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Monday Morning Mailbag

Posted Mar 4, 2013

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the vikings.com Mailbag! Every Monday during the offseason we’ll post several comments and/or questions as part of the vikings.com Monday Morning Mailbag feature. Although we can’t post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

To submit a comment or question to the mailbag, send an email to Mike Wobschall at wobschallm@vikings.nfl.net. Remember to include your name and town on the email.

 

Many times when people ask you if we will go after certain positions in the upcoming draft, you often say that teams look to draft based on talent before need. What if the best player available when it came to our pick was a running back, and this player was by far the best choice at the time? We already have the position filled by Adrian Peterson (the reigning MVP) and even a solid backup (Toby Gerhart). Do you think that we would then draft based on need?
-- Aaron G.
Eagan, MN

No, my belief is that Vikings GM Rick Spielman would stick to his philosophy and take the best player available, even though that player doesn’t fulfill a position of need and plays the same position as Peterson. In the scenario presented by Aaron, the ideal outcome would be a trade back with a team that covets a running back or another player who they feel won’t be available much longer. If that doesn't happen, then a GM has a very difficult decision to make. In fact, this happened to the Vikings back in 2007 when they selected Peterson. Spielman stayed true to his philosophy and took Peterson, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions Spielman has made in Minnesota. Right now people look back on that decision and don't think twice about it because they think it was an obvious choice. But at that time, it wasn't an obvious decision. The Vikings had many other needs (they were 6-10 the year before) and there were serious durability concerns about Peterson because of ankle and collarbone injuries in college. Spielman stuck to his guns, and it worked out tremendously well. This also happened to the Vikings in 2011 when they selected Kyle Rudolph in the second round.

Do you see any realistic chance that linebacker Manti Te'o falls to the Vikings at #23 considering how well he handled his unique situation at the Combine and the amount of talent he has?
-- Michael D.
Chicago

Because of his time in the 40-yard dash at the Combine, there is most certainly a legitimate chance that Te’o is still on the board when the Vikings are on the clock in the first round. Te’o registered a time of 4.8 seconds in the 40, calling into question whether or not he has the speed to be a three-down linebacker in the NFL who is capable of covering slot receivers and many of the League’s more athletic tight ends. Many GMs will refuse to use a first-round pick on a linebacker who doesn’t reach a certain threshold in the 40-yard dash. I’m not sure what that threshold is – it might be different for different teams. But my guess is 4.8 seconds falls short of that threshold. Te’o has one more chance to ease concerns about his ability to be a three-down linebacker, and that’s at Notre Dame’s pro day on March 26. If Te’o runs a 40-yard dash time that’s around 4.75 or faster, then I think it’s a virtual certainty that he’ll be selected in the middle part of the first round (or sooner).

Will the Vikings take a look at selecting a defensive end in the later rounds of the draft? Margus Hunt from SMU seems like he could be a good fit for the future of the Vikings defensive line. What are your thoughts on this possibly happening?
-- John
San Diego, CA

I can’t speak for the Vikings and say unequivocally what they will or will not do, but I wouldn’t rule out any positions in the later rounds, and in fact I’d submit that there’s a chance the Vikings would even consider a defensive end in the early rounds of the draft. For teams that have identified Hunt as a player they want, I think they’ll have to select him early. Given how well he’s performed at the Senior Bowl and the Combine, and given his raw athleticism and talent, he’s shot up the boards and shouldn’t last too long in the draft.

I really like Tavon Austin in this year’s draft. I think he'd be Percy 2.0. Do you think the Vikings have an
interest in him? I really want him in purple and gold next season! SKOL!
-- Hassan A.
Chaska, MN

Given his impressive performance at the Combine and, more importantly, his outstandingly productive career at West Virginia during which he displayed tremendous versatility as a runner, receiver and returner, I would imagine all 32 NFL teams have an interest in him. The question is: to what degree do teams now like him? My sense is that Austin’s performance at the Combine will cause some teams to shuffle their wide receiver position rankings a bit and perhaps move Austin up a spot or two. If that is the case and Austin has jumped a player or two in his position, then I think he’s a sure-fire first-rounder because my sense is he was already a Top 5-type of receiver before his strong showing at the Combine.

I believe the draft will be the main source of new players rather than free agency this year, but don’t you believe we should grab a couple players in free agency who would be immediate impact players versus players that need to be developed in the draft? We did go to the NFC Championship Game a few years ago with many free agents (Bernard Berrian, Steve Hutchinson, Madieu Williams, Pat Williams, Antoine Winfield, etc.).
-- Ian H.

We did go to the NFC title game a few years ago with free agents. Ian is correct about that. But let’s also remember that Pat Williams and Antoine Winfield were acquired in 2005 and 2004, respectively, and that there were many more key pieces to that team that were acquired through the draft, such as Chad Greenway, Percy Harvin, EJ Henderson, Phil Loadholt, Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice, John Sullivan and Kevin Williams. Regardless, I understand Ian’s point, and he’s right to a degree.

There is a place for free agency when it comes to building a roster. The key to finding success in free agency is finding players who fit what you want to do schematically. It's not about making a big splash by trying to sign the best players at each position. A great example is Jerome Felton from last year. When the Vikings signed him, it was a mere footnote to the offseason. But he turned out to be the best free agent signing of the group last year, and it’s because his skill set was a perfect fit for what the Vikings wanted to do - lean on the run with a power running game that featured the best running back in the NFL.

Long story longer, I do believe the Vikings should and will look to free agency to supplement their offseason roster-building efforts. But that's what it is - a supplement. A free agent signing will not be the crown jewel of those offseason efforts.

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