Finding The Right Fit

Evaluating NFL talent is an inexact science, but the Vikings' director of pro scouting tells how the Vikings approach the process heading into free agency, and how free agency and the draft work together. It's a process that allowed the Vikings to land Corey Chavous last year and possibly another defensive back next month.

Paul Wiggin, the Vikings' director of pro scouting, said that while some personnel people spend much of their time on the phone trying to get information on players, that is not the approach he takes.

Rather, Wiggin, 68, and his staff spend hours watching tapes and also comparing their notes against others evaluations.

"We do have access to a lot of information," he said. "We have PSI (a pro scouting book), which is a resource we use. We just interact with that. We don't use it as a bottom line, but there is an evaluation of every player. So, right there you have everything about every player based on what another resource's opinion is. We interact with that. If there is somebody that we think is a great player and PSI thinks he's not a great player, then that's a red flag.

"We will then try to evaluate where we could be wrong. Sometimes we are right and they are wrong. That's kind of how we do what we do. There are people in my job that are on the phone all the time. Ours is all intense tape work and that sort of thing and then just getting information from any source we can."

While the Vikings have tried to cut down on their mistakes in free agency, so have other teams. That makes the playing field even more competitive, according to Wiggin.

"A lot of people have finally realized that if you let your cap get out of hand you don't make it," he said. "One of the teams that (happened to) was the Vikings. (Vice president of football operations Rob) Brzezinski has done a remarkable job of getting this thing back in shape here. But if you trace the (history of this), people are learning their lessons.

"They are getting people in there like the Brzezinskis — the sharp, bright people who are getting things back in line and keeping them in line. Because of that, (teams) are able to probably sign the people that are key to their organization."

Free agency vs. the draft
While Wiggin prepares for free agency, Scott Studwell is doing the same for the draft this April. But Studwell, the Vikings' director of college scouting, and Wiggin keep in close contact. Brzezinski and Tice and the rest of the football staff also are frequently briefed on what is happening.

"They go hand in hand," Wiggin said of the two departments. "We kind of keep our ear to the road so to speak with that side of it. We know over there that the draft has this limitation, that limitation, this surplus and so forth.

"For example, if we are picking seventh and let's say we wanted an offensive guard. I don't think that's what we want, but let's just say that's what we wanted. If they said to us, ‘You know what, there are some offensive guards in the first round, but I wouldn't take any of these guys before 20, and when we get to round two I don't think what's left is going to be good enough for what we want.' Then that puts some pressure on free agency.

"They would ask free agency, ‘Is there anyone out there in the offensive guard category that can help us? If so, maybe we should focus on that.' I'm using a hypothetical case because I don't want our offensive guards to think that's the situation. It's not. But I want to point out that that's basically what kind of interaction we have."

The whole personnel department and coaches will continue that interaction over the next few months as they continue to build for the playoff run predicted by Tice.

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