Vikings GM Rick Spielman held his annual Combine press conference on Thursday, meeting with national and local media in Indianapolis for about 15 minutes. He was asked a variety of questions and touched on several topics, but here are five takeaways from his time in the media center.
1. Vikings saw value from veterans in 2015
The NFL world has descended upon Indianapolis this week to take a close look at the 2016 draft class. But Spielman spent some time discussing players on the other end of the spectrum, throwing praise at a few of the team's veteran players and the role they played in the team's division-winning season.
"We talked about guys on our football team that still can play the game and contribute to us winning, and Chad (Greenway) showed that last year even though his role was reduced," Spielman said when asked about Greenway's situation heading into free agency. "But that leadership, you can't put enough emphasis on that, especially when you have a young ball club.
"We have older vets like Chad Greenway, Terence Newman, who came in and did a great job for us this year in his role, and what we're trying to establish in the locker room. Those guys are true pro's pros."
Spielman then made a point to bring up a veteran on the offensive side of the ball whom the team appreciated.
"The other guy, and I know probably was disappointed from a statistical standpoint, but what Mike Wallace brought into our locker room and his buy in and his sacrifice from the standpoint of stats and what was best for the team," Spielman said. "And I know coach Zimmer mentioned it in his postseason press conference, but he was a true professional. And everything he was asked to do, he did it to his best. His leadership also was key to the success we had on the field."
The final question of Spielman's press conference was about yet another veteran player – Brian Robison.
Spielman said he thinks Robison can still play and said of him: "He's not only a valuable football player for us, but extremely valuable from a leadership standpoint."
2. Life after Adrian
With the next class of NFL players about to embark on a big step to their NFL careers right here in Indianapolis, some start to wonder when current players will begin to be pushed out the door in favor of younger options. With Adrian Peterson set to turn 31 in March and preparing for his 10th season, Spielman was asked if he's thought about preparing for life after No. 28.
"You're always thinking about it. With a running back, you're one injury away. We'll eventually get down there," Spielman acknowledged.
But then the Vikings GM presented the other side of the Adrian Peterson coin.
"I think Adrian still is a very productive running back in this league," Spielman said. "I mean he won the rushing title again this year and it's amazing the stamina and physical specimen he still is. But at some point everybody has to retire, and I don't know when that point is. Adrian may defy the odds and play until he's 50. I don't know.
"But we're very excited about some of the young guys. Matt Asiata came in and has always done a good job in his role. We drafted Jerick McKinnon, who when he gets the opportunity to get a ball in his hands, he shows that he can be a very explosive playmaker as well."
3. NFC North should be a competitive division
In 2015, the NFC North became a two-team race between the Vikings and Green Bay Packers. The Vikings found a way to beat Green Bat at Lambeau Field in Week 17, which knocked the Packers off their perch for the first time since 2009. Early in the offseason, the consensus seems to be that the division will come down to the Vikings or Packers once again in 2016. But Spielman didn't seem to agree.
"No, because I think Detroit has a very good football team. I think Chicago…I have the utmost respect for what John Fox has done everywhere he's been," Spielman said. "I think it's going to be a very competitive division next year."
Vikings fans can take solace in the fact that the leaders of their favorite team – Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer – seem determined to demand the team doesn't become complacent with last season's success and instead focuses on what's ahead in 2016.
"Even though we've had success and built on that this past year, we still haven't reached all of our goals," Spielman said. "We have to take the approach that it's starting over. What we did last year doesn't matter. It's what we're going to do going forward and that's the approach we have to take."
4. Evaluating WRs from spread offenses
Receivers who played in spread offenses in college may have posted gaudy numbers, but they also have a tough transition to make at the pro level. Spielman was asked about the issue of evaluating receivers who come from spread offenses.
"I think they have to get used to the style of defenses here," Spielman explained. "The precision of the routes because of the defensive backs and how skilled they are. The timing as far as the quarterback may throw you the ball and you're not going to be as open as you were in college. Also, depending on what offense they came out of, how much knowledge they have on an overall scheme. Some schemes are watered down but very productive, other schemes are a little bit more complicated. I think it's just the nuance of learning what it is to place receiver at this level because they probably aren't going to have that experience coming out of college."
5. Diggs plays big
Speaking of receivers, the Vikings found a good one in last year's draft. They took Stefon Diggs out of Maryland in the fifth round and watched him have a solid rookie season in 2015. Diggs is listed at 6-0, 190 pounds, not a measurement that would qualify him as a "big" receiver in today's NFL. But Spielman explained that Diggs has the ability to play bigger than his frame may indicate.
"I think the biggest thing on him, and we had a discussion earlier today with some of the beat writers, big receivers versus small receivers," Spielman said. "I look at catching radius and length. He's not the biggest receiver from a height standpoint, but his catching radius and the ability to make plays. He makes plays like a big receiver.
"He didn't get on the field early in the season and when we had some injuries and he got his opportunity he took advantage of it. That started in the Denver game and we were pretty lucky or fortunate that we were able to find a guy like that in the fifth round."