The NFL draft is less than two weeks away. According to Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, the team’s serious study of the top prospects began this past week, when there was a sitdown with scouts and coaches, a group that discussed the college players available in the draft.
The discussions will enable the team to begin to make a determination on how it will stack up different prospects and prepare for picking both in the first round and throughout the draft.
“We’re going to talk about a lot of different scenarios,” Frazier said. “The fact that we have 11 picks and the draft is so deep with wide receivers this year, along with defensive line, we think there are going to be some good players early in the draft and even late in the draft at the positions where we have the greater need.”
Frazier had to be unhappy with the loss of veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield, who signed with Seattle after the Vikings released him.
“I’m hoping that we’ll be able to draft some guys that can bring in some competition for us at that position [cornerback],” Frazier said. “It’s an area where you’re always trying to get quality depth in the secondary. The way people spread you out now and try to create mismatches, you want to make sure that you address the secondary every season. We’re not quite where I’d like us to be yet, but this draft can really help us to improve our secondary.”
Incidentally, the Seahawks roster now includes former Vikings standouts Winfield, Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin and Heath Farwell along with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.
Frazier said another obvious hole for the team is at middle linebacker with Jasper Brinkley signing with Arizona.
“We have to either have one of the guys on our current roster step up for us or we have to draft someone who could be a starter for us. But we don’t have an incumbent at that position. We have to get that addressed.”
Frazier said he would like to get more depth at wide receiver; a little more competition on the offensive line; and the defensive line is aging as well.
“We need a swing tackle, we don’t have that,” he said. “We need more competition at the guard position. We’re going to try to get some of that addressed in this draft.”
Quarterback not a need position
With the signing of veteran backup Matt Cassel, Frazier was asked if there’s a chance that Joe Webb could be moved to a new position.
“[Webb] is such a talented athlete that we want to make sure that we’re doing the right thing by him and our team, as well,” Frazier said. “That’s something we’ll continue to discuss as we go forward.”
The team is unlikely to draft a quarterback, especially in the early rounds now that they have added Cassel.
“He knows what it means to be a backup and how to conduct yourself,” Frazier said of Cassel. “He knows the importance of the backup’s role. We think we really helped ourselves in that regard in signing Matt Cassel. It should be a real plus for our team. He had some other options besides Minnesota and he wanted to be here, that’s really encouraging for us.”
The big hope is that General Manager Rick Spielman and company can come up with a draft on par with last year’s group, which appears to be one of the best draft classes in team history.
Big loss for the Twins
Twins officials believe the bad weather on this homestand will result in a loss of some $700,000 in revenue from the sale of concessions and novelties.
And the snow removal bill to date is more than $100,000.
Total Twins attendance for the first five games this year is down 31,327 compared to a year ago. Attendance for the first five home games in 2012 was 169,863; this year, it has totaled 138,536.
The number of fans actually attending the games is probably much lower than that though, because season-ticket holders who don’t attend the game are counted in the announced attendance.
Leidner stands out
After watching Mitch Leidner running the scout team last season, Gophers football coaches were not surprised to watch the former Lakeville South quarterback put on a great performance running the offense in Friday night’s scrimmage, leading his team on two touchdown drives, making a couple of good runs and throwing a 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Victor Keise.
Look for the 6-4, 230 pound Leidner, who still has four years of eligibility after redshirting last year, to compete for the starting job.
And leave it to coach Jerry Kill to do a lot more than coach the football team. Instead of giving players Saturday off after a scrimmage that ended late Friday, Kill had the entire squad put on two clinics for young kids. On Saturday morning, from 100 kids were on hand on campus. Then more than 500 children attended a youth clinic in the afternoon.
• Mike Ellis, the Gophers associate athletic director in charge of men’s basketball, said it wasn’t easy to convince former DeLaSallle, Northwestern and Gophers basketball player Ben Johnson to leave his assistant basketball coaching job at Nebraska under Tim Miles to join the Gophers. Johnson, a great recruiter, likely wouldn’t have left the Cornhuskers if the offer was anywhere else besides from his home.
• Jake White, the Chaska alum playing basketball for Wichita State, has apparently asked out of his scholarship following the Shockers’ run to the NCAA Final Four. Maybe he is headed for Minnesota.
• Former Cretin-Derham Hall standout Seantrel Henderson is entering his final season as a tackle with the Miami (Fla.) football team after exploring entering the NFL draft. He told the Miami Herald he knows how important his final year is after dealing with several issues, including a suspension and a car crash, over his career with the Hurricanes. “I just know I don’t have too much time left for any mistakes, for any mess-ups,” Henderson said.
• Denard Span is hitting .325 with three RBI and eight runs scored through 11 games for the Washington Nationals. The former Twins center fielder is also posting a .449 on-base percentage, with nine walks to only four strikeouts.
• Former Gopher Seth Rosin is pitching very well in his first year in the Phillies organization, posting a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings with 11 strikeouts and just three walks for Class AA Reading. … Chaska product Brad Hand, pitching for Class AAA New Orleans in the Marlins farm system, hasn’t given up a run in 10 innings while striking out 12.
• Besides Lou Holtz, there was one other Gophers football or basketball coach in the past 45 years to leave for a better job: Bill Fitch, when he left for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.