This year, if their proclamations of thoroughness are any indication, they will be more aware of each players' background, their psychological makeup, their criminal background (if any) and there might even be some talent evaluation thrown in there. But while head coach Brad Childress would like to think that each of his first-day picks, comprising the first three rounds, can be a starter in 2007, the franchise is also looking long-term with their selections this weekend.
"We have to not only look at the roster for the 2007 season, but where are we going to be in 2008?" said Rick Spielman, the team's vice president of player personnel. "I can tell you this, and I gave a few examples while I was on the radio yesterday about when we were in a situation in Detroit and we had Herman Moore (and) Brett Perriman – and Johnnie Morton was the best player on our board. He wasn't a need for us, but he was the best player, and we ended up having three great players. Coach (looking toward Childress), I think you had the same thing in Philadelphia with the two Pro Bowl-type corners that you had. I think the best way to do it is how we graded these guys. They are in specific categories on what we think they're going to do their rookie year, and regardless of what player pops up, if he's the best guy there, that's the guy we're going to take."
They have made their list and they have definitely checked it twice … or maybe 17 times – once for each sort of alert flag they have. Those can include medical issues, characterized three different ways, criminal problems and even psychological flags.
According to Spielman, the Vikings had a four-hour meeting that included about 800 reports from the team's doctor, Sheldon Burns, and the team's head trainer, Eric Sugarman.
"They basically said, ‘This is what the issues are. He's a risk player but we can take him. This guy we do not want to touch. This guy is a pass.' We put them in three basic categories to simplify it, and we rely on what our medical people and medical staff say," Spielman said.
Then it was another four-hour meeting along the way with someone the team trusted to perform psychological reviews on some of the players. In other published reports, players have reported questions at the NFL Scouting Combine in February that ask them if they considered themselves to be more of a cat or a dog.
The Vikings compared their own psychological tests against reports they got from their scouts, who are supposed to talk to the players, the players' coaches and teammates and other people close to the player.
"So if this guy, the psychologists say, this guy is not coachable, and we have all glowing reviews from three different scouts that have been on top of three different sources, okay, there's a little bit of conflict so we'll try to find out what it is and what it isn't. It's just another source to use to help you make the best decision possible."
But even if a player passes the Vikings' system of psychological testing and injury reports (we hope those are more accurate, honest and thorough than the ones disseminated to the media during the season), there is still an issue for the Vikings' brass as to whether the player fits their offensive or defensive systems.
"It's a system within a system, that this is a Vikings fit from a schematic standpoint, something that you guys did or this guy does not fit our system. We're not discounting him as a player. He is going be a very good player and probably a very good player in the league, but he doesn't fit what we do and what we're looking for, so why would you put that player in that situation because you're not going get the most out of that player?" Spielman said.
Not only would that player drop on the Vikings' value chart, but he wouldn't be drafted by the team at all, Spielman said. Of the 750-plus players they rated, the team dropped about 90 of them off of their board because of character or medical concerns, he said.
Doctors, psychologists, lawyers with a history for background checks, trainers, scouts, coaches and personnel people have all had their say. And, while the Vikings refused to say who has the final call on a player, eventually they say they have come to a consensus.
"I think from my standpoint and from all of our standpoints, it's about being heard. Everybody has a voice, and it's not about being right, it's about having an opinion and declaring yourself and how you see it in your eyes. It's not about being right; it's about getting it right," Childress said. "That's why you have that dialogue. That's why you have those eyes. That's why you pay people to evaluate. You want them to declare themselves. You don't want everybody to be seeing it the same way. Are you talking about it? Are you using adjectives to describe what you see? Are you educating? Are you sharing? Yeah, but it's about declaring yourself, not being right but getting it right."
Said Spielman: "Everybody got to say what they felt about the player, and then as we went through this thing and we discussed each guy, we came up with the best decision for the Minnesota Vikings."
"If anything happens, most likely it wouldn't happen until draft day and probably not until we're on the clock," he said.