Indy in February? No place Vikings' Spielman would rather be

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 21, 2013 - 12:01 PM

The Vikings GM can start to hone in on potential draft picks at the NFL combine, which starts Thursday in Indianapolis.

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Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman

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For Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman, the NFL combine still produces a blend of anticipation and energy that ranks behind only the 48-hour frenzy of the draft in terms of offseason enjoyment.

So it was with great eagerness that Spielman and the rest of the Vikings personnel department and coaching staff headed to Indianapolis this week to continue devising their blueprint.

"It's probably the biggest event heading into the draft," Spielman said. "It's the first time you're going to get all the Olympic numbers on these guys: the height, weight, speeds. [It's] the first time that we'll get in front of a lot of these guys too, especially the juniors. ... It's probably my most exciting time besides the day of the draft. Because there's so much you get accomplished there."

The Vikings recently completed their first version of a 2013 draft board. Now evaluations will continue at the combine. With that in mind, here are three key story lines that might develop:

Positions of need

Spielman often jokes that he doesn't determine his positions of need until he's read every local media account on the topic. But not even the GM can disagree that his squad has major holes at receiver, needing to enliven a passing attack that ranked 31st overall in 2012.

As luck has it, the Vikings' need for receivers coincides with a draft pool that seems quite deep at the position. Early logic says the Vikings could use their top pick -- No. 23 in the first round -- on a premier pass catcher. And if that's the path taken, options will be plentiful.

Take Cal's Keenan Allen, for example, a 6-3, 205-pound playmaker who does a bit of everything and has a knack for winning deep balls. Allen reportedly won't participate in combine drills due to a knee sprain. But he'll still be on the Vikings' watch list.

There's also Baylor's Terrance Williams, who had an NCAA-best 1,837 receiving yards last season. And Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins, a big-play threat drawing comparisons to Atlanta's Roddy White.

And yet the depth at receiver also seems so strong that standouts should remain available after the draft's first day (see: Marshall's Aaron Dobson and Tennessee's Justin Hunter as possible Day 2 targets and potential Day 3 sleepers such as Texas' Marquise Goodwin and Elon's Aaron Mellette).

Furthermore, the position that seems most prominent this year to the draft experts -- defensive tackle -- is also a Vikings need.

"It is flat-out loaded," ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper said. "You'll be able to find defensive tackles well into the draft."

Eyeing free agency

While the Vikings will focus most heavily on evaluating draft prospects this week, they'll also stir up conversation regarding the 10 players they have who could become unrestricted free agents in March. That list includes Phil Loadholt, Erin Henderson, Jasper Brinkley, Jerome Felton, Jamarca Sanford and Jerome Simpson.

Of that group, Felton is the most likely to re-sign without many headaches.

Loadholt, meanwhile, might be the team's most interesting UFA, in line to command a sizable raise. That will leave the Vikings with a major decision.

Spielman insists continuity up front is a priority. But the Vikings might have to dig deep into their pockets to re-sign Loadholt. That means this week's preliminary discussions with the tackle's agent, Gary Uberstine, will be important in formulating a plan.

What about Manti?

Three of the Vikings' top four linebackers (Brinkley, Henderson and Marvin Mitchell) are scheduled to enter free agency next month. So the draft could be a resource to add some depth there. Spielman also has had no problems targeting Notre Dame players.

So you know where this discussion is headed, right? Could it possibly be: Manti Te'o in Minnesota?

Two months ago, Te'o was almost universally lauded as the Heisman Trophy runner-up and emotional leader of the nation's No. 1 team. Now he's notorious for being the guy who was duped into a relationship with a fake girlfriend.

So how will that hoax impact his stock? Kiper is convinced the controversy won't scare off many teams, instead believing the linebacker's 40-yard dash time will prove even more significant.

"If he runs a great 40 time, he gets back into that mix to be in that top 10 to 12 discussion," Kiper said.

Te'o is scheduled to speak with reporters Saturday, which will no doubt create a mini-circus. But that session will not be nearly as important as the flurry of behind-the-scenes interviews he'll do as NFL teams supplement his physical evaluation with a more detailed mental and psychological scouting report.

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Cincinnati - LP: J. Broxton 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: T. Watson 2
Minnesota - LP: T. May 1 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: M. Gonzalez 9
NY Yankees - WP: C. Capuano 6 FINAL
Toronto - LP: M. Buehrle 3
Philadelphia - LP: J. Diekman 1 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom 4
Boston - WP: A. Ranaudo 8 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: C. Archer 4
Miami - LP: C. Hatcher 2 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: D. Carpenter 5
Cleveland - WP: D. Salazar 6 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Vargas 1
Detroit - WP: J. Verlander 7 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: S. Carroll 1
Texas - WP: S. Baker 13 FINAL
Houston - LP: B. Oberholtzer 6
Chicago Cubs - WP: N. Ramirez 7 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: P. Neshek 2
Colorado - LP: R. Brothers 2 FINAL
Arizona - WP: B. Ziegler 5
Oakland - LP: J. Lester 0 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: J. Weaver 4
Los Angeles 2 Top 11th Inning
San Diego 2
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Seattle - LP: F. Hernandez 3
Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta 2 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: R. Vogelsong 13
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
(21) Texas A&M 52 FINAL
(9) So Carolina 28
Wake Forest 10 FINAL
ULM 17
Boise State 13 FINAL
(18) Ole Miss 35
Tulane 31 FINAL
Tulsa 38
Rutgers 41 FINAL
Washington St 38
Weber State 14 FINAL
(19) Arizona State 45
Temple 37 FINAL
Vanderbilt 7
BYU 35 FINAL
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
UNLV 13 4th Qtr 12:38
Arizona 51
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
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Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
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Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
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Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Houston 3 FINAL
Sporting Kansas City 1
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Minnesota 71 FINAL
Phoenix 85
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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 Noon
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Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
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Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
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Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
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Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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