EAGAN, Minn. — More than 330 college football players will travel to Indianapolis this week for the biggest job interview of their lives.
Actually, it might as well be the biggest job interview a couple dozen times over, as a player could potentially meet with all 32 teams while at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine.
While each player will try to impress each organization, teams will also be on the lookout as they try to glean information about each player leading up to the 2019 NFL Draft in April.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman, who will be among the dozens of Vikings representatives in attendance, is well-aware of the event’s importance in deciding whether to draft a player.
“The Combine is a huge part of our process,” Spielman told Vikings.com. “It’s the first time we’re going to be able to get in front of a lot of these juniors that are coming out.
“I can’t put enough [emphasis] on how important it is for the physical exams we do,” Spielman added. “The interview process is extremely important, and we’ll get an opportunity to see them do some things on the field as well.”
The Vikings will see players in numerous circumstances in Indianapolis, whether it’s seeing how they handle media scrums, going through a variety of medical tests, performing on-field drills and meeting individually with teams.
Spielman recently said the slate is clean for each player as they have been only ranked based on their performances on film. Now the Vikings and other teams get to throw in a more personal element to the process, as well as factor in psychological, medical and intelligence scores and verified height, weight and speed measurements.
“To me, this is the purest your draft board is as far as talent evaluation,” Spielman said. “You don’t have a lot of the answers to the test, but basically you’re grading players just purely off what you’ve seen as a football player.
“Then we’ll implement all the ancillary things as we get them in and finalize the board and shift some things around,” he added.
View throwback photos of current Minnesota Vikings players from their performances at the NFL Scouting Combine over the years.
And while the combine is the first major event of the offseason, it also sets the stage for the next two months.
Free agency begins in mid-March, and the draft is scheduled for April 25-27.
Spielman noted that getting a sense of how strong a draft class is in a certain position could sway what the Vikings will do in free agency.
With the Vikings making some changes to the offensive coaching staff of late, Spielman said it’s been a collective effort between scouts and coaches to create a concrete offseason plan in Minnesota.
“Right now, this is the time where you’re addressing and trying to identify what your needs are on your offense, defense [and] special teams. We’re also in the process of evaluating the potential [unrestricted free agent] market coming up. Also, looking at the draft right now,” Spielman said. “So you’re looking at all those different buckets and you’re trying to come with where the strength and weaknesses are of each bucket … if you need a receiver, is it a stronger market in the free agent market or a stronger market in the draft where you hold off in free agency?
“The thing that’s a little different this year, is that with Kevin Stefanski taking over as the offensive coordinator and bringing in Gary Kubiak [as one of seven new coaches], we’re going to be doing some different things on offense. So the most important thing we have to understand, that with the new coaches coming in, what do they think of our players? Where do they see some of our needs on offense? And what type of players, as far as physical traits, are they looking for to help the offense?” Spielman added. “It’s a little bit different this year because you’re identifying your needs and where you need to get better, but now you have a whole new set of eyes coming in from the outside that are going to get a fresh look at your players, and how are those players going to fit into your system?”
Spielman and the Vikings front office staff have been hard at work for months prepping for what lies ahead.
And now the real fun begins, as the path to the draft begins this week in Indianapolis.
“We’ll have a meeting when everybody gets back in town. We’ll go through and evaluate what we’ve seen at the combine,” Spielman said. “Did we get enough work done on this player? Are we satisfied? Do we have everything we need as far as checking all the boxes on this player?
“We set up our spring workout travel schedule [for college pro days]. We work out our top 30 visits and who we’re bringing here on the top 30. Guys that we still have questions on as far as medical or character … we do our due diligence on all the processes we have in place,” Spielman added. “Then when we come back together in April as a group, we start our final draft meetings and should have all those answers. We finalize the draft grades and get ready to go.”