The final days before the NFL draft are filled with innuendos and double-talk as teams try to throw other teams (and reporters) off the scent of the prospects they truly desire.
What was gathered from Thursday's press conferences with Rick Spielman, the Vikings' vice president of player personnel, and Scott Studwell, the team's director of college scouting, is that the team now has more than 78 draft prospects they won't select – but that list is from a compilation of more than 700 players.
"You want to make sure that you can trust (a player) when he's outside the building because when you spend a high pick on someone and he gets popped again for whatever or a character concern and then the commissioner comes (down on him). What good is he if he's suspended for a year, suspended for four games? Then you're not getting the value where you got that player at," Spielman said.
Players can be knocked off the Vikings' draft board completely for things other than character issues or positive drug tests. Medical concerns can also be serious enough that the team won't consider a certain player. Head coach Brad Childress said coaches can lobby for talented players, but if the doctors are convinced a certain prospect has an injury that will hinder his career, then he could be off limits.
The Vikings have been focused on character with the players they acquire since Childress took over in 2006, but that doesn't mean they automatically "red-dot" a player without investigating his alleged issues.
"I think Brad Childress has done an outstanding job bringing in high-quality, high-character people and we've even brought in some guys that have had some issues, but we did such a good job from the due diligence standpoint of drilling down as deep as we can go, making sure everybody was comfortable with this person coming into our situation," Spielman said. "And, again, you may make a mistake here or there but it won't be because we didn't do everything we could possibly do to know that player."
Childress said he and other team officials talk to a variety of different people when it comes to players they are considering – from family members to coaches to teammates.
"We do it on everybody to the Nth degree with the NFL security or whether it's satisfying our face-to-face meetings or the scouts' face-to-face meetings, we double back," he said. "We'll see kids at bowl games and see them five or six times where we're trying to get a pulse on who that person is. Facts are facts. Sometimes you don't go by the facts. Sometimes people get second chances, like a Jared Allen, like a Fred Evans."
Allen and Evans, both defensive lineman, each had incidents with the law before joining the Vikings but haven't been in trouble since.
Spielman said each case is taken individually, whether it is drug allegations, weapons charges or personality conflicts with past teammates and coaches.
After some meetings, however, certain players just aren't the kind of people Childress is looking to coach.
"(Steelers head coach and former Vikings defensive coordinator) Mike Tomlin and I always laugh about this one guy who always comes back. You can just go through looking at ‘em, and when he opens his mouth, the question got asked, he'd be sitting there going, ‘Lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie.' You just knew. You get the same feeling like with somebody going, ‘Lie, bald-faced lie,'" Childress said, before saying with a wry grin, "you may have the same feeling about me, and maybe rightfully so."
Yeah, it is the lying time of the year in the NFL. Reporters have to be aware of that possibility with coaches and other team personnel just as much as coaches and scouts have to be wary of it with players. Sometimes, even the talented players aren't worth it.
Sometimes, Childress said, they just have to walk away from a meeting knowing they won't select that player, saying, "He was a good player, (but forget about him). I'm serious," Childress said. "That's the short and the long of it. If you say, ‘Well, where is that on the scale when you rate him, what box do you check?' That's just a, ‘It ain't happenin'' box. Some tell a lie when the truth's a better answer."
Spielman said Thursday there were five or six "hot-button" issues the decision-makers needed to iron out, like which of three players would they select if all were available at a certain pick, but for the most part the draft board is set and the meetings have been completed – including a reported meeting in Florida Wednesday between Childress and wide receiver Percy Harvin, who is ironically one of the biggest risks at the top of the draft because of character and medical concerns.
Neither Spielman nor Childress would confirm that report from the National Football Post, but Childress said he takes between two and four of those kinds of predraft visits a year. And that is exactly the kind of further investigating the Vikings were talking about on Thursday.
Vikings pick through prospects for flaws
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