These are busy, long days at Winter Park for the people involved in the draft, a draft that Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman says is heavy with talent from top to bottom.
“I think it’s a very, very deep draft,” Spielman said. “I don’t know that there’s a significant difference between maybe the fifth or sixth guy that’s going to come off that board and the guy where we’re going to be picking at 23 and 25.
“You’re going to get significant players in the second and third [rounds], and we also have two fourth-round picks as well. We have 11 [picks overall]: two number ones, a two, a three, two number fours, a five, a six, and, if I’m not mistaken, three sevens.”
Spielman said he is very excited about the defensive players available. And the Vikings are going to need defensive linemen with Kevin Williams signed for only the upcoming season and Jared Allen and Brian Robison able to become free agents after this year.
And Spielman added that he believes there are other positions with good depth, including those on the offensive line.
The GM also believes that getting a quality receiver could happen even after the first round.
“In the receiver position, I think there’s going to be some very good receivers that you’re going to be able to potentially take in the second- and third-round area and there’s going to be a couple in that third day [rounds 4-7], as well,” he said. “That’s why I said I think it’s a strong defensive draft but there are some good offensive players, as well.”
With Antoine Winfield gone, the Vikings have a need for defensive backs as well.
A year ago, Spielman was able to make great trades to move back a spot from the third overall pick to the fourth and gain an extra first-round pick that eventually netted the team safety Harrison Smith, who had a fantastic rookie season. Spielman said he has already gotten calls for trades, which is normal when you have two first-round draft choices.
“Its’ a little premature to start thinking about [trades]. I think you have to go through your draft meetings; you have to see what potential players are going to be available where you’re picking,” Spielman said. “If there’s a player that’s very significant that we feel we have to go up and get in the first round, we have enough ammunition to do that. There’s also the possibility that we can take one of those first-round picks and trade back and pick up some more draft picks, we may do that as well. With the amount of draft picks we have, with the depth of this draft, I think it’s going to be a very interesting draft. A lot of teams are going to try to fill needs because there’s so much depth at each position.”
With 11 draft choices, watch for Spielman and company to deal like they did last year to fill a position like the middle linebacker spot.
According to the NFL, the Vikings’ 2013 schedule is the 10th-toughest in the league, based on their opponents’ records last season. The good news is that the Vikings’ strength of schedule is the third-easiest in the NFC North, as both the Detroit Lions (second-hardest strength of schedule in the NFL) and the Packers (sixth-hardest) are ahead of them. The Bears have the 16th-toughest strength of schedule.
Why is the Lions’ schedule considered so tough? They have two games each against the Vikings, Packers and Bears, teams that went a combined 31-17 in 2012.
Meanwhile, Winfield’s contract in Seattle is worth $1 million in guaranteed money, and if he fulfills every aspect of his contract it will be worth $3 million. The Vikings had reportedly offered Winfield a $3 million fully guaranteed contract after cutting him, but he opted to go to the Seahawks instead.
This is only the second year in their history that Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau have played in all 14 games to start the season for the Twins. The only other year was 2010, the first year of Target Field, when the Twins went 94-68 and won the American League Central — but that was also the year when Morneau suffered a concussion in a collision at Toronto that started his long stretch of battling injuries.
Mauer, who is hitting .393 after going 2-for-4 in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over the White Sox in Chicago, is off to one of the best starts in his career. Mauer has exceeded his slugging percentage of .574 in the 14 games only twice, in 2004 (.595) and 2009 (.827). And as for as his on-base percentage of .439, through 14 games he had exceeded that figure three times, in 2007 (.466), 2009 (.532) and 2010 (.441).
As for first baseman Morneau, he is hitting .268 through his first 14 games after going 0-for-4 Saturday. In 2006, when he won the MVP, he got off to a slow start, hitting only .255 with a .293 on-base percentage and .491 slugging percentage through 14 games.
• While the University of Wisconsin administration doesn’t charge the athletic department on scholarships given to athletes, the University of Minnesota is charged $23,132 for every scholarship given to athletes. So the school pays in excess of $9.3 million for scholarships. The fact that the Badgers can use scholarship money for other things is one reason that they have mostly dominated the Gophers in revenue sports for years.
• Steve Goodson, who had been with Tubby Smith on the Gophers men’s basketball staff for six years, turned down the first offer to stay by new coach Richard Pitino and was on his way to Texas Tech to work with Smith. Then when Mike Balado, who had been with Pitino at Florida International, resigned days after joining the Gophers staff, it opened a better job for Goodson as director of basketball operations, and he decided to stay.
• Look for the Big Ten to have an announcement in the near future that starting in the next couple of years all teams will play nine conference football games.
• Gophers men’s and women’s athletes are doing well in the classroom with a 3.18 grade-point average.
• Dick Lurie, who was one of the first agents to exist in this area and represented former AL MVP Rod Carew of the Twins and NFL MVP Alan Page of the Vikings, died recently.
• Former Bloomington Jefferson standout Cole Aldrich averaged only 2.2 points and 2.7 rebounds this season, finishing with the Sacramento Kings. But the 2010 first-round pick, traded from Oklahoma City to Houston in October and traded again to Sacramento in February, scored 12 points and had 12 rebounds in a loss to the Rockets last Sunday, and one night later he had 12 points and 13 rebounds in a loss to the Thunder — the first double-doubles of his NBA career.