Vikings GM Rick Spielman held his annual Combine press conference on Thursday, meeting with reporters for approximately 15 minutes inside the media center at Lucas Oil Stadium. Here are a few takeaways from what Spielman discussed with the media…
Trading down from No. 8 a possibility for VikingsThere has been a lot of talk in Indianapolis about the depth of this year's draft class. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock called this draft the deepest he's seen in 10 years and also said having a top 20 pick this year is like having a top 10 pick most years. Prior to coming to the Combine, Spielman said the draft is so deep that he can see teams finding starters as late as the third day of the draft. Spielman also said Thursday that this is the deepest receiver class he can remember and that the record number of juniors who declared is a big reason for the depth across the board.
Given the depth of this year's draft class, Spielman explained multiple times on Thursday that the Vikings will consider a move back from No. 8, assuming the right deal comes along. The thinking here is that while you may not get as a high quality a player moving back as you would by staying at No. 8, you will certainly gain additional picks in middle and later rounds to take advantage of the class' depth. On top of all that, you still could have the best of both worlds by knocking one out of the park with a pick later in the first round, as the Vikings did in 2012 with Harrison Smith at No. 29 and last year with Xavier Rhodes at No. 25 and Cordarrelle Patterson at No. 29.
Spielman enjoys working with ZimmerSpielman took the podium and before taking a question opened with a statement about how much he's enjoyed working with new head coach Mike Zimmer. It was just over a month ago that Zimmer was hired, but a lot of work has already been done by Zimmer and his new staff, particularly in conjunction with Spielman and his staff leading up to the Senior Bowl and Combine. Spielman lauded Zimmer's work ethic and coaching staff, and also commented that during the hiring process he realized that he and Zimmer share a lot of the same philosophies when it comes to preferable traits in a football team, something Spielman suggests stems from the fact that both are the sons of football coaches.
Norv Turner's track record with QBs appealed to SpielmanThe Vikings have just one quarterback currently under contract (Christian Ponder) and they've acknowledged a desire to add a young quarterback to the mix during the offseason. According to Spielman, having Norv Turner on staff as offensive coordinator will be a big advantage for whomever that quarterback is.
Spielman cited Turner's work with Jay Fiedler in Miami, Bryan Hoyer/Jason Campbell in Cleveland and Alex Smith in San Francisco, among others, as examples of Turner getting more than anyone expected out of a particular passer. Let's also not forget Turner's success with top-end players such as Troy Aikman in Dallas and Philip Rivers in San Diego.
Vikings won't force a QB at No. 8While the team has admitted quarterback is a priority this offseason, Spielman also noted that the Vikings will not force a quarterback as their pick at No. 8. Instead, Spielman insisted, the Vikings will take the top-rated player on their board.
Spielman values players who like to compete at the Combine
Citing a variety of reasons ranging from avoiding injury to feeling more comfortable performing at a pro day, more and more prospects are declining parts of the on-field workouts at the Combine, including quarterbacks who elect not to throw. Ultimately, the decision comes down to avoiding a drop in draft stock due to a bad performance. But Spielman explained that he actually looks at it from the other perspective, saying he enjoys watching players who take advantage of the opportunity to compete.
Spielman certainly isn't alone in this thinking when it comes to coaches, GMs and scouts across the League. Those who are evaluating, say quarterbacks, understand not to focus on accuracy in an environment such as the Combine where quarterbacks and pass catchers are working in an unfamiliar setting with unfamiliar players. Instead, evaluators want to see mechanics, throwing motion, velocity, and perhaps most importantly, a competitive spirit.