Monday Morning Mailbag


Monday Morning Mailbag: Could Zimmer Lure Ex-Bengals To Minnesota?

Posted Feb 29, 2016

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How much influence does the Combine have on Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer’s draft-day decisions? And could something seen by them at the Combine have enough influence to change or alter the Vikings 1st-round pick?
-- Luigi D.
New Jersey

The Combine is an important event, evidenced by the fact that all 32 teams attend it every year and send most if not all of their football staff. But it’s also one part of a long process and teams refrain from letting any one aspect of the evaluation process tower over the others. Where I think the Combine can influence decisions is within clusters of players and/or within position groups. A team may bump the third receiver on the board ahead of the second based on variable discovered at the Combine, or they may tend to favor one of multiple players with similar grades because of something they gleaned at the Combine. 

What position or who stood out the most to you at the Combine?
-- Dustin Latimer

The DL group was really impressive, particularly with how they timed in the 40. There were 11 defensive linemen who clocked sub-5.0 times in the 40-yard dash and only two who were over 5.2 seconds – impressive numbers. Granted, the 40-yard dash is certainly not the best measure of how good a defensive lineman is, but it does speak to his athleticism. Make no mistake, this year’ DL group is talented and deep. I thought Notre Dame WR Will Fuller helped himself at the Combine. As for OL, Laremy Tunsil solidified his status as a projected top pick, Indiana’s Jason Spriggs impressed with 31 reps and a good on-field workout, Germain Ifedi measured in with 36-inch arms and Michigan State’s Jack Conklin and Stanford’s Joshua Garnett are two names mentioned by Mike Mayock at his annual Combine press conference. There were a lot of players who stood out and a lot of positions groups that impressed, plus the DBs are still to work out Monday so we could become impressed with even more players before all is said and done.

I know the “best player available” strategy. But seeing how the best defenses made it to the Super Bowl, don't you think the Vikings would be better-served picking a defensive player in the 1st round? Spielman always wants his 10 picks, but since he has built such an improved team it might be better to go for quality instead of quantity this year.
-- Clyde Coughenour

My guess is the Vikings will stay true to their philosophy of taking the best player available, regardless of position, and of trying to leave the draft with as many players as they can because they aren’t building just for the 2016 season. They have to think about future seasons, too, and while trading up for a top 10 pick could provide an immediate boost, it could also have an adverse effect in seasons down the road because the picks it would take to get up into the top 10 could’ve been used to infuse the roster with more talent. In addition to that, the depth of this year’s defensive line is such that I think the Vikings can add impact players by staying at No. 23 and/or by tapping into the depth in the 2nd round and beyond.

I noticed the Bengals entire defensive backfield are free agents along with two WRs. A new stadium, a great coach, a playoff team…I wonder if you agree a couple might be headed our way?
-- Jorge Hagenbrock

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer did say last week during his Combine press conference that pursuing free agents you’ve coached previously gives you a better chance of being right about that player. That’s why it makes sense to link free agents to teams that employ former coaches of those players, including former Cincinnati Bengals to the Vikings because of Zimmer. But that is certainly not the only consideration teams or players make when making decisions in free agency. Terence Newman was a former Bengal who played for Zimmer in Cincinnati and that obviously worked out for the team in 2015, but other quality free agent signings such as DTs Tom Johnson and Linval Joseph and CB Captain Munnerlyn are examples of players who hadn’t played for Zimmer in the past but still wound up being great fits in Minnesota.

There are many jewels and diamonds in the rough in this year's draft. When it comes time to pick, what is more of a priority: the hybrid players who can play multiple positions or the skill players who are known for their prowess at only one position?
-- Mitch Friesenborg

Generally speaking, players with versatility tend to be favored by most teams. But there may be teams who feel they are in a position to identify a specific type of player to get over the hump, and teams in that situation may then tend to favor a player who is known for prowess at one position. The bust rate is probably higher in situations where teams pigeonhole themselves, but hitting on that type of pick can pay big dividends. Also, teams looking for a QB are obviously going to skew toward a prowess at one positon over a versatile player. For the most part, though, coaches and scouts love versatility in players because it provides more flexibility in the draft room and in making final roster decisions in September.

Seeing as how Teddy threw better from the shotgun, and how Adrian ran significantly better with Teddy under center, could you see Norv Turner possibly drawing up some sort of pistol formation in the future, as a sort of 'compromise'?
-- James Siems

I wouldn’t rule out the pistol formation for the Vikings, but a better bet is that the Vikings will work this offseason to get better with Teddy under center and with him in the gun. One of my favorite moments from the Combine was when Zimmer said this to reporters:

"That's part of the reason I got Tony (Sparano) in here," he said. "Part of the reason why I got Pat (Shurmur) to help, because Pat has had a lot of influence with quarterbacks in the gun and Tony has been a lot with the quarterback under center. And they've had mixtures of both. I don't think we can be in the gun all day. And I don't think we can be under the center all day."

That quote tells me Zimmer is being intentional and pragmatic about taking what the offense already does well and continuing to try to improve it.