Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman
I am just very excited overall starting from Thursday night and finishing up tonight. We are up there finalizing our college free agent draft class and that will be announced on Monday once we get everything finalized. We felt we did a great job layering in another very good draft class that will help us continue to grow and to layer on what we have done over the last couple of years. There are a couple of things that we were able to do on the third day here. As fun as it is on Thursday night and Friday night, I really enjoy Saturday we are able to do a little bit maneuvering.
Just to explain that trade a little bit, we traded back in the 6th with Miami and picked up a 7th. Then we traded back up with Philly and actually by doing that we used one of our lower 7's and improved our positioning in the 7th round pick. So a lot of time you see the maneuverability going up and down and the draft will have to do with how we are positioning ourselves to try to move up in rounds.
I know Jamaal came down here and talked about Willie Beavers and Kentrell Brothers and I'm sure people are going to have questions about our big German receiver but we spent a lot of time with him. I won't reveal the source, but a very good source, had talked to us right after the combine and gave us a lead on this kid. That this kid may be coming over from Germany so I had our pro guys kind of look at his YouTube and I looked at his YouTube and we kind of followed him through the process. We were down at his pro day. The night before Terrance Gray our Southeast scout had actually taken him out to dinner. We brought him up on the Top 30 visit, had spent some time with our offensive coaches, with myself, with Zimmer and just wanted to see where his football knowledge was and how he was able to communicate and we were very impressed. I know he had another work out following that. We drafted him in the 6th round because of his ability and his upside. He has unique size and unique athletic skills. Of course he is going to stick out like a sore thumb when you are watching the German league, not anything against the German league but some of the corners he was playing against I said looked like some of the scouts sitting across from me. So we have a lot of possession cover-two type corners that are scouting right now. We were very intrigued with his potential and his upside because you can't find that size, that speed, and all the athletic test numbers that he had.
After him we moved back up to get David Morgan the tight end from Texas-San Antonio. We felt very strongly that he was the best blocking tight end in the draft. Not only can he block, he has size, he is a good athlete. His 40 time was a little slower but what he does at the point of attack when he is blocking. Also extremely very good hands, he can catch anything. Made some plays down the field. Very good red zone threat. So he did a lot of things positive as we sat there and watched the tape on him.
As we got in the 7th round Coach Zimmer started getting on me about getting some bigger guys because of Kentrell Brothers. So, I said, 'Okay coach we will find some guys that have some athletic skill set that are bigger' and so that was Stephen Weatherly out of Vanderbilt. He played kind of like a hybrid 3-4 outside linebacker. We brought Stephen on the Top 30 as well and we're projecting him as defensive end. Andre Patterson went all the way back to his freshman year in 2013 and pulled all his plays as a defensive end and I think it was about a 65 play clip so we sat there and watched him as a potential edge pass rusher because he has the length, he has size, and he has the speed. We will need some refinement from a technical standpoint, but he has a lot of upside as a pass rusher in a 4-3 defense.
Our last pick, Jayron Kearse, a big safety. We didn't know he was going to be on the board that late. I know he probably didn't run as fast as he wanted to at the combine but while Jerry Gray was down there working out the corners, he worked out the safeties as well. He is a big, long, free safety type. He played very well early in the season and probably didn't play his best game in that bowl game against Oklahoma but has potential and upside. I know Zimmer really likes to work with those tall, long guys back on the backend as a safety and feel that he also has a lot of tools and athletic skills to work with.
All in all I feel very excited about this draft class that will be in next weekend for the rookie mini camp. We will have a bunch of free agents coming in as well and a lot of tryout guys so we should have a full roster out there. I'm excited to get started. It was our last opportunity to add to this roster and I think we helped improve our roster over the weekend and anxious now to get started on the football side. I know the coaches are very excited to get started working with these guys and look forward to what is ahead.
Q: After focusing heavily on your defense the last two offseasons, it seems that you've placed an emphasis on providing support for Teddy Bridgewater. Why was the important to you?
A: We've addressed the defense pretty heavily over the last two years and feel pretty comfortable with how we've been able to add and those guys are contributing to help us win games. We've focused more a little bit on the offensive side of the ball, to help our young quarterback with some of the moves we've made on the offensive line and the receivers we've added, that it will help in the development of Teddy.
Q: In terms of Moritz, just how good of a story is it, coming from Germany?
A: Zim[mer] said, 'We're in it to make people's dream come true.' I was like, 'Zim, you sound like a Disney advertisement.' But he was on our board pretty high and we drafted him because of what he is as a football player and what we project him to potentially be. Is he raw? He's going to have a little bit of an eye-opener just with the speed of the game. But he has such unique size and when you watch him catch the ball in his workouts and his ability to get to and out of his cuts and drop his weight at the size, and the quickness that he has, whether he's from Germany or from USC or wherever he'd be from, we're looking at him first and foremost as a football player and a guy that has a lot of potential that's there for our coaches to work with.
Q: How do you go about scouting a guy with clips off YouTube?
A: We spend a lot of time trying to look under every rock. There are guys that will come across our desk and you hear this, or you hear that, and our pro guys with Ryan Monnens and those guys. Ryan Monnens was down there working out the Baylor basketball player when he had his workout, that I think Dallas took as a tight end. When we get a hint that someone may have the ability to play at this level, that's out job to go out and uncover it. The other example was the Canadian defensive tackle New Orleans took. We send our pro guys; Ryan went out to work him out. We also had him in on a Top 30. He showed up at the East-West and played pretty well. I truly believe our guys do a great job and it's emphasized that we're not just going to scout college, we're not going to just scout guys in the pros. We're going to look at every angle possible to find players.
Q: Given his inexperience, how ready will Moritz be for this level?
A: I'll let you know after this weekend. The only thing you have to go off of is his YouTube tape and the physical workouts. That'll be very exciting to see him come in and just see how far away he is or how close he is. But it's kind of hard because you can't really measure it against anything. You can't even measure it against any all-star games he was in. With the Canadian defensive tackle, you can measure him down there, watching him in the East-West Shrine Gameand in practice. But with him, it'll be exciting to see when he comes in here.
Q: Did you have any indication that other teams were interested in taking him?
A: I knew how many visits he'd been on and how many teams after his workout. Just as you do recon in everything, there were a couple teams that we had heard just from following the interest in that kid. We had some recon on the back end on him potentially not being there much longer. Whether it's true or not, you liked the kid and you think he has upside and we really liked the kid when he came in here on the visit. Even Norv [Turner] when they spent a lot of time with him, just watching football and going through plays and route concepts and things like that, the kid's extremely smart. That was the biggest thing. I knew the physical ability is there, it's just how far he is. From a mental standpoint, he was off-the-charts.
Q: Whether it's YouTube or observing his workouts, what were your impressions of his route-running and ability to read defenses?
A: Watching YouTube, he runs and he catches, and then he runs around all the guys on the German YouTube. When you watched him run routes at his workout, you can tell he's really worked at it. He came in early, he's been working out down in Florida. You can tell that he understands how to run routes. He's very powerful coming off the ball. He can drop his weight. He shows quickness in and out of his cuts. You watch his hands and you watch his ability to adjust to the ball in space, I think he had one drop in the one workout. I wasn't there personally, but what our scouts had said. We watched both workouts, actually, and I think he had one drop in the million balls he was thrown.
Q: Did you have Coach Zimmer call NFL Network in order to keep him off the radar of other teams?
A: No, that was Coach Zimmer being Coach Zimmer. But I knew like I said earlier that he wasn't off the radar of other teams. For as much interest and as many people that went down there to that workout, you knew there was interest. The visits that he did have at other facilities, it was just like the Canadian defensive tackle. I think there were 25 teams that crossed the border to go up there and work him out in that area. I knew when he came in he told me he had seven or eight visits. There's not a lot of secrets in this business anymore, and a lot of times when they do come in on a top thirty, especially guys with unique circumstances, that's the one thing that I want to know is who's had you in at their facility, and some of these guys, seven eight or nine teams that these guys have been going and visiting with.
Q: What is it that intrigues you about Kentrell Brothers?
A: It's that he's one heck of a football player. I know at the middle linebacker, to us the most important thing is instincts, and every time when I was at his game against Mississippi State in the pouring down rain, on a Thursday night, I charted his tackles and he had double digit tackles, I think he had a blocked kick, that game one of those blocks came. He just made plays all over the field. The number one thing from a linebacker standpoint is that guys that sometime are a little slower in a 40, and I have a sibling that was probably a little slower in the 40 than he even wanted to admit, but I've never seen that guy get beat to the sideline. I've seen the range that that kid plays with, he plays a lot faster, because he is so instinctive and gets a jump on the ball. And then you go down there and watch him at the Senior Bowl, you watch him at practice, and as you sit there and chart and as I'm watching all of the Senior Bowl game tape, again he's one of the most if not the most productive linebackers in that game. Every time that I have watched him or our scouts or coaches have watched him, he's just producing. I think those are the things that you have to take into account, that they're just one heck of a football player.
Q: You said that you guys were surprised to see that Jayron Kearse was still on the board when you selected him. Why do you think he fell to where he did?
A: I think a little bit because of some of the inconsistencies that he has shown. I think that when he probably didn't run as fast as his counterpart, T.J. Green, did. Maybe that knocked him down the boards a little bit. But he has such unique length and he moves well and can drop his hips for that kind of size and height, and his stride even covers a lot of ground when you watch him on tape. Does he have to get cleaned up technically? Sure he does. You see some times when he comes up and explodes into hits and other times when he gets a little out of control at times and will miss some tackles, but all of those things as we sit there and we watch it with our coaches, is it something that is correctable or not correctable? And a lot of times these guys that we are taking that may have technical issues on tape, I want to know if our coaches feel strongly enough if they can get those corrected. I can say even with a lot of these later round guys, they have some unique traits to them, but a lot of things that are correctable with coaching.
Q: Does he have the skills to play alongside Harrison Smith or to provide depth?
A: I think it's like I said, right now we just want to get the best possible 90-man roster that we can get together, and then once we get them in and once we get the coaches working with them and actually see them in practice running our schemes, that will all work itself out.
Q: Can you talk about what you liked about Willie Beavers, and if you see him as a guard?
A: With Beavers you throw on the Ohio State game and you throw on the Michigan State game, the kid played very well at left tackle. Then we went down there and watched him at the Senior Bowl. He played some tackle and they moved him inside to guard. I know Tony Sparano gave us some specifics that we need to look for at that position, and it's size, it's strength, and what he calls the ability to dent people when you hit them. This kid has the size, strength and ability to dent people because you've seen him do it when he's playing against Big Ten competition. Technically he's not all there yet, but it is those type of guys that have his traits that are the guys that our coaches really want to work with. There are some other guys that were in the draft that were appealing, but because this guy has the size and athletic build and has the ability to dent people, you can see that when he hits you, he hits you. To move people around, that was appealing to us. I imagine our coaches will probably line him up inside first, but he also has the ability to potentially play outside because probably his best games this year were against Ohio State and Michigan State as a left tackle.
Q: How much of an influence did Coach Tony Sparano have on the Willie Beavers pick?
A: Our scouts really liked him during the season. The process is myself, George Paton, Jamaal Stephenson, our scouts, we have meetings after the season in December and we have another meeting in February. We kind of get the initial board set, then we have the meeting down at the Senior Bowl with our coaches and we talk about each player. It is about a 2 ½ hour meeting and we go through a positive and negative on each player to give our coaches a preview of what they are going to be looking at. Once our coaches get involved, then they can have an influence on us if this is going to be the type of guy that they want or not want. A lot of times I won't move them off the draft board or change their positioning on the draft board because I still want to give them value of where I think they are going to go in the league. We really target specific guys and specific areas in the draft that I know our scouts liked, once you layer the coach's opinions and after they have worked with them, through the pre-draft process of going to their workouts or meeting with them, then we really hone in on specific guys that we would like to take at specific points in the draft. Willie definitely fit that category in the 4th round.
Q: For some of the picks, the knock on them was that they run slow 40-yard dash times, what is the difference you see between play speed and 40-yard dash times?
A: That is the first thing that we ask. I know we want speed and talked a little about it last night is that they have to play fast on tape. You do put an emphasis on speed, but if they play fast, then you are going to say that this guy plays a lot faster than that speed. At the same time, I see guys that go to the combine that run 4.35 or 4.4 40-yard dash times, and I estimate that guy is going to play at 4.65 or 4.7 speed by how he plays. A lot of these guys know how to play. They play at a high level and they play to a higher speed than they probably they time.
Q: How comfortable are you drafting for Coach Zimmer and Coach Turner after 3 years?
A: Right now we can probably draft without those guys in room knowing exactly what they are going to like and not like. That is just having the opportunity to work together. Our process is that I want our personnel department and our coaches to be together as much as possible. Scouts are getting ready to go home tomorrow and catch their breath for a little bit, but when they come back for training camp, the guys that crosscheck that position are sitting in meetings every night. I want them watching the coaches coach on the field, so they should be able to tell me by listening to what our coaches are saying, by watching them coach, by listening to them in the meetings and this year especially because it is our third time, to know if he isn't going to be a Viking fit or he is going to be a Viking fit just from us having that relationship and having that ability to communicate with each other and us having the understanding of what the coaches want. I think that is that is a huge part of success.
Q: Is TJ Clemmings is going to move to left tackle?
A: You can ask Coach Zimmer that when you get to him, I am not going to get into who is going to line up or where. Right now my head is kind of spinning on getting the best players we can in here. Coaches do a pretty good job on figuring out where they are going to fit, I will get the pieces in and let them put the pieces together.
Q: Are you looking to target best available for undrafted free agents?
A: We are, but it seems this year was a little more difficult because of the depth of our roster, where free agency was a lot more appealing for players to come in here. We do think we have some quality college free agents that we have been working on. With the depth that I think we currently have, and what we have drafted, it makes it a little more difficult to maybe getting those top-tier guys. I think last year we spent money on Anthony Harris and on the quarterback, Taylor Heinicke. Those two guys ended up making our 53-man roster.
Q: What stuck out with David Morgan for you to take another tight end?
A: A couple things, number one is we felt that he was the best blocking tight end in this draft. His ability to make plays in the passing game, especially on underneath routes and the other thing is with Rhett Ellison still coming off that significant injury we are going to have to wait and see where he is at. Hopefully he will be healthy and ready to go for training camp. We wanted to make sure and he is something different than we drafted last year. This is guy is more of a true "Y" on the line type tight end. We felt that even though they did split him out some, when we watch the game tape, they split him out wide and throw him the ball on slants because he is so big and has such great hands. We tried to find something a little different than we currently have. We definitely thought that he fit that bill.