The search begins now for rookies who can step in and play

  • Article by: JUDD ZULGAD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 23, 2011 - 12:58 AM

Unlike a year ago, the Vikings have some starting positions to be won in training camp.

Vikings officials faced few pressing questions at the NFL scouting combine last February. Brett Favre hadn't decided whether to return, but the assumption was that he would be back and all the starters from a team that had made the NFC Championship Game would remain on the roster.

A year later, that stability is long gone.

The Vikings brass arrived in Indianapolis this week not knowing when the NFL season might start -- a work stoppage will occur March 3 if a new collective bargaining agreement is not in place -- but fully aware that many issues will need to be addressed before that happens.

And that goes well beyond the quarterback position, which has remained a main topic of conversation since the team completed a 6-10 season Jan. 2 with a loss at Detroit.

"We're going to be a younger team for sure going into next season," vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said. "Rookies are going to get forced into action. They are going to have to step up and play. I also have a lot of confidence in our coaching staff and their history of developing young guys and getting them ready to play."

Even if the Vikings were coming off a successful season, change would have been inevitable. The Vikings began 2010 with the third-oldest roster in the league with an average age of 27.38 years, and there are 20 players who are set to become unrestricted or restricted free agents.

Spielman and new coach Leslie Frazier, who took over on an interim basis in November when Brad Childress was fired and was named to the full-time position one day after the season ended, come to the combine knowing this draft might have to produce some players who can step in quickly.

A potential NFL lockout next week would wipe out the start of free agency and it's anyone's guess as to when that period might begin. If that's the case, the only thing that will be assured will be that the league will hold its draft April 28-30 in New York City.

In addition to quarterback, the Vikings' potential areas of need include the offensive line, wide receiver, defensive line, linebacker and the secondary. In fact, more than one mock draft has the Vikings' using the 12th-overall pick in the first round to take a defensive end to replace Ray Edwards, who could depart as a free agent depending on what happens with the CBA.

"Last year's draft was done because we had everybody back," Spielman said. "It was done for ... I wouldn't say depth, it was done for the future. Some of those guys -- when you had as much depth as we had, you had the veteran roster we had -- those guys were going to be role players for you. ... They didn't have as many opportunities as some of the veterans we had in front of them. Those guys we are relying on next year to take that step, plus what's coming in in this year's draft class."

The Vikings' eight draft picks last season started a total of 13 games. Cornerback Chris Cook, taken in the second round, and guard Chris DeGeare, a fifth-rounder, led with five starts apiece. By comparison, the Vikings' five picks in 2009 started a combined 28 regular-season games. Right tackle Phil Loadholt made 15 of those.

The Vikings have seven picks in the seven-round draft, including an extra selection in the fifth round that was obtained in the trade that sent quarterback Sage Rosenfels and running back Darius Reynaud to the Giants last summer. The Vikings shipped their third-round pick to New England in the trade for wide receiver Randy Moss, but Spielman made it clear he's hoping to deal for a third-rounder.

The Vikings college scouts arrived at Winter Park on Feb. 13 to start preparing their draft board and get ready for the combine. Spielman and Co. already talked to all of the top seniors at the Senior Bowl in late January, except for one player, who according to Spielman, "blew us off."

The combine, however, will give the Vikings a chance to get another session with those players, as well as interview the prospects who decided to leave school early.

"This year you're going to have to bring in new players and younger talent," Spielman said. "It's exciting, it's a challenge. I know it's something the coaches and our scouts and [director of college scouting Scott] Studwell's down there with our college guys, we're sitting there hacking away at all these guys. With so many guys potentially not being here next year, these [rookies] are going to have to step up and fill in and play for you."

Staff writer Chip Scoggins contributed to this report.

  • VIKINGS AT THE NFL COMBINE • WEDNESDAY-TUESDAY • INDIANAPOLIS

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Team Irvin 16 2nd Qtr 9:51
Team Carter 13
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 FINAL
New Orleans 109
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 99 4th Qtr 2:10
Toronto 103
Milwaukee 86 4th Qtr 2:42
San Antonio 93
Boston 49 3rd Qtr
Golden State 56
Washington 59 3rd Qtr
Denver 59
Houston 8:30 PM
LA Lakers
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
Fairfield 67 FINAL
Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Vermont 61 FINAL
UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
NJIT 72 FINAL
South Alabama 55
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 81 FINAL
NC State 78
Belmont 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 55
Creighton 50 FINAL
Villanova 71
Northwestern 55 2nd Half 10:33
Maryland 44
Washington 28 1st Half 2:18
Utah 37
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
UMBC 42
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
UCF 61 FINAL
SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
James Madison 73 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 53
Delaware 56 FINAL
Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
Creighton 93 FINAL
Marquette 75
Providence 42 FINAL
DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
(2) Connecticut 96 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
Bradley 46 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
Missouri State 58
Colorado 68 FINAL
Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
UCLA 57
(11) Stanford 36 2nd Half
USC 27
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

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