EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Discerning eyes of NFL staffs will have more than 300 of the top draft-eligible prospects in their crosshairs this week as they target ways to improve their teams' fortunes in 2015.
Indiana is dubbed the "Crossroads of America," but the annual NFL Scouting Combine turns Indianapolis into the "Center of the NFL Universe" when all teams' personnel, coaching, training and medical staffs descend on Lucas Oil Stadium to place the prospects under their microscopes.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman told Vikings.com's Mike Wobschall that more than 60 members of the Vikings organization will be traveling to "The Circle City," which has hosted the event each year since 1987, with specific roles to accomplish.
While reporters — some of which enjoy covering the combine more than the Super Bowl — soak up interview sessions with general managers, head coaches and some of the biggest names of prospects, fans are able to enjoy coverage of on-field timing and testing events and positional workouts.
Teams, however, benefit the most from the one-stop shop to gather medical (health and psychological) information, and from 15-minute private interviews with up to 60 of the seniors and juniors who declared early for the 2015 NFL Draft (April 30-May 2).
"It's a great place to get in front of those kids," Spielman said. "You get to start to know them personally. We get an opportunity to interview 60 of these players formally. We pick the 60 players want to interview. We want to make sure we get an opportunity."
The overload of information requires pre-planning and organization to execute it, said Spielman, who is preparing for his 25th overall combine.
"You have to be organized, you have to have a game plan on what you need to get accomplished," Spielman said. "You have to know what you want to get out of each player working out down there, and who you're honing in on specifically."
Spielman said Jamaal Stephenson, who is at the onset of his 14th season with the Vikings and first combine as Director of College Scouting, has done an "outstanding job" in leading the pre-draft meetings.
The prospects are grouped by position and go through a four-day blitz that begins with a different position group. Day 1:arrive, registration, orientation, hospital pre-exam and X-rays, interviews with teams; Day 2: measurements, medical exam, media sessions, interviews with teams; Day 3: NFL Players Association meeting, psychological testing, bench press, interviews with teams; Day 4: on-field timing and testing, depart.
Groups 1-3 (offensive line, tight ends, specialists): Feb. 17-20 (media Wednesday, timing Friday)
Groups 4-6 (quarterbacks, receivers, running backs): Feb. 18-21 (media Thursday, timing Saturday)
Groups 7-9 (defensive line, linebackers): Feb. 19-22 (media Friday, timing Sunday)
Groups 10-11 (defensive backs): Feb. 20-23 (media Saturday, timing Monday)
Vikings.com recently caught up with tight end Kyle Rudolph at Arctic Blast. Rudolph took a trip down memory lane in recalling his combine and pre-draft experience in 2011 when he was selected by Minnesota in the second round with the 43rd overall pick.
"It's crazy to think about being five years ago at this point," Rudolph said. "I don't envy what those kids are going through right now, all the stress and pressure you put on yourself coming off your college season and getting ready for the combine, for the pro days. That's definitely the longest year of their career, but it's all worth it when you hear your name called on draft day. There aren't many feelings quite like it."
Rudolph said he'd advise upcoming prospects to "enjoy the process."
"Your dream is becoming a reality and you have the opportunity to go out and show your skills in front of a bunch of teams' executives and coaches, so just enjoy it," Rudolph said. "Don't let it get too big. Don't put too much pressure on yourself. You've done all the work up to this point to become the player you are, so just go out, enjoy it and have fun."