Zimmer takes active role in Vikings draft preparation

  • Article by: MATT VENSEL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 4, 2014 - 9:45 AM

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is forming a partnership with GM Rick Spielman.

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Vikings coach Mike Zimmer played a big role in draft preparation in Cincinnati. That has carried over to Minnesota. "I just want to get good football players here that are team guys — good guys on the field and good guys off the field.," he said.

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There was no need for music in the rental car. And if the radio were on, the men wouldn’t have noticed. They were too busy talking about quarterbacks, pro days and the future of the Vikings franchise.

As coach Mike Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman drove from airports to college campuses and back with offensive coordinator Norv Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner, Norv’s son, they shared laughs, stories and opinions of the many draft prospects they watched work out.

Sometimes the car trips lasted more than a couple of hours, so the new head coach and the general manager had no choice but to quickly build a relationship.

“It’s like we’ve been together for a long time. … You know, I don’t even know if the radio’s been on because we’re talking all the time. Or I’m trying to be careful of his driving,” Zimmer said two weeks ago in his office. “That’s the one thing I’ve learned: Don’t ride with him.”

As has been the case since 2012, Spielman will steer the wheel as the Vikings navigate the NFL draft this week. But Zimmer, who was hands-on in the scouting process during a successful stint as Bengals defensive coordinator, is comfortable riding shotgun inside the draft room. Spielman has the final say, but Zimmer’s fingerprints are all over the team’s draft board.

“I don’t think one guy can do this job,” he said. “I couldn’t do Rick’s job, some of the stuff that he does. I’m pretty sure he couldn’t coach defense like I can coach it. And I can’t go out on the road and scout like those scouts can. They’re experts in what they do. So we get all the expert opinions and put them all together as far as a unified plan as where we are going from that point.”

Outside of those road trips, Zimmer bonded with Spielman through a mutual love of scouting. Zimmer would be watching tape of a prospect in his office and Spielman would walk in and pull up a chair. Or Spielman would holler down the hall to tell Zimmer to come check out a player.

“Working with him side-by-side … has been very educational,” Spielman said at the scouting combine.

The Vikings already have several young building blocks in place, including left tackle Matt Kalil, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and cornerback Xavier Rhodes. But their eight picks in this draft will lay the foundation for Zimmer’s plans, especially on defense.

“I just want to get good football players here that are team guys — good guys on the field and good guys off the field,” Zimmer said. “Obviously, you want to get as many starters as you can. I want to continue to try to get guys that can build this franchise into being good every single year, and make this an elite franchise that can be continually building to where we can be contenders every year.”

Rebuilding the Bengals

After years of losing seasons and bungled drafts, the Bengals have built one of the NFL’s deepest rosters, which helped them make the playoffs in four of Zimmer’s six seasons in Cincinnati. The Bengals unearthed later-round gems in defensive tackle Geno Atkins and pass rusher Michael Johnson. And they found middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict, the NFL’s leading tackler last season, as an undrafted free agent.

Zimmer was heavily involved in college scouting because the Bengals have one of the NFL’s smallest scouting staffs. After the season ended, Zimmer and the other Cincinnati assistants were abnormally active in the process.

“In Cincinnati, their coaches were on the road a lot. And they had a lot of influence in the draft,” said Charley Casserly, a former NFL general manager who is now an NFL Network analyst. “He was very hands-on in the spring, watched a lot of tape, went to a lot of workouts. … I don’t think he’ll change that.”

Zimmer was often asked for his input during the draft. He really pounded the table for Atkins, a fourth-rounder who became a two-time All-Pro, but was quick to say that nailing that pick was a team effort.

“I think we did a great job of scouting of them in terms of finding the athletic ability that we are looking for and the size requirements, the intelligence part, and I think we did a great job of coaching them, too,” Zimmer said. “We allowed them to progress. It didn’t happen overnight.”

The blueprint

Not long after arriving at Winter Park in January, Zimmer pulled the scouts and the personnel department, who were five months into the scouting process, into the film room to give them a new blueprint for each position.

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  • Vikings coach Mike Zimmer:  “I just want to get good football players here that are team guys — good guys on the field and good guys off the field.”

  • FIRST-ROUND NFL DRAFT ORDER

    1. Houston; 2. St. Louis; 3. Jacksonville; 4. Cleveland; 5. Oakland; 6. Atlanta; 7. Tampa Bay; 8. Vikings; 9. Buffalo; 10. Detroit.

    11. Tennessee; 12. N.Y. Giants; 13. St. Louis; 14. Chicago; 15. Pittsburgh; 16. Dallas; 17. Baltimore; 18. N.Y. Jets; 19. Miami; 20. Arizona.

    21. Green Bay; 22. Philadelphia; 23. Kansas City; 24. Cincinnati; 25. San Diego; 26. Cleveland; 27. New Orleans; 28. Carolina; 29. New England; 30. San Francisco; 31. Denver; 32. Seattle.

    a-from Washington b-from Indianapolis

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Philadelphia 24 FINAL
Washington 27
San Diego 38 FINAL
San Francisco 35
Minnesota 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
New York 2:30 PM
Toronto
Memphis 3:30 PM
Cleveland
Boston 5:00 PM
Miami
Detroit 5:00 PM
Brooklyn
LA Lakers 5:00 PM
Sacramento
Philadelphia 5:00 PM
Orlando
Phoenix 5:00 PM
Washington
Indiana 6:00 PM
Minnesota
New Orleans 6:00 PM
Oklahoma City
Colorado 5:00 PM
Detroit
Dallas 5:00 PM
Edmonton
Buffalo 6:00 PM
Boston
Carolina 6:00 PM
NY Rangers
Toronto 6:00 PM
Chicago
Philadelphia 8:00 PM
Winnipeg
Harvard 3 1st Half 11:55
Virginia 16
Maine 12:00 PM
Army
Ferris State 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
San Francisco 12:00 PM
Cleveland State
Oregon State 12:00 PM
Quinnipiac
Coastal Carolina 12:30 PM
Central Arkansas
Holy Cross 1:00 PM
Canisius
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Georgia State
Western Carolina 1:00 PM
UNC-Asheville
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North Texas
Maryland 1:00 PM
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Cornell 1:00 PM
Radford
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Stony Brook
Reinhardt 1:00 PM
Winthrop
Ark-Little Rock 1:00 PM
Green Bay
TX-Pan American 1:00 PM
Nebraska Omaha
Alabama State 1:05 PM
Evansville
FIU 1:30 PM
Hartford
Goshen 1:35 PM
Valparaiso
Bryant 2:00 PM
Denver
Austin Peay 2:00 PM
Lipscomb
Tennessee St 2:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
South Dakota 2:00 PM
Montana
ULM 2:00 PM
Samford
Coker 2:30 PM
South Carolina
USC 3:00 PM
Boston College
Northern Ariz 3:00 PM
Hampton
SD Christian 3:00 PM
San Diego
UC Irvine 3:30 PM
Bradley
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Nicholls
Seton Hall 5:00 PM
Georgia
Appalachian St 5:30 PM
Alabama
North Dakota St 6:00 PM
Kent State
San Jose St 6:00 PM
Washington St
Alcorn State 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Sacramento St 9:00 PM
Seattle
Nevada 3 FINAL
Louisiana 16
Utah State 21 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 6
(23) Utah 45 FINAL
Colorado State 10
Western Mich 24 FINAL
Air Force 38
South Alabama 28 FINAL
Bowling Green 33
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Cal-Irvine 10 1st Half 12:28
Denver 16
St Marys-CA 8 1st Half 14:13
George Washington 7
TX-San Antonio 9 1st Half 11:49
Nicholls 9
Portland State 4 1st Half 16:10
Columbia 7
Tenn Tech 11 1st Half 10:09
Morgan State 15
SMU 5 1st Half 13:26
Auburn 13
Quinnipiac 14 1st Half 13:13
Hartford 8
Hofstra 4 1st Half 15:08
Boston College 2
Eastern Washington 16 1st Half 11:05
Georgia Southern 4
Rhode Island 12:00 PM
Bryant
Liberty 12:00 PM
(1) South Carolina
Fairleigh Dickinson 12:00 PM
Brown
Buffalo 12:00 PM
Long Island
Bucknell 12:00 PM
Mount St Marys
Stony Brook 12:00 PM
Wagner
FIU 12:00 PM
Wofford
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Providence
Maine 12:00 PM
William & Mary
Alabama State 12:00 PM
Samford
TX-Pan American 12:00 PM
VA Commonwealth
South Dakota St 12:00 PM
Marist
Saint Josephs 12:00 PM
(5) Notre Dame
Radford 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
(3) Texas 12:30 PM
(4) Texas A&M
South Florida 1:00 PM
Penn State
Sam Houston St 1:00 PM
TCU
Evansville 1:00 PM
IUPUI
(14) Maryland 1:00 PM
Coppin State
Mercer 1:00 PM
Coll of Charleston
NC A&T 1:00 PM
Chattanooga
Princeton 1:00 PM
Monmouth
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Lehigh
Rider 1:00 PM
Binghamton
SC State 1:00 PM
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Iowa State
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Cleveland State 1:00 PM
Morehead St
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Colgate
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UAB
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Navy
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Charlotte
Indiana State 1:30 PM
St Johns
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Florida
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Purdue
(19) Oklahoma St 2:00 PM
USC
Houston 2:00 PM
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South Dakota
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(6) North Carolina
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Western Ky
(8) Kentucky 2:00 PM
(13) Duke
New Orleans 2:00 PM
Alabama
Chicago State 2:00 PM
Milwaukee
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Bradley
Ill-Springfield 2:00 PM
SE Missouri St
Northern Ill 2:00 PM
Northern Iowa
(23) Iowa 2:05 PM
Drake
Central Michigan 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Western Carolina 2:30 PM
North Florida
Wyoming 3:00 PM
Colorado
Portland 3:00 PM
Boise State
Cal Poly 3:00 PM
Colorado State
No Dakota State 3:00 PM
Grand Canyon
Albany 3:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Oklahoma 3:00 PM
Arkansas
Idaho State 3:00 PM
Seattle
(18) Michigan State 3:00 PM
(19) Syracuse
Northwestern 3:30 PM
Arizona State
TX-Arlington 3:30 PM
North Texas
Fresno State 4:00 PM
Oregon
St Francis-PA 4:00 PM
Coastal Carolina
UNLV 4:00 PM
CS-Bakersfield
UCLA 4:00 PM
(2) Connecticut
(10) Louisville 4:00 PM
(24) California
Howard 5:00 PM
Virginia
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
(21) Miss State
Illinois-Chicago 8:30 PM
Old Dominion

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