he can't step forward when he delivers the ball. It makes it much easier on him (the QB) when he can step forward. And when he can't step forward your defensive ends have a much better chance to create havoc back there. If you add Terrell Suggs, he's very one-dimensional as far as pass rush, just a strong speed outside guy. Here you've taken a defensive tackle and you've helped both defensive ends in their pass rush.
Q: Were you surprised that they took more of a pass rusher than a run stuffer? I think a lot of people were expecting a bigger guy to stop the run.
A: They wrote it that way, but he can carry more weight, number one. Number two, if you saw his body frame he's dominating when he walks in. Sometimes you get in your No. 1 draft choices and they're not exactly what you expect them to be. This is a total package with the broad shoulders. He's 304 right now, but he could put on 15 pounds in a heartbeat and carry it with no problem. Paul Wiggin (the Vikings' director of pro scouting) said that he was so pleasantly surprised when he saw him that he captured the picture of what you think a defensive lineman would look like.
Q: Do you think he's a three-down lineman?
A: He's square and he's got great lateral movement. He can play the run.
Q: This was very much a draft for talent and not so much for need. So how do you see the contributions that these rookies are going to be able to make this year?
A: I think some writers are missing the boat when they say they're coming out with talent. I think it's coming out with production and attitude. A lot of times you say he's the total package, and one of the linebackers, Mike Nattiel, is 5-11 and he had 148 tackles last year. The result is what they're looking for. Even with E.J. Henderson, he has the Butkus Award and the Bednarik Trophy. But thing there is that, when you talk to him, he'll say, ‘I'll play behind Greg Biekert. He'll teach me. I'll learn. I'll be on special teams. Put me anywhere.' Every player you talk to, they're not talking money, they're not upset with anything. It's all positive, and Mike Tice is sick of babysitting. Rather than the talent part, they've got the work ethic. And if you've got good work ethic and you're intelligent, you can improve a football player immediately and not have to worry about him developing at his pace, within his framework -- you know, a project. People are getting fed up with projects.
Q: How do you see Onterrio Smith fitting in? People were talking about him high in the second round or even maybe low in the first. Now you have Moe Williams and Doug Chapman to compete with. Do you see him used situationally this year or do you think he can be an all-around backup?
A: I've heard so many positive things about him. I think they brought him in because of how Tice likes to draft his type of players. Chapman can do the job but makes a lot of mental mistakes. They signed Moe Williams for three years, and Moe doesn't make mistakes. Moe's got a great attitude and he's positive in the locker room all the time. Chapman did get on Mike's bad list there for awhile with the mistakes and then you have an injury. Are you injury-prone? That was Bud Grant's philosophy. He could tell you in the first week who was going to be in the hot tub -- Bud always knew -- and those guys weren't around very long. Coach Tice might have talked to Bud about durability, how it plays into the overall picture of a grueling 20-game season. That's an interesting case, not knowing him or watching him, to see if he brings in the mold of the work ethic and being a bright bulb.
Q: What about Nate Burleson? Last year Tice kept talking about wanting to find a burner in free agency. He got Derrick Alexander. In this draft, he got Burleson, who doesn't seem to be the burner. If you read the scouting reports on him, he seems to be almost more of a Cris Carter-type. How do you see him fitting him?
A: You say a Cris Carter-type, and that goes back to that discipline. He runs the exact routes and everything. Mike's telling you two things without saying anything. Number one, he's looking for a good kick returner. He wants to improve his special teams because he knows how important special teams are, so he wants to get someone who is a good kick returner. Then he's also telling you that whether he signed Derrick Alexander or not, he's not happy with Derrick Alexander. And how much can D'Wayne Bates keep improving, but he got hurt of course. Once again, being hurt, does that come into this draft picture? I think it does.
Q: Two areas that they were expected to draft and didn't: defensive backfield and offensive line, for depth and/or for starters. Do you see them picking up anybody in free agency?
A: Some of these players that they were going after and the money they were paying the players … when you pay a player that much money, they're not going to produce as much. They're not as hungry. Mike did his research and he picked up Mike Rosenthal. -- what a great kid, what a great attitude. People are probably going to puke on this and are getting sick of hearing about attitude, but that's what it's about. The defensive backs, I don't know much about them yet, but when you go out and pick up a couple of big free-agent defensive backs there is no reason to waste a draft pick someplace where you think you've already strengthened yourself. Now you have the backups on the offensive line and you're in good shape there. Now with the defensive backs, they picked up Ken Irvin and Denard Walker and they're telling you, ‘Hey, we're happy there.' You should be happy because you've got Brian Williams coming on strong and Jack Brewer is playing well. They're going to have Brian Russell, who is a smart ball player. It's going to be a big year for him.
Q: How do they enter training camp with the other safety position opposite Corey Chavous?
A: That's a good question … Can possibly one of your corners come in and play safety, because safety is easier than corner. Maybe one of those players they drafted could be switched to that. We'll be watching that awfully close. That will be one of the first things we'll put on the web site when we go to minicamp next week.
Q: What do they have left to do personnel-wise before the regular season?
A: I don't think they have to add to a position. They have to add to the execution level of every player. They have the horses right now, and I would not worry about it. Is Daunte Culpepper more of a student of the game? If he's more of a student of the game and can come in and take off, there is no reason why they shouldn't be an excellent football team. They lost at least five games last year on stupid mental mistakes. Some of those players are already gone. I'm not going to mention any names, but when he started a game, played 30 plays and made 16 mental mistakes, I don't think that sets very well with Mike Tice. Of course, that particular player is gone. I see them building with work ethic and the capacity to perform. I hate to keep going back to the old days. I was terrible, but when I got beat I was always in the right spot when they rolled over me. If you have somebody on a roller-coaster and you don't know how he's going to react play in and play out, you can't get a strong, cohesive group together. You've got to know how a guy's going to react.
Parting Shot, Part I: Let me say one last thing: Tom Condon, the agent for Williams, get out of my life. He was a No. 9 draft choice and should have been a No. 10 if they would have pulled the trade sooner. Nobody said anything about money. All the players are just loving being in here, but he's going to stir the pot and say he's a No. 7. Let me tell you something: Williams wouldn't have gone seven. He didn't go seven, he didn't go eight, he's a nine and he should have been a 10. He'll be paid more than enough anyway to set him up for life. And he is a good kid, Kevin Williams.
Parting Shot, Part II: If you want to tie everything together on what Tice is thinking, Jimmy Kennedy has a weight problem. He's got a little bit of an attitude problem. Mike Tice is sick of babysitting.
Lurtsema's Reaction: The Draft
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