While there is much speculation that the Vikings will select a quarterback with the No. 8 overall pick in the NFL draft, General Manager Rick Spielman made it clear that he won’t draft a QB with the pick because he said they will take the best player on the board with their first selection, and there is no reason to believe that a quarterback will be the best player on the board.
Spielman was asked about the decision between drafting a quarterback or going another way and selecting perhaps a defensive player.
“That’s one of the reasons we signed Matt Cassel and signed him back right at the beginning of free agency and were able to get that done, because that does not box you into taking a quarterback at No. 8,” Spielman said. “We can really follow our board and take the best player available. I think it is a deep class in this quarterback class. There’s going to be some value I think through other rounds, too, if you don’t take one in the first.
“But in doing what we were able to do in the unrestricted free-agent market — trying to fill needs in that area by signing Cassel and getting some of the defensive linemen under contract that we were able to sign, and signing Captain Munnerlyn will help our secondary — that gives you the flexibility to take best available player when we get into the draft next month.”
Spielman said the team is getting ready to begin the process of finalizing its draft board.
“As we go through that, we start our draft meetings on Monday and we’ll go eight straight days with our coaches and finalize our plan before the draft,” he said. “There are some very good defensive players, some very good receivers in this draft, some good offensive linemen. … There’s some significant linebackers that can play not only standing up but also help you rush the passer as well. I think we’re going to have a lot of options at 8, but we’re also going to potentially look to move out of that pick as well.”
Can find QB later
Spielman is confident he will be able to draft a good quarterback in the second round and maybe even in the third. It was in the third round two years ago where Seattle landed superstar Russell Wilson out of Wisconsin.
“It’s a very tortuous process this year trying to figure out these quarterbacks because there’s a lot of different flavors of quarterbacks,” Spielman said. “There’s mobile quarterbacks, there’s pocket passers, so you really have to home in and decide what type of quarterback you want, what kind of quarterback and what traits fit the kind of system you’re about to run.
“You look at the traits of the quarterbacks in here and work in our offensive scheme and adjust to some of the traits that that player possesses. It’s going to be a very interesting process as we go through our own evaluation of these quarterbacks and try to home in on the particular type of quarterback that may be best for us.”
Spielman also said the Vikings will benefit from having an extra third-round pick this year because of the depth of this draft class. The Vikings have the No. 96 overall pick from Seattle as part of the Percy Harvin trade. Other than that pick, the Vikings are set to select eighth in each round.
There have been reports that the Vikings, while having Christian Ponder under contract for this season, would have to pay the 2011 first-round draft pick around $10 million if they exercise a fifth-year option in 2015. Spielman said that wasn’t exactly accurate.
“This is this class that was the first year of the [collective bargaining agreement] where you can exercise the option, and if you’re in the top 10 that’s X-amount [of dollars], if you’re outside the top 10 that’s X-amount [of dollars],” Spielman said. “He’s not in the top 10 because he wasn’t a top-10 pick. But we have, I believe, until the first week in May to decide whether we exercise that option or not.”
If they get rid of Ponder, I will be very surprised, but I have been wrong before.
• Trevor Plouffe went 3-for-4 Sunday in the Twins’ 8-3 victory at Kansas City with two doubles, a triple, two runs scored and two RBI to continue his stellar play early on. The third baseman is hitting .313 with 13 RBI and 14 runs scored. Last year through 18 games he was hitting .226 with four RBI and eight runs.
• While Rick Adelman won’t coach the Timberwolves next season, look for him to retain a position as a consultant. … If Flip Saunders decides not to coach, one of the candidates to succeed Adelman would be assistant coach Terry Porter, who has NBA head coaching experience with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns.
• According to Gophers wrestling coach J Robinson, two-time NCAA heavyweight champion Tony Nelson, who just finished his senior season, could in the future potentially play for the Gophers football team (he was a standout linebacker and defensive lineman at Cambridge-Isanti); join the WWE pro wrestling circuit; or take advantage of his mechanical engineering degree and go into private business. … The Gophers have a good chance of hosting the National Duals wrestling tournament for the second time in three years. The event will be held Feb. 21-22. The Gophers have won the past three National Duals, including 2012 at Williams Arena.
• Former Twins first baseman Justin Morneau is hitting with the confidence he displayed in his 2006 MVP year. He hit his fourth home run in eight days for Colorado on Sunday while driving in five runs, giving him 15 RBI on the season. Morneau has 12 RBI in his past five games. He is hitting .344 with a .609 slugging percentage, after slugging .411 last year between the Twins and Pittsburgh. … Meanwhile Michael Cuddyer, Morneau’s Rockies teammate, has been sidelined by a hamstring injury.
• Defensemen Paul Martin and Matt Niskanen are off to good starts in the playoffs for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are tied 1-1 through two games with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Martin, the former Gophers player from Elk River, and Niskanen, a Minnesota Duluth product from Virginia, Minn., each have a team-leading four points and are among team leaders in time on ice. Martin has four assists and leads the Penguins with 28:59 minutes per game and Niskanen has two goals and two assists and is averaging 23:29.
• Apple Valley’s Tyus Jones was the only player to record a double-double — 10 points, 12 assists — at the Jordan Brand All-Star Basketball Classic in New York on Friday night. Jones and future Duke teammates Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow led the East to a 158-147 victory over the West. Okafor was selected the game’s MVP with 29 points and nine rebounds. Winslow had 13 points and three rebounds.