Upgrade Evaluation Only A Month Away

As they do every year, the Vikings will look into the free-agent market in 2005 to upgrade their team. But their self-evaluation process will start in about a month.

Paul Wiggin wasn't ready to talk about 2005. Not when there were a handful of games left in the regular season and, he hopes, another three or four postseason games for the Vikings to play.

But Wiggin, the Vikings' director of pro scouting, concedes he still thinks about the 2005 season. He just doesn't approach it in the same fashion he will in another month or so when his department starts drawing up the blueprints for the Vikings' offseason free-agent shopping spree — however exorbitant or limited that might be.

That's why Wiggin chuckled when he was asked about the Vikings' greatest needs for next year.

"It's hard to say. We're about four weeks away from that," Wiggin said. "When we finish the season, we take our football team and Rob [Brzezinski] has every department evaluate every Viking player on a scale of 1 through 5. Then we determined our squad based on that. Part of that tells us what kind of job you'll do from a pro personnel standpoint."

Translation: Once the self-analysis rankings are tabulated, Brzezinski, the vice president of football operations, and head coach Mike Tice, Wiggin, and director of college scouting Scott Studwell determine who should stay, who should go, and how to prioritize the positions in need of being filled, overhauled or upgraded.

That's when Wiggin and Studwell part ways. Wiggin focuses on the current personnel in the NFL. In addition to overseeing the professional scouting department, he specializes on the offensive and defensive lines. Throughout his near five decades of work in the NFL, Wiggin's résumé includes time as defensive line coach for the Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers.

Other members on his staff include Jeff Robinson, Frank Acevedo and Ryan Monnens. Robinson focuses on receivers, tight ends and defensive backs. Acevedo focuses on linebackers, running backs and quarterbacks. Monnens keys on the kicking game.

Studwell and the rest of the scouts focus on evaluating college talent and preparing for the draft.

"We have to look at things not only from free agency, but from the standpoint of the draft, too," Wiggin said. "We ask Scott, ‘Is this a good year for linebackers?' And he says, ‘Yeah, we can get one in the second round.' It's a cohesive effort from all aspects."

Even though Wiggin wouldn't tip his hand on his thoughts about how to improve Vikings' personnel for next season, he — like Tice — believes the team is much better off than it was three years ago, when Tice replaced coach Dennis Green for the final game of the 2001 season.

"The three-year plan included changing a lot of the status of people," Wiggin said. "There are over 2000 players in the National Football League, and somewhere in the back end of that are some players that probably don't belong here because of numbers. We're always trying to continue that back end."

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