Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and his scouting staff are nearly done putting together their initial draft board ranking hundreds of draft prospects.
That will be completed by Tuesday, just in time for Spielman and a large contingent of Vikings employees to travel to Indianapolis for the annual NFL Scouting Combine, an event that features more than 300 draft prospects. There, future NFL players will be poked and prodded physically and mentally as NFL teams try to determine which prospects are a good fit for their team and which ones should be off limits.
To date, Spielman said no player has been removed from his draft board – given the dreaded red dot in Spielman's system of analyzing players – but there are some guys "teetering" on that designation. They may find themselves in that situation after the team's psychologists have an opportunity to be involved in the formal interviews with those players, a practice that Spielman said the team has had in place "for a while."
"I brought that process here when I came here. I think it's part of the total picture. That's why you have to interview these guys," he said. "The red flags that do show up, you try to address, if something from the psychological profiling came up, you address it with that player, and you kind of make your own determination, too. It's kind of an instinct and an experience factor that goes into that decision. It's a tool. It's not a be-all, end-all."
NFL teams are allowed 60 formal interviews of 15 minutes each at the combine, and they will often stop players in the halls between testing sessions for a better idea on those players they don't interview formally. Between the all-star games that have already taken place, the combine, the college pro days and the formal visits teams are allowed, the Vikings will further narrow their draft board. By the time it's all done, Spielman will have about 600 players ranked and usually has several dozen prospects that are removed because of the dreaded red dot, which can be applied for medical, psychological or legal reasons.
Agents have the prospects prepared for all kinds of questions, but the Vikings try to break through the canned answers to get a more accurate feel of the player's psychological makeup.
"These kids get really polished up for the interview process with all the agents trying to get these kids prepared for the combine, not only physically, but through that interview process," Spielman said. "We try to do it where we can get that guard down and focus on ways to really get to know the kid and take some of that polish off. There's ways, I think, that we've came up with that we can do that."
Spielman said he doesn't know if his process weeds out more prospects than most teams. Every team handles its procedures in a different way and has a different degree of tolerance for certain issues a player may have.
"I only worry about what our philosophy is and what type of players we want to bring in and what we're able to handle," he said. "I think we have a great support staff in place where some teams might say we wouldn't touch this guy but we feel very confident in our support staff that we can handle that guy and other guys we can say we just don't want to deal with.
"There's some guys that are right on that bright line of falling into the red-dot bucket or not. That will be determined over the next two months."
For now, much of the evaluation process has focused on the players' on-field abilities. Spielman and his staff have gone through more than 250 offensive player evaluations and are finishing up about 350 defensive players before heading for Indianapolis.
In addition to the interviews and psychological profiles, the players will be given medical exams by the NFL and also made available for team doctors, too.
"Medicals are the whole thing. If our doctors … are sitting there telling me we can't take a player because of a medical, I'm going to listen to them. I think I know everything, but I didn't have my M.D. degree hanging up in my office," he said with a smile. "I need to trust their judgment and if they say this guy is a medical fail for us, then that's what we go with. That's one area where I won't say, "No, we're still going to take this guy.'
"Some teams will pass guys that we fail. Some teams will fail guys that we pass. There's been a number of guys that we've rejected or red-dotted in the past that other teams felt comfortable enough to take."
Hard-core fans who watch the testing of the players on TV see only the heights, weights, speed and strength of the players. The Vikings and other NFL teams get to see much more than that. They are every bit as interested in the medical reports and how players respond to certain questions. But by the time Spielman and his staff return from Indianapolis next week, they will have a much better feel for the type of people the prospects are off the field, as well as on the field.
"It's probably the biggest event heading into the draft. It's the first time you're going to get all the Olympic numbers on these guys – the height, weight, speeds – (and) the first time that we'll get in front of a lot of these guys, especially the juniors," Spielman said. "We'll get all our medical, our psychological, both areas that we test in those. It's probably my most exciting time, besides the day of the draft, is going to the combine because there's so much that you get accomplished there."
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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