Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.
Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
If you aren't a child and your memory is intact and you're an NFL fan who has somehow managed to maintain the ability to think for yourself, you've probably already flagged Vikings coach Mike Zimmer's "flags" comment concerning Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
In fact, in the up-is-down, down-is-up world of pre-draft misdirection, some of you probably heard or read Zimmer's highly-publicized comments and came away thinking, "Hey, maybe the Vikings like this kid more now than they ever have."
As Master Tesfatsion posted Monday, here's what Zimmer told 104.9 The Horn in Austin when asked about Johnny Football:
“We asked him all kinds of questions. ...There are some flags that come up. All of the things that happened out in Los Angeles, the commercials and all that stuff (Manziel had a cameo in a recent McDonalds commercial with LeBron James); the position of quarterback in the NFL is such an important position and the reason these guys need to be a totally football-minded guy is the pressure of the position and being the face of an NFL team and doing everything right. That’s the thing you want to know about him -- will he be into work early every single day? Will be the last to leave? Will he be the guy that is working the hardest to get better?
“There is a change, otherwise all of these other quarterbacks that have come up through the years would have made it, from the college game to the NFL game as far as the speed of the defense and some of the complexities of the different defenses. So that position has got to be a position that really eats, breathes, and sleeps football where he is going to take it upon his shoulders to win. At least the Peyton Manning’s, Drew Brees’ of the world have done that and really all we have to go on in the NFL is past history.”
First of all, it's always nice to hear a coach say something that doesn't cause a veteran NFL media member's eyeballs to glaze over. Secondly, Zimmer didn't say anything that's out of whack with logical thinking by those of us in the non-football genius camp. Anybody who sells "Johnny Football" as his persona is likely heading in one of two directions: Superstar or future draft-day punch line. Try making that call with your job hanging in the balance.
What we can't deduce from Zimmer's comments, however, is how he or the Vikings actually feel about Manziel. Honesty isn't the best policy in the NFL. It's treason come spring time.
Two years ago, Rick Spielman took over as general manager. He had plenty of time to convincingly hide the team's slam-dunk affection for left tackle Matt Kalil with the third overall pick. He also had the benefit of glaring needs that matched two other top-five caliber prospects in receiver Justin Blackmon and cornerback Morris Claiborne. For competitive reasons, Spielman even managed a straight face when saying repeatedly that all three were ranked evenly on the Vikings' draft board. (Maybe his fingers were crossed).
Spielman also managed to get people to let their guards down on the value of left tackles. He'd ask people to name the nondescript left tackles that protected some of the game's greatest quarterbacks.
“There’s the adage that you go back and forth on – is the left tackle that important or is it more important to have playmakers on offense?" Spielman said before that 2012 draft.
Spielman wasn't doing anything wrong. In fact, he was doing everything right. Let's just try and remember that from year to year when we're tempted to put too much weight on what anyone affiliated with the NFL says about the draft before the draft.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said there are some “flags” that popped up during the team’s second meeting with Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel on Friday.
The Vikings held a private workout and dinner with Manziel the day after his Pro Day. The two sides previously met at the NFL Combine in February.
“We asked him all kinds of questions. ...There are some flags that come up,” Zimmer said on 104.9 The Horn in Austin on Monday (per Coaching Search). “All of the things that happened out in Los Angeles, the commercials and all that stuff (Manziel had a cameo in a recent McDonalds commercial with LeBron James); the position of quarterback in the NFL is such an important position and the reason these guys need to be a totally football-minded guy is the pressure of the position and being the face of an NFL team and doing everything right. That’s the thing you want to know about him -- will he be into work early every single day? Will be the last to leave? Will he be the guy that is working the hardest to get better?
“There is a change, otherwise all of these other quarterbacks that have come up through the years would have made it, from the college game to the NFL game as far as the speed of the defense and some of the complexities of the different defenses. So that position has got to be a position that really eats, breaths, and sleeps football where he is going to take it upon his shoulders to win. At least the Peyton Manning’s, Drew Brees’ of the world have done that and really all we have to go on in the NFL is past history.”
Zimmer was at Manziel’s Pro Day on Thursday and told the Houston Chronicle following the event that he wasn’t impressed with the sideshow event. It was far from the traditional Pro Day performance with Manziel opting to wear shoulder pads and a helmet while blasting Drake through the speakers in front of NFL executives and former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, former First Lady Barbara Bush.
“I guess the thing you have to figure out is, is this just another part of the things that happened a couple of years ago after he won the Heisman Trophy or is he just a different person as far as wanting the limelight or just wanting to prove that he can do things the right way,” Zimmer said. “I guess it maybe brings a few questions marks in. Is he going to conform to typically what the NFL is or what everyone else has done before him including what the great players in the game have done before him, or is he going to try to be the celebrity man guy that he was maybe a year-and-a-half ago?”
The Vikings are very interested in Johnny Manziel.
Manziel had his pro day at Texas A&M today, and by all accounts, he acquitted himself well. The Vikings were represented by GM Rick Spielman, coach Mike Zimmer, offensive coordinator Norv Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner.
NFL.com reported the Vikings contingent would be having dinner with Manziel tonight and would then have formal meetings with him tomorrow.
When asked about Manziel's performance -- which came before a large crowd that included former President George H.W. Bush -- Zimmer told Charean Williams of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram: "It was different. It was a different workout." Because of the crazy atmosphere, Zimmer also told Williams it was a "sideshow" and that the Vikings would have a private workout with Manziel that wouldn't be choreographed, as Pro Day quarterback workouts tend to be.
Williams reported there were eight NFL head coaches and eight NFL general managers in attendance.
Coincidentally, the Vikings have the eighth pick in the draft.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported every NFL team was represented by someone except the Cleveland Browns and the Chicago Bears.
Manziel told the NFL Network: "My main thing is I'm not scared of anything. I don't play that way. Why come out here in a scripted workout and be scared of anything? Throw the pigskin around and let's have fun. This was a football player's dream."
He completed 61 of 64 passes during the workout, ending with a 60-yard bomb.
The Plain Dealer also quoted Norv Turner, who was the Browns' offensive coordinator last season. Said Turner: “I think coaches and scouts want to see a quarterback physically throw the ball. You get to watch game tape and see how he plays. This guy is an amazing player, and then you see his physical skills. It just helps to see a guy in person . . .
“Here’s the deal: You only get so many opportunities to evaluate a player, and to not use every single one of them makes no sense to me. We’re going to exhaust every opportunity to evaluate a player. You get an opportunity to meet with a guy, and who knows what will come out of that? It might be something good . . . If you’re allowed to do these things, it makes sense to do them.”
John McClain of the Houston Chronicle had some interesting observations.
By the way, the Vikings confirmed the signing of Vlad Ducasse today. The former Jets guard agreed to a one-year deal on Monday.
Oh yeah, if you haven't seen Adrian Peterson's Hyperice promo, here it is.
The Vikings' Please-Help-Us-Pick-the-Right-Quarterback Tour will continue this weekend with a private workout and sitdown with San Jose State's David Fales, the Sacramento Bee has reported.
Fales, who threw for 4,189 yards last year and 33 touchdowns in each of the past two seasons, is considered by most to be a mid-round selection when the draft finally rolls around in May.
With the eighth pick in the draft, the Vikings may get boxed out on the top three quarterbacks (Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel). So visits with prospects like Fales and Alabama's A.J. McCarron, whom the Vikings met with last week, might be even more important.
General Manager Rick Spielman and offensive coordinator Norv Turner were seen at Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr's workout on Thursday. On Wednesday, the two of them were among the Vikings' contingent that watched Blake Bortles' Pro Day at Central Florida. Fales also had his Pro Day on Wednesday and reportedly threw the ball with impressive accuracy.
Spielman has said the team will perform its due diligence, looking at 10 or more quarterbacks before the draft. So if the Vikings do get shut out at No. 8 overall, don't take your eyes off the rest of the QBs on the board.
NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said on Tuesday that Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is the most NFL ready quarterback in the draft, ahead of Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and UCF’s Blake Bortles.
He thinks Bridgewater, Manziel and Bortles are locks as the top three quarterbacks, but he likes that Bridgewater’s offense at Louisville had him under center, in the pistol and shotgun while incorporating three-step and five-step drops. He said Bridgewater reads more than just half the field and not as big of a “wild card” like Manziel.
Mayock still likes Manziel, though he’s different from any quarterback he’s evaluated before, and compared him to Vikings Hall of Fame quarterback Fan Tarkenton and Doug Flutie. He was impressed watching Manziel on tape against Alabama but felt he got frustrated in the pocket against LSU and Missouri.
“The more he was in the pocket, the more frustrated he got. He started to lose his accuracy, he started trying to escape the pocket way before he needed to, and I feel like he doesn’t like being confined. He likes those open spaces. We’ve got to evaluate him a little differently because of that.”
Mayock said the NFL will catch on to this quickly, but he does believe in Manizel’s arm-strength, athletic ability and passion for the game.
“I believe in the kid,” Mayock said. “I think he’s going to be a top-10, if not top-five pick, but you’re going to have to live with some of those negative plays in addition to the positive ones.”
Mayock isn’t sold on Bortles’ arm strength and wants to see him throw at the NFL Combine this week. Bortles announced on Twitter that he will throw.
Dreamt about the combine since I was a kid! Fired up to compete in all aspects of it, especially throwing!— Blake Bortles (@BBortles5) February 18, 2014
He’s not ready to say that Bortles or Bridgewater are All-Pro quarterbacks, but he thinks both will be really good.
Outside of his top-three quarterbacks, he thinks Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr is a late first round pick and Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo could go in the second or third rounds with LSU quarterbackZach Mettenberger as a Day 3 quarterback. Mayock didn’t think Mettenberger was a first or second round pick before tearing his ACL because he stares downs receivers and gets rid of the ball late. He said Metternberger has a lot to learn and won’t be an immediate starter, but Mayock likes his size and arm strength.
If one of the top three quarterbacks aren’t on the board when the Vikings are on the clock with the eighth overall pick, Mayock said this is the deepest and probably best draft class in the last 10 years.
Other notes from Mayock’s media conference call:
* Buffalo Linebacker Khalil Mack is a top-five pick in Mayock’s eyes. He thinks he’s the best edge rusher in the draft behind South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. He thinks Mack runs like a safety as well and can even cover tight ends.
*Mayock thinks Clowney has the physical makeup to be the best player in the draft, with even a greater upside than defensive end Mario Williams entering the 2006 NFL Draft, but he’s uncertain about Clowney mentally.
“How important is it to him when he gets a big paycheck to become the best player in football or is he just going to be happy to become a millionaire?” Mayock said.
*Mayock thinks Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard and Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert can step in on Day 1 as starters. He thinks there are starting corners in the draft in the third and fourth rounds as well.
* Mayock said Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam is a “tweener” prospect with the size of a linebacker and the skill set of a defensive end. He thinks Sam will be a third-to-fifth round pick.
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