Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Vikings' 'Top 30' pre-draft invitees begin arriving today

Posted by: Mark Craig under Quarterbacks, Vikings, NFC, Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Vikings draft, Vikings trade talk Updated: April 3, 2012 - 10:19 AM

Members of the Vikings' "Top 30" draft invitees have begun arriving this morning for their pre-draft visit with the team. They'll meet with team officials, have a dinner and spend the night before flying out Wednesday.

The group obviously includes some of the players the team might pick No. 3 overall, such as USC left tackle Matt Kalil, Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon and LSU corner Morris Claiborne. The list, however, does not include quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.

The Vikings had considered inviting RGIII and Luck a couple months ago. But once Washington traded up into the No. 2 spot, the team figured (accurately) that no way in Goodell's green earth that neither Luck nor RGIII will make it past the No. 2 pick.

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman will give the scouts, coaches and, well, everybody the Easter weekend off. Those who leave town will return Monday. Starting next Tuesday, the organization begins a nine-day stretch in which the scouts, personnel and coaches will spend 12 to 14 hours a day setting the team's draft board with all the latest information that's been gathered.

"We'll get the board finalized at that time, and then rehash through all the way up until the [following] Wednesday," Spielman said.

As far as trade talk involving that No. 3 pick, Spielman said, "There have been some feelers. But I think if there is any type of trade, I think most of the talk with get serious the closer we get to the draft just because people, like we are, are getting ready to go into their final draft meetings.

"So I think once everybody gets their game-plan and the players they identify as the ones they really want to hone in on, that's when teams start to want to make trades up or down. But I don't anticipate anything happening with us until we're on the clock, if we do anything."

During that intense nine-day preparation period (which the team calls its "lockdown" period), the Vikings will determine just how far down they can trade and still come up with what they call a "blue" player. A "blue" player is one they project as an eventual Pro Bowler. A "red" player is one they project as a starter. 

"The thing you have to be careful about is once we get all these guys graded and you're in that blue range where we're picking, how far do you trade back before you're out of that blue area and into the red?" Spielman said.
 
"Now, if a deal is too good to pass up and you're going to get `X' amount of draft picks that are going to set you up for your future, not only this year but down the road, you also have to consider that, too. That's how you look at this thing: how far do you go back and do you pass a possibly a blue to get as many picks as you can. That's tough, but on the other side, you can really set up your organization for the future. Similar to what St. Louis did with [trading the No. 2 pick to] Washington."
 
Although it's still possible the team could add a free agent over the next three weeks, Spielman said the team's focus clearly has shifted to the draft. No free agent visits are planned at this time.
 
Regardless of what the Vikings do with the No. 3 pick, the excitement level is high at Winter Park right now. (Although they'd obviously prefew it not be this high again next April).
 
"You never want to be 3-13, but it gives you a pretty good advantage to give your ballclub some pretty good players to come in immediately and contribute right away," Spielman said. "Like any rookie, they're going to have their growing pains. but you have an opportunity to get some real unique talent, similar to what we got with Adrian Peterson at No. 7 [in 2007] and with Percy Harvin at No. 21 [in 2009]. So you have an opportunity to add another unique player like that."

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