Oh, the questions that loom. So many to address.
As the NFL descends upon Indianapolis this week for the annual scouting combine, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman holds a long list of riddles that need answers.
Where to start? Coming off a dismal 3-13 season and promising to catalyze the Vikings' revival efforts with a realistic long-term vision, Spielman knows this year's draft comes with great responsibility and pressure. Put simply, the Vikings having little margin for error if they hope to considerably close the gap in the NFC North.
So now comes this next step in the draft preparation.
The highly hyped combine provides yet another week of research to add to the files.
The stopwatches are ready. The player interview questions are locked and loaded. Team doctors are standing by to deliver thorough checkups on as many prospects as possible.
Said Spielman: "You always want and hope that you'll be able to fill most of your team needs through the draft and continue to develop those young guys."
The importance of the combine?
"I'm a big believer that this whole thing is a process," said draft analyst Mike Mayock of the NFL Network. "I don't think anybody's answering all the questions at the Senior Bowl or the combine or at pro days. I think it's all part of the process."
The Vikings own the No. 3 pick for the April 26-28 draft, a position that will force them to answer several high-stakes questions. Among those being considered in the coming days:
• Is Southern California tackle Matt Kalil too sturdy and too promising to pass up if he's on the board when the Vikings go on the clock?
• How dynamic is Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon, a big-time playmaker whose combination of ball skills, strength and body control have draft analysts drawing comparisons to Larry Fitzgerald Jr.?
• Might the stock of Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III also impact Spielman's draft plans?
Sure, it's highly unlikely the Vikings would select the Heisman Trophy winner with their first-round pick. The team is still standing firmly behind Christian Ponder as their quarterback of the future. But will Griffin's draft value and the Rams' plans at No. 2 ultimately materialize in a way that triggers Spielman's urges to deal the third pick for more draft currency?
The Vikings GM openly discussed such a possibility last week, intrigued by the potential to perhaps land two more picks for this year plus maybe even a first-round selection in 2013.
The next step
Yep, these are the Vikings' spotlight quandaries that will require exhaustive research and discussion. But beyond the No. 3 pick, the Vikings also expect to have nine other selections this year, a major plus for a team requiring so much reconstruction.
Adding to the optimism that has infected Winter Park recently is the belief that this year's draft pool is loaded with quality talent at defensive back and wide receiver, two major areas of need for the Vikings.
That's why this week will be even more critical for Spielman, coach Leslie Frazier and the team's scouting staff as they continue to mold their draft wish list. The Vikings will not only document the exact combine measurables of players -- heights, weights, 40-yard dash times, bench press reps, etc. -- they'll continue making determinations on whether prospects fit their mold.
"The type of players who we want in here, we've always emphasized those guys who have a passion for the game that give our coaches a chance to develop them," Spielman said.
Hence, this week's homework holds obvious importance.