There has been a lot of talk prior to this year's draft about the cloak-and-dagger world of NFL draft talk among its teams. From red herrings to attempting to mask one's true intentions to a shroud of secrecy that surrounds just about every aspect of draft planning, the draft is a time for tales of espionage and trickery.
The Vikings had their own "dark op" when it came to concealing how much they liked quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. In the second round, many people speculated that the Jets stuck it to the Vikings by moving in front of them to take a player the Jets believed Minnesota may be targeting with their pick – kicker Mike Nugent last year and fast-rising QB Kellen Clemens this year. However, it should be noted that if the Vikings were indeed targeting Clemens in the second round, they likely would have taken him with the first of their two picks within four selections.
No, they were after Jackson. He had been on their radar since longtime college talent evaluator Frank Gilliam got a chance to see him play and reported back with a very positive review. That got the ball rolling.
"We had heard about him over the course of the fall," Scott Studwell said. "He was one of those players that elevated as the season progressed. I first saw him at the East-West (Shrine) Game and he obviously showed that he belonged there. We were able to follow up with this player at the Combine and then at his workout and, skill-wise, we're very excited about this young player's potential."
But the Vikings weren't done. They had Jackson slated to be one of their hot prospects. So much so, they sent offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to Alabama State to work out Jackson with a couple of his receivers to show what he could do. Once again the Vikings were impressed – but quietly slipped out of town and scarcely mentioned Jackson after that point.
Keeping their secret took on different forms. The team invited at least 20 players for workouts, including first-round prospects Vince Young and Jay Cutler, but didn't invite Jackson. For teams that were looking into mid-round quarterback prospects, bringing Jackson in for a visit would be a red flag. Such visits likely opened the Vikings' eyes because they knew other teams were likely checking out Jackson as a third-round pick. The Vikings wouldn't pick until the 19th selection of the round and weren't willing to wait.
"The plan simply was if we didn't get a quarterback earlier that we liked, then if (Jackson) was available after the 60th slot, we'd go up and get him," said Fran Foley, Vikings vice president of player personnel. "We had information that there were some other teams that were also searching for a quarterback, so we had that number targeted where someone might come into those slots and take a quarterback. We just thought it was too much of a risk to pass if we had the opportunity to get him."
The team struck fast. With the clock ticking down on the Steelers at No. 64, the Vikings offered the Steelers both of their third-round picks and they agreed. They pulled the trigger and got the guy they wanted. Was he Plan B to Jay Cutler being Plan A? More than likely. But, now he may well be the man of the future in the Vikings' passing attack.
Vikings Tried to Mask Interest in Jackson
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