SATURDAY, APRIL 30, 2011
Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier
I really believe the Minnesota Vikings got better in the 2011 Draft. To be able to come away with the 10 players we were able to draft, to create the competition that will be created in our training camps and OTA’s , it’s a real plus for our football team. One of our goals going into this draft was to create competition at positions and with that being the case and selecting some of the people that we have, there’s no doubt in my mind that our team is better than it was prior to this draft and that’s a good thing for our football team and for our organization. We are excited about what was able to be accomplished through our scouts and our coaches working as hard as they did throughout this process to select the young men that we have. We are looking forward to getting the chance to get on the field and get the things done that we want to get done as a team.
Q: Where do you see Christian Ballard playing primarily?
A: We are going to play him, to start off with, more inside and eventually work him outside but we want to start off playing him inside. He gives us some flexibility because of what he’s able to do, the fact that we can play in the three-technique or play nose but he could also slide outside as a defensive end. He’s one of those rare commodities when you talk about big men. He moves extremely well and that flexibility should really help our defense.
Q: Being a head coach for the first time, how do you view a guy that has a positive drug test like Ballard?
A: One of the things about all of our draft picks, our security staff, our scouts have done a great job along with our coaches of delving into every player’s background and really having a great feel for what guys would fit our football team and what guys would not fit our football team. When we select a player, we are confident that we selected a guy that will fit what we want to do and really be a part of our situation and our team in a positive way. I feel good about all the guys we selected from a character stand point.
Q: As a defensive guy was it hard to sit back the first two days and not select a defensive player?
A: Well I knew we had a number of picks coming although in those first couple of picks we went offense and there still a lot of defensive players still on the board. It was just a matter of getting to those picks, the fourth, the fifth and the sixth round picks so I never really panic about that part of it. Plus, the offensive players we selected are top-notch players so we are feeling good about that part of it. It’s worked out as well as it could be expected.
Q: Was your first draft as a head coach about what you expected?
A: It was very similar to years past when I was in that draft room. The difference now being, you are sitting through every pick which is a little bit different as opposed to when we are thinking about taking a defensive guy. The relationship with Rick (Spielman) and I has always been a positive one and the fact that Scott Studwell is in the room along with our other scouts, people I’ve worked with throughout the years, it was smooth. There were not hiccups along the way. Plus, we had done so much work and preparation for the draft that there were really no surprises. It was pretty smooth.
Q: How do you feel being the head coach and creating competition between players and possibly having to cut some guys?
A: During the stage when I was the interim head coach, our players were here. They understand how important competition is to me. If you look at our roster at the end of that season, how we moved some people around and did some different things playing some people who would not have been playing otherwise, they understand how I approach it. I don’t think it will be a tremendous surprise to our players that were with us a year ago to see the fact that we have drafted some guys at their position. That’s the only way we will get better as a team, if we create the right kind of competition and bring in the right guys to help us to move forward and continue to improve. It won’t be a surprise to our players and it will always be that way. We will always be trying to better ourselves as a football team. You don’t win in our League if you don’t do that.
Q: How familiar are you with Mistral Raymond’s background?
A: Our scouts and security people shared some information with me regarding his background and some of the things he had to overcome. My heart goes out to him and his family for what they’ve experienced. It says a lot about him as a person, some of the adversity he’s faced and he’s stuck with it and has not given up on life or has not given up on himself. He’s a tremendous young man and he’s overcome a lot.
Q: With the Kyle Rudolph selection, did you look at the Jason Wittens of the NFL and say we need a guy like that?
A: When I started watching him on tape, I looked at him and said, ‘You just don’t see very many tight ends like this anymore.’ Everybody is going towards the hybrid-type tight end. A guy who’s a move guy, sometimes he’s in the backfield, sometimes at the line of scrimmage. It’s hard to find guys like Kyle today. So many of those guys are playing basketball it seems so it’s a little bit different. By the way, that is his background. He is a basketball player. I was watching him and I kept going, ‘Man it sure would be nice to have guy like this.’ I know how hard it is for me when I’m looking at offenses putting together a game plan thinking about that team’s tight end. Is he a factor, or is he not a factor, because that enables us to some things with the receivers if he’s not a factor. So I looked at him and said, ‘Boy, if we were to get this guy, it would create some problems for opposing defenses.’ But I was thinking all along he wasn’t going to be there because they are so rare but knowing he had a severe injury as well that it was a possibility. When the opportunity came, although there were other positions there we were looking at, there’s no way you could pass on a guy like this. He’s the top tight end in the draft and for good reason. We are fortunate that we have him.
Q: Did you feel there were any needs that weren’t addressed in this draft?
A: I think we hit a lot of areas with the 10 players that we took. We tried our best to draft players that were the best available along with filling needs along the way. I think we did a good job of that in this draft. We’ll see over time if we’ve actually done what we set out to do. You usually can’t judge these drafts in one or two seasons. I usually takes probably two or three years to be able to look back and just see if you really hit on the things you needed to hit on. We’ll see, but I think we have.
Q: Did you feel overwhelmed going into this draft or a sense of relief that the draft was over?
A: Not a sense of relief, I just wanted us to get it right. It’s not a lot of fun when you walk out there on a Sunday and you feel like you’re a little bit short in some areas when you’re trying to compete. I really wanted us to shore up our depth and create better competition at certain positions. All along the way, that was the one thing on my mind. Just ensuring our roster was more competitive than it was. I think we have gotten that accomplished. The energy that you get from going through the process is what motivated me along the way as I was looking at offensive players, looking at special teams players, looking at defensive players. Just knowing what we had to get accomplished as an organization, as a team.
Q: How many guys did you meet with or talk to individually during the draft process?
A: That would be a tough one. I haven’t logged that. A lot, a lot. There were a lot of workouts, talked to a lot of guys individually, and watched a ton of tape. My approach, although my background is defense, I really believe that in the role that I’m in, I need to have my hands in what we do offensively when you talk about selecting players. Specialists when you talk about selecting special teams players, as well as defensive players. I just feel like as a Head Coach you need to have a pulse on all those areas. I wanted to be a part of every selection we had without being overbearing, without trying to be a dictator. So, I spent a lot of hours in a lot of different areas.
Q: How important was it for you to get youth among your offensive line?
A: It was very important to me. That was one of our goals going into this. We had a number of picks in order to get it accomplished. Fortunately we were able to draft a couple of guys who we think will really help us from a depth standpoint and eventually push our starters to improve or eventually be starters. I think it was good for us, that we were able to address that in our draft.
Q: Do you feel good about the safety position, did you address that enough in this draft?
A: I think so, (Mistral) Raymond has a chance, based on what we looked at on tape, to be a good transition guy to give us some flexibility. A guy who could play corner but also could play safety. And that’s where we want to start him at we want to start him at safety to begin with, knowing he can play corner. I think we have addressed an area of need in our opinion and we’ll see how he progresses.
A: Well the fact that Ray is still our guy until we find out what the rules are. We’ll deal with it down the line when we find out if we’re going to be in a Collective Bargaining situation where guys are going to have to play for six years before they are free agents, or will we go back to the old rules where it’s four years. We have got to go through all of that and make a determination. But right now Ray is still one of our guys, and we’ll just have to see what happens.
Q: Ross Homan has typically played weak side linebacker in college, do you see him possibly competing for the starting role at strong side linebacker?
A: In our defense, Chad (Greenway) is actually our strong side linebacker who plays to the tight end side. Ben (Leber) is our open side linebacker in our scheme. We would like for Ross to end up lining up at that open side, to the Will side. Because he has played the Sam position in college, we know he’s capable of doing it, but we will cross-train him. We’ll let him work at both positions. We’ll see what’s the best fit for him, but right now we’re thinking he can play that open side.
Q: Is Homan’s skill level to the point where he can be a starter right away in the NFL?
A: Yeah, every guy that we drafted, we told them, it’s going to be open competition. We didn’t draft them to sit down. Whether you were Christian Ponder, (Mistral) Raymond, or in this case Ross (Homan). We wanted you to come in with the attitude that you’re competing to start. Don’t come in saying, I just want to make the team. That doesn’t help the football team.
Q: Who do you feel comfortable playing nose tackle?
A: Right now we have Letroy (Guion) slated as a possibility, he could do it.
Q: Was the changing labor situation throughout the weekend, was this draft as crazy as it seemed to us on the outside?
A: It’s been a different offseason to say the least. This weekend was definitely different. We’ll just have to see what happens in the weeks and months to come. It’s just a different time in our league.
Q: How much has the baptism by fire last season helped you deal with the uncertainty you are dealing with right now?
A: I think it definitely has helped, not that I would have drawn it up that way. Or drawn up this offseason this way. But just dealing with that and handling it the way our team did, just gives me confidence that we’ll handle this in the right way and be prepared when we find out what the rules are and what the parameters will be going forward. The fact that we’ve experienced some adversity before, really helps to deal with some of the thing we’re faced with now
Q: Are you definitely looking to add a veteran QB this offseason, either as a starter or a backup?
A: Not necessarily. When you look at the free agent market at quarterback, which we did prior to March 3rd, when we didn’t know what was going to happen. You got to determine is there a good fit for you. When we were having those discussions, there had not been a draft at that point, and we were talking about what the scenarios would be if we were not able to get a quarterback in the draft. But now we have a quarter back, so now we have to go back and revisit that, and discuss whether or not it’s to our advantage to bring in a veteran. Or do we want to let the competition remain against those three and maybe sign a free agent quarterback. So we’ll go through all of those scenarios when we sit down now that the draft is over.
Q: What is your gut feeling on that?
A: Well it will help me when we sit down as a staff and talk about it as a group and just get some feedback from our staff. And just start ascertaining what’s best for our young quarterbacks that are on our roster right now and what’s the best thing to do.
SATURDAY, APRIL 30, 2011
Vikings Vice President of Player Personnel Rick Spielman
Just to start off, again I can’t thank enough the staff that I have in place with Scott Studwell and George Paton and all of our college scouts and pro scouts, everybody that contributed to this. I also can’t tell you enough how well Leslie (Frazier) did through his first draft and how much the coaches worked at this because those guys put a lot of time into the tape work. Those guys did a lot of time going out this spring to work out some of these kids and that paid dividends for us, I think, in this draft. As far as the draft went, we were very excited to get eight players in that second day. We felt we got a lot of good value for the type of players that we took. We also were able to fill a lot of needs that we were looking to fill. In that fifth round, we had an opportunity to move back and pick up two extra sixth round picks so that gave us a chance to get three good players right in a row and we had enough choices and enough different scenarios where we knew we were going to get three good players because of how our board was stacked but overall said and done, to get ten players in here to come help the Minnesota Vikings win football games, we’re very excited about each one of these guys.
Q: Did you have a realistic chance to jump into the third round?
A: We talked last night about potentially moving back into the third round but then we decided to stay put and see what kind of fell to us the second day. And the draft board, at least in our opinion, we felt very fortunate the way the draft fell to us this year. Everything just seemed to kind of click and hit right in place.
Q: In trading down, how much of that had to do with the potential of not having undrafted free agency?
A: Yeah, and that was a key too. To have that second day, or third day, to have eight draft picks and knowing that you don’t have college free agency, we thought that was valuable because we know we have those eight guys for sure and actually right now I’m going to go back up there. Our scouts and myself, we’re going to go through and we’re going to stack our free agent board so we’ll stack our A, our B, and our C college free agents, I’ll meet with the coaching staff tomorrow and go through that and then once college free agency does begin, everything is set and ready to go.
Q: There was a report that Christian Ballard failed a drug test at the combine, are you comfortable with that?
A: That’s all confidential information so I’m not going to address that. I can tell you that he is an outstanding football player. We spent time with him down at the combine. We spent time with him on the phone. We thought in the fourth round it was a great value pick for us. Just what he brings to the table as far as his versatility up front, where he’s played some end, he’s played some tackle. They slid him up and down the line this year at Iowa and we felt he was a second round value we got in the fourth round.
Q: What does Christian Ballard project as in your opinion?
A: My job is to get the best players in here and then let the coaches figure out where they want to line them up. We looked at him though seriously as, he can play some end if we needed to, we can play him at an under tackle and he’s even slid inside and did some pass rushes at nose this year. So the one thing we tried to do is, especially on our defensive line and with Ballard, it gives us a lot of options and a lot of different things because very rarely do you get a guy that can line up and play multiple positions up front.
Q: Do you feel there were any character concerns with Christian Ballard?
A: We felt very comfortable with his character concerns and felt very comfortable with the interview process we had with him and he will be a great rookie show at mini-camp with his ability to play the cello.
Q: You had a need at cornerback, but was Brandon Burton also a pick based on value?
A: Yeah, we felt (Brandon) Burton was another value pick for us. He slid down to the fifth round. He has a lot of cover skills. He can be physical in support. He’s fast and a big corner and those are the type of corners we are looking at from a defensive scheme standpoint so we felt very confident when he was there that was our guy.
Q: Is Mistral Raymond also a press corner?
A: Yeah, (Mistral) Raymond can play corner and safety. Again, another good athlete that can play multiple positions and coaches will figure out whether they want to start him out at corner or safety but as we look at our depth as we get ready to head into, whenever we start training camp or whenever we come in, we’ll look at where our depth is and where we want to start those guys but we know that he can play corner and he can also play free safety so that gives us an opportunity to look at him in both areas.
Q: Do you feel you did enough to at least lessen the burden of not having free agency?
A: Yeah, again, getting all of those picks was a tremendous help and even as we got through and took those two big bodies in the sixth round, DeMarcus Love and (Brandon) Fusco. Both of those guys we met down at the senior bowl. (DeMarcus) Love gives us an opportunity to get a potential swing tackle. He’s played both on the left and right side. He was a weak side tackle down at Arkansas, so you see him play on both sides. You see the position flexibility that he does have. When he was down at the Senior Bowl, you also saw him play inside to guard and then (Brandon) Fusco was a great pick I think as an upside guy from a small college. He’s a very good athlete and the one thing you like about him is his demeanor and how he plays the game and you saw some of the rawness in him coming from Slippery Rock and all of a sudden start blocking the guys down at the Senior Bowl but Jeff Davidson, our offensive line coach, did a personal workout with him and came back and had rave reviews about him.
Q: What did you learn about Raymond?
A: That story was unbelievable. He was one of our top 30 guys and I sat there for a half-hour, just listening to that story. It tells you what type of character that kid is. In all of these kids, the one thing we tried to emphasize was trying to get guys who loved to play the game, guys that have passion, but are solid citizens. For him to through that tragedy that he had to go through and overcome, from JUCO to walking on down at South Florida, to earning a scholarship, to doing all of those things, it speaks volumes of, not what only he is on the football field because we know that, but what type of character and what type of kid he is.
Q: Did you find that out from other sources?
A: No, he did it one on one in my office.
Q: Did you know anything about it?
A: Yes, I had some background knowledge of it. I just wanted to kind of check the facts to make sure of the facts. You just sit there and you’re like, “Wow.” And then you see how that kid overcame that and where he’s at today.
Q: He seems like a very upbeat guy?
A: Great kid. Great attitude. One thing I asked him was, “did you have any revenge things like that in your mind?” He just said, “I’m moving forward. Things happen, but you got to move forward, you can’t let it linger and keep thinking about that.” To me, that’s why he is where he is today.
Q: Love said he would often switch sides during the game, do you see that a lot?
A: How Arkansas’ offense was, he was the weak-side tackle. So you see him left and the next play he’s on the right side. Maybe he’s three plays back on the left, three plays back on the right. So you see him during the game, him going back and forth, left, right, left, right. You saw that down at the Senior Bowl, where, okay, I’m going to slide you inside the guard, so that’s one thing that was very appealing to us. Big guy, with athletic skills, that likes to run block, but can play multiple positions.
Q: You had several guys that slid to you, why do you think that was?
A: I don’t know. Maybe the draft gods were looking down on us this year and we’ll find that out. You feel great about your Draft class when they come in. I don’t think you judge a draft class until they’re two or three years down the road. We feel we’ve helped our ball club a lot by the type of players that we brought in and it’s going to push and it’s going to create a lot of competition when we get back going again.
Q: With DeMarcus Love being a weak side tackle, does that mean he’s got the speed to be a left tackle?
A: Yeah, if you looked at him, he didn’t play as well his senior year, but off his junior tape, you say this guy has left tackle feet. This guy can do a lot of things and he, for some reason, didn’t have as great a year as he did as a junior year. The one thing you know is, if he comes in here and you have a guy that can play both left and right tackle, which is a rarity. Those guys are hard to find and have swing opportunities. He may have a chance to develop as a starter down the road as well
Q: He sounded like he was pretty disappointed in his Senior Bowl performance? What was your evaluation there? Do you throw it out?
A: You don’t throw it out. It’s part of the process piece. We had a good visit with him down at the Senior Bowl and I think that pays off dividends when we have all of our coaches staff down there. We interview all 93 players or whatever the roster is on both sides. Our coaches get a chance to sit with these kids, get a chance to talk to them. How well is this guy going to learn? What type of character is he? Is he the type of guy that we want on our football team? He had some rough moments down there at the Senior Bowl. I’m not going to sit here and lie about that. But, that’s just one piece of the whole puzzle when you’re watching ’09 to what he did in 2010 to what he did at the Senior Bowl, combine and so on.
Q: Did Fred Pagac petition for his Ohio State linebacker?
A: It wasn’t (Fred) Pagac, it was my dang brother. Ross (Homan) is a very talented football player. I know the knock on him a little bit is the size factor but maybe one of the most instinctive linebackers that was on the board and he was a lot higher on our board then where we were able to get him but not only because I think he can play three downs in the NFL because of his athletic skills and his instincts, I think he is going to help contribute on special teams as well. He’s just a solid, good football player.
Q: D’Aundre Reed seems pretty raw? Did you draft him to get a second look?
A: It was hard because he was in that rotation down there at Arizona and where you noticed him is whatever clicked from that USC game, he really started playing lights out. He’s a 6’4” body, he’s a really good athlete. He can run and we actually sent Diron Reynolds, our assistant d-line coach out there a couple of weeks ago to work all three of those defensive ends out and he had an excellent workout out there. He can play the left side, the right side, they even slid him inside some as a nickel rusher but again, we’ve always tried to focus on guys that have some athletic skills that our coaches can work with and try to develop and he fit that mold.
Q: Is there any return ability with Stephen Burton?
A: Yes. He has done punt and kickoff returns. There is another big athlete, big receiver, 220 pound receiver that ran a 4.44 on our watches that has some natural hands and play-making ability. He also has some return skills as well.
Q: With the lockout back on what are your immediate plans? Do you get ready to dive into free agency once you are allowed?
A: We have our (pro) free-agency set. We will have our college free-agency set. I’m going to try and play golf this week if I can.
Q: Are you expecting 2010 CBA rules at this point?
A: I’m just going with what they tell me.