NFL teams flying without a net

  • Article by: JUDD ZULGAD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 28, 2011 - 12:41 AM

As long as there is no labor clarity, there is no fallback plan in case of an unproductive draft.

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Rick Spielman, the Vikings’ vice president of player personnel, prepared to address the media Tuesday at Winter Park.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

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The NFL lockout started on March 11 and since then there has been no roster movement. No free agency, no trades or even talks of contract extensions.

All of this means that the Vikings have been unable to do anything to improve a roster that needs plenty of work. They will get at least a brief reprieve over the next three days as the NFL conducts its draft.

Depending on what happens in court, the labor disruption could either end in short order or extend well into the summer. All Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman and new coach Leslie Frazier can do is focus on what they can control.

Right now, that means making the best decisions possible with their nine draft picks. Considering how disappointing last season was for the Vikings, especially coming off a run to the NFC title game in 2009, it can be debated whether they are simply retooling or are in a true rebuilding mode.

Did the window on this franchise close last season as 41-year-old quarterback Brett Favre and several other veterans failed to repeat the success of a year earlier? "I think it's just retooling what we've talked about," Spielman said, not surprisingly choosing the optimistic angle.

But Spielman knows that with no idea when player movement will be back to normal and with many needs, this draft has a very different feel. NFL executives will try to convince you that the labor issues will not affect their selections, but it's hard to believe them. Ordinarily, they would have free agency or trades to fill holes as well.

The Vikings, for instance, can't simply draft for the future because they have enough needs that some of their higher picks likely will need to play a significant role whenever football resumes. And there is no guarantee how many holes the Vikings will be able to fill through other means of player acquisition.

"We're going to have to have some young guys step up [where] we knew last year we had pretty much the same roster and the rookies that we brought in were probably going to play more of a role type than become an actual starter," Spielman said. "Some of them ended up being starters, and some of them ended up contributing. But I think this year the guys that we pick are guys that we plan on hopefully coming in and making a contribution either as a starter or for sure a role-type player."

What's interesting is how much time the Vikings have had to focus on the draft. Some members of the organization, such as Spielman and director of college scouting Scott Studwell, always make this a year-round priority. However, this spring there has been an inordinate amount of time for Frazier, his coaching staff and other members of the front office to involve themselves. This could be good, but it also could lead the Vikings, and many other teams, to overanalyze things.

This also will mark the first time that Spielman and Frazier have worked this closely in the draft room. Owner Zygi Wilf has made it clear that he expects them to be able to play nice and come to a consensus on decisions about picks and the roster.

Spielman said the collaboration process with Frazier has been "outstanding" before joking that as the focus turned toward defense that some of those players seemed to be rising up the draft board.

Asked about his role in the draft room, Frazier said: "Mine is more of, 'Let's talk about this.' It's not like I'm trying to dictate or say it's my way or the highway. I've got a lot of good people around me that I trust, and the fact that we can communicate, we'll resolve whatever differences of opinions we might have because we are working toward the same common goal and that's what's best for the Vikings."

Added Spielman: "[Frazier] has a great understanding and a great picture on where we're at as a football team and where we can fill needs."

Thursday, the two simply will be happy that for the first time this offseason they will have a chance to begin addressing some of those needs.

Judd Zulgad • jzulgad@startribune.com

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Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran 2 FINAL
Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels 9
Washington 0 FINAL
Miami 8
Boston 4 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Detroit 2 FINAL
Houston 3
Toronto - WP: C. Hynes 9 FINAL
Boston - LP: D. Hinojosa 7
Tampa Bay - WP: J. Norberto 3 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: C. Whitley 0
St. Louis 5 FINAL
NY Mets 4
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
Kansas City 4
LA Angels 1 FINAL
Oakland 4
San Diego 8 FINAL
Chicago WSox 2
Chicago WSox 12 FINAL
Seattle 4
Cleveland 2 FINAL
San Francisco 5
Milwaukee 7 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 11
Arizona 3 FINAL
Cincinnati 0
Texas 4 FINAL
Colorado 10
Pittsburgh 3 FINAL
Baltimore 3
Detroit 78 FINAL
Charlotte 102
Philadelphia 93 FINAL
Washington 106
San Antonio 103 FINAL
Orlando 91
Indiana 87 FINAL
Boston 100
Brooklyn 100 FINAL
New York 98
Chicago 91 FINAL
Milwaukee 95
Dallas 135 FINAL
Oklahoma City 131
Sacramento 111 FINAL
Houston 115
Toronto 113 FINAL
Minnesota 99
Denver 84 FINAL
Utah 98
LA Clippers 126 FINAL
Portland 122
New Orleans 113 FINAL
LA Lakers 92
Toronto 3 FINAL
Buffalo 4
Philadelphia 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Edmonton 1 FINAL
Anaheim 5
Colorado 1 FINAL
San Jose 5
Loyola-Chicago 63 FINAL
ULM 62
UCLA 69 FINAL
Michigan 65
Temple 58 FINAL
West Virginia 66
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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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