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Monday Morning Mailbag: Combine's Importance?

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

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Do you really think the Combine is important when evaluating draft prospects? --Zach C. Minneapolis, MN

There's no question in my mind the Combine is an important part of the evaluation process. The Combine essentially becomes the center of the NFL universe for a week, and I don't feel those who run NFL organizations spend much of their time attending events that don't matter. While the Combine has become a media spectacle, I feel the most important parts of the Combine are actually those you cannot see – the private interviews and the medical evaluations. Without the Combine as a central place to conduct all these activities, each team would have to engage in extra travel across the country to get in front of all the players. With the Combine in place, teams descend on one city for a week and well over 300 players come to them.

Everyone who's studied the mock draft sites knows that this is a deep draft for linebackers and wide receivers. Will next week's Combine help the Vikings determine how deep the draft is in those departments and will that affect how they approach free agency? For instance, if the receivers are deep at the Combine, might that affect how aggressively they pursue a Jeremy Maclin or a Randall Cobb? -- Gary St. Cloud, MN

Yes, the particular areas of strength and weaknesses in an upcoming draft class typically does impact how a team behaves in free agency. I would always lean on fortifying a position in the draft over free agency, but where I would get aggressive in free agency is when there's a need at a position and that position seems particularly week in the upcoming draft. Another time to be aggressive in free agency is when you believe a particular player on the open market is special and presents a unique opportunity for your team if they were on your roster.

I'm one who believes we are stable at offensive tackle with Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt. But what are your thoughts on, if the Vikings were to go with an offensive tackle in the draft, starting that player at right tackle and moving Loadholt to the right guard and Brandon Fusco to left guard. -- Josh Morris Mascotte, FL

I am not a big proponent of this plan, but I am a proponent of a slightly different plan. While I agree with Josh that offensive tackle is not a need for the Vikings this year, I do feel selecting an offensive tackle early in the draft is one direction the team could be because A) it would provide depth at a very important position and B) there's the possibility of moving that player to offensive guard for the time being and then sliding him back out to tackle when the need arises. This way, you don't have to pass on a talented player at a premium position (offensive tackle) just because it's not a need at the current time.

There are five very good receivers available in free agency this year who I think can help Teddy Bridgewater get to the next level and move the Vikings into position to reach the playoffs in 2015. The five I am thinking of are: Dez Bryant, Randall Cobb, Michael Crabtree, Torrey Smith and Demaryius Thomas. Which of these do you think the Vikings ought to pursue in free agency? -- Bob Ortt

A team can only pursue players who actually hit the open market, and at this point we don't know which of those players will actually be free when March 10 comes around. I feel all five players are good enough to where their current teams will do everything they can to not let them leave. With that said, if I could have my pick of that litter, it would be Bryant. I feel he's the best all-around receiver of the bunch and I feel he has the most athleticism. Another trait of his that I love is his tenacity in going after 50-50 passes down the field.

You had mentioned a quarterback and coach were the two key factors of teams that have become consistent playoff and Super Bowl contenders. What importance would you say the GM and front office have? When you look at those same teams, how do you rate their front offices? -- Chris Mayer

I will stop short of rating other teams' front offices, but I will say that how a front office operates is vital the success of the organization. I'd go a step further and say it's also important that the communication between the front office and the coach – and vice versa – be clear, consistent and honest.

I was wondering how you felt about Seattle's play call on 2nd and goal from the 1 in the Super Bowl. Would you have called a pass or a run? I thought a play action bootleg myself. -- Nicholas Balkou

It's getting too much criticism, plain and simple.  A talented coaching staff who had led a talented group of players to consecutive Super Bowls made an educated decision that didn't work out, and thus they are being hypercriticized. It goes with the territory, but it's also gone too far and the hypercriticism of Seattle is actually missing the mark because we should be focusing that energy on crediting the Patriots coaching staff for preparing its players properly and we should be praising Malcolm Butler for just making the better play.

I actually would've run the ball in that situation, knowing that if I didn't reach the end zone I would at least run more time off the clock before calling a timeout, thus leaving New England's offense with virtually not shot at getting into field goal range. While that would eliminate the run/pass threat on 3rd down (I would have to pass the ball because I would be out of timeouts), I would still have a run/pass option on 4th down if we also didn't succeed on 3rd down. In hindsight, my play calls would've gone as such: read-option on 2nd down, rollout right pass on 3rd down, Marshawn Lynch run on 4th down.

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