According to Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman, the recent NFL combine in Indianapolis indicated that this year’s draft will be loaded with good players.
“Very talented draft class this year, and as you go through the positions, you see the size and speed of some of these receivers that are coming out that are just going to be incredible, and you wonder, is there anyone that can cover them?” Spielman said. “Then you had the defensive backs and they had a very good performance and they’re all good size. I would say for the most part this is a very, very deep draft class. A lot of that has to do with all the juniors that have came out. I’ll tell you this, both Minnesota kids [Ra’Shede Hageman and Brock Vereen] showed up very well at the combine.”
The Vikings need help, especially on defense, and apparently some of the NFL experts believe there will be outstanding players, ones who might be first-round picks in other years, that could fall as far as the third round.
As for quarterbacks, Spielman said he believed it was a deep class there, too.
“I think you can find quarterbacks in the second round and the third round, as well,” he said. “We’ve started that process on the evaluation part. I think we’re scheduled to go out there and see a lot of these quarterbacks through the spring and get to know them a little bit better. The one thing that I want to make sure we don’t do is box ourselves into having to take a quarterback if there’s another player that’s very significant at another position.
“I think it’s pretty deep at all the positions and that’s what will make the draft very intriguing, because I don’t think there’s a really weak class at any of the spots. I’m anticipating that will create a lot of movement in the draft, especially in that first round. The talent is pretty even that people will start moving up and down to get the guy they covet.”
Spielman was asked about the player potential for the Vikings’ top pick, No. 8 overall.
“We’ll definitely get a good player at the eighth pick, and it’s just so wide-open on any direction that we can go, because of some of the turnover I’m anticipating on defense and trying to get younger in some spots, that we can go many different directions in the draft,” he said. “We’ll have a number of options, I think, at that eighth pick if we end up staying at that spot.”
Free agency philosophy
While the Vikings are looking at the draft for a quarterback, they also brought back Matt Cassel after last year’s starter for six games opted to become a free agent. Cassel is returning for a reported two-year, $10 million deal.
Speaking of the Vikings’ pending free agents before the Cassel news came out Friday, Spielman said: “We met with all of our [free-agent] players’ agents at the combine. Those meetings will continue to go on. over the phone. We want to keep the door open on everyone and we’ll see how it all shakes out as we get closer to March 11. I’m optimistic we’ll sign everybody, but I know that’s not realistic. We’ll work extremely hard at it, and the hardest thing is to be patient and try not to panic and do something you’d regret a year or two from now.”
Spielman also said that while he is a big believer in re-signing his own players, there are some intriguing unrestricted free agents that the team might target.
“There’s some very good positions in the UFA where we’ll be looking, it’s a pretty deep class in some areas,” Spielman said. “We haven’t had the official word [on what the salary cap will be] but if you read the papers on where the salary cap is going to come into place [$133 million], that’s a pretty significant jump from what we were anticipating. So that kind of puts a little change in the game plan as well, for how you approach things.”
Would Spielman splurge on a high-priced free agent?
“I haven’t been a big believer, unless it’s a unique circumstance, in signing big-time free agents,” he said. “Every once in a while those opportunities will present themselves, we have some guys we really like, but we’d like to keep our own guys, as many of them as we can as well. You just have to be patient through free agency. People talk about how you haven’t signed anyone throughout the first week, we don’t play until September. So we have plenty of time, and I know there will be some changes on the roster, but I’m excited about the way we’re going.”
It will be interesting if the Vikings don’t make an exception when it comes to signing somebody higher-priced such as Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson, whom new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer coached and could replace Jared Allen, if he doesn’t re-sign.
• Twins President Dave St. Peter, who has spent some time at spring training, shared his thoughts on the club: “Well I think we’re encouraged early on here. The Sano situation not withstanding, I think we feel pretty good about the health of our team. It’s way too early to make any declarations, but there’s a better vibe in camp. I think it starts with just a greater level of confidence that our starting pitching is going to give us a chance to win night in and night out.”