Players drafted by the Vikings during the 2010 NFL Draft are joining a team that came 1 game away from advancing to Super Bowl XLIV and also a team that featured 10 Pro Bowl players. So for them, making the Vikings roster in 2010 is not going to be a stroll in the park.
Realizing this, though, the Vikings employ a creative approach to their late-round strategy that maximizes the athletic talent these late-round selections possess.
Sixth round pick Joe Webb and 7th round selection Ryan D’Imperio are examples of this approach.
D’Imperio played LB for Rutgers University but that’s not where he’ll be slotted with the Vikings. VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman explained during his post-draft press conference that the Vikings noticed athletic traits in D’Imperio that would give him a chance to make it in the NFL at a position he played in high school. Perhaps further strengthening Spielman’s belief that D’Imperio could make the transition was a conversation he had with Rutgers Head Coach Greg Schiano about the idea.
“He was a very good high school fullback,” Spielman revealed. “And then during his workout this spring, Frank Acevedo, our scout, was there and I told Frank to go ahead and put this kid through some fullback drills. This kid was very athletic and caught the ball extremely well. And you’re sitting there watching him through this workout and watching him getting out of his breaks and watching him catch the ball.”
Spielman said that as a linebacker, D’Imperio likes to “thud” people but now he’ll have to learn how to thud people on the other side of the ball as an offensive player.
“But he has some unique athletic skills that potentially you’re going to bring over. And I know what kind of coach EB (RBs coach Eric Bieniemy) is and he does a great job developing those guys. Again, you’re taking a guy with a lot of athletic skills that has played the position in high school and trying to see what he can do here up at this level.”
Webb, chosen 199th overall, is another example of an athletic college football player whom the Vikings will try at a different position. Spielman said Webb ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, has a 40-some inch vertical leap and has “enormous” 11-inch hands.
“He was a very athletic quarterback,” Spielman commented, “but when you saw him at the senior bowl, they played him at receiver. And some of the natural catching ability that he showed down at the senior bowl, especially through the practices, you’re saying ‘wow, this kid may have a chance.’”
Spielman did acknowledge that Webb has a lot to learn to become an NFL receiver, citing specifically that he is a raw route runner. But with that said, moving Webb from QB to WR is another example of Spielman’s creative approach to drafting in the late rounds.
“A lot of the guys that we took down there (late rounds of the draft) are guys that had some kind of unique trait, some kind of athletic trait, who are also very good football players that had a lot of passion for the game. Those are the qualities that we want here, those are the kind of qualities that coach Childress has said he wanted here.”
An important part to the success of this creative approach is a talented coaching staff. Taking a college LB and then turning him into an NFL-caliber RB is no small task, but Spielman says the Vikings are equipped with the coaching staff to get it done.
“When we do bring in young guys, our coaching staff does a great job developing some of these guys,” Spielman said. “That has shown here over the past four years and I don’t have any doubt that it’ll continue to show as we go forward.”