Zimmer takes active role in Vikings draft preparation

  • Article by: MATT VENSEL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 4, 2014 - 9:45 AM

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is forming a partnership with GM Rick Spielman.

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Vikings coach Mike Zimmer played a big role in draft preparation in Cincinnati. That has carried over to Minnesota. "I just want to get good football players here that are team guys — good guys on the field and good guys off the field.," he said.

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There was no need for music in the rental car. And if the radio were on, the men wouldn’t have noticed. They were too busy talking about quarterbacks, pro days and the future of the Vikings franchise.

As coach Mike Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman drove from airports to college campuses and back with offensive coordinator Norv Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner, Norv’s son, they shared laughs, stories and opinions of the many draft prospects they watched work out.

Sometimes the car trips lasted more than a couple of hours, so the new head coach and the general manager had no choice but to quickly build a relationship.

“It’s like we’ve been together for a long time. … You know, I don’t even know if the radio’s been on because we’re talking all the time. Or I’m trying to be careful of his driving,” Zimmer said two weeks ago in his office. “That’s the one thing I’ve learned: Don’t ride with him.”

As has been the case since 2012, Spielman will steer the wheel as the Vikings navigate the NFL draft this week. But Zimmer, who was hands-on in the scouting process during a successful stint as Bengals defensive coordinator, is comfortable riding shotgun inside the draft room. Spielman has the final say, but Zimmer’s fingerprints are all over the team’s draft board.

“I don’t think one guy can do this job,” he said. “I couldn’t do Rick’s job, some of the stuff that he does. I’m pretty sure he couldn’t coach defense like I can coach it. And I can’t go out on the road and scout like those scouts can. They’re experts in what they do. So we get all the expert opinions and put them all together as far as a unified plan as where we are going from that point.”

Outside of those road trips, Zimmer bonded with Spielman through a mutual love of scouting. Zimmer would be watching tape of a prospect in his office and Spielman would walk in and pull up a chair. Or Spielman would holler down the hall to tell Zimmer to come check out a player.

“Working with him side-by-side … has been very educational,” Spielman said at the scouting combine.

The Vikings already have several young building blocks in place, including left tackle Matt Kalil, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and cornerback Xavier Rhodes. But their eight picks in this draft will lay the foundation for Zimmer’s plans, especially on defense.

“I just want to get good football players here that are team guys — good guys on the field and good guys off the field,” Zimmer said. “Obviously, you want to get as many starters as you can. I want to continue to try to get guys that can build this franchise into being good every single year, and make this an elite franchise that can be continually building to where we can be contenders every year.”

Rebuilding the Bengals

After years of losing seasons and bungled drafts, the Bengals have built one of the NFL’s deepest rosters, which helped them make the playoffs in four of Zimmer’s six seasons in Cincinnati. The Bengals unearthed later-round gems in defensive tackle Geno Atkins and pass rusher Michael Johnson. And they found middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict, the NFL’s leading tackler last season, as an undrafted free agent.

Zimmer was heavily involved in college scouting because the Bengals have one of the NFL’s smallest scouting staffs. After the season ended, Zimmer and the other Cincinnati assistants were abnormally active in the process.

“In Cincinnati, their coaches were on the road a lot. And they had a lot of influence in the draft,” said Charley Casserly, a former NFL general manager who is now an NFL Network analyst. “He was very hands-on in the spring, watched a lot of tape, went to a lot of workouts. … I don’t think he’ll change that.”

Zimmer was often asked for his input during the draft. He really pounded the table for Atkins, a fourth-rounder who became a two-time All-Pro, but was quick to say that nailing that pick was a team effort.

“I think we did a great job of scouting of them in terms of finding the athletic ability that we are looking for and the size requirements, the intelligence part, and I think we did a great job of coaching them, too,” Zimmer said. “We allowed them to progress. It didn’t happen overnight.”

The blueprint

Not long after arriving at Winter Park in January, Zimmer pulled the scouts and the personnel department, who were five months into the scouting process, into the film room to give them a new blueprint for each position.

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  • Vikings coach Mike Zimmer:  “I just want to get good football players here that are team guys — good guys on the field and good guys off the field.”

  • FIRST-ROUND NFL DRAFT ORDER

    1. Houston; 2. St. Louis; 3. Jacksonville; 4. Cleveland; 5. Oakland; 6. Atlanta; 7. Tampa Bay; 8. Vikings; 9. Buffalo; 10. Detroit.

    11. Tennessee; 12. N.Y. Giants; 13. St. Louis; 14. Chicago; 15. Pittsburgh; 16. Dallas; 17. Baltimore; 18. N.Y. Jets; 19. Miami; 20. Arizona.

    21. Green Bay; 22. Philadelphia; 23. Kansas City; 24. Cincinnati; 25. San Diego; 26. Cleveland; 27. New Orleans; 28. Carolina; 29. New England; 30. San Francisco; 31. Denver; 32. Seattle.

    a-from Washington b-from Indianapolis

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Buffalo 17 FINAL
New England 9
Cleveland 10 FINAL
Baltimore 20
Dallas 44 FINAL
Washington 17
Indianapolis 27 FINAL
Tennessee 10
Jacksonville 17 FINAL
Houston 23
San Diego 7 FINAL
Kansas City 19
NY Jets 37 FINAL
Miami 24
Chicago 9 FINAL
Minnesota 13
Philadelphia 34 FINAL
NY Giants 26
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Tampa Bay 20
Carolina 34 FINAL
Atlanta 3
Detroit 20 FINAL
Green Bay 30
Oakland 14 FINAL
Denver 47
Arizona 17 FINAL
San Francisco 20
St. Louis 6 FINAL
Seattle 20
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Pittsburgh 27
Arizona 1/3/15 3:35 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 1/3/15 7:15 PM
Pittsburgh
Chicago 6:00 PM
Indiana
Milwaukee 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Sacramento 6:30 PM
Brooklyn
Orlando 6:30 PM
Miami
Washington 7:00 PM
Houston
Utah 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Detroit 6:00 PM
Boston
Pittsburgh 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Washington 6:00 PM
NY Islanders
Montreal 6:00 PM
Carolina
Buffalo 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Toronto 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Colorado 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
Nashville 7:30 PM
Chicago
NY Rangers 7:30 PM
Dallas
Los Angeles 8:00 PM
Calgary
Philadelphia 8:00 PM
Arizona
Rice 12:00 PM
Texas
UMass Lowell 1:00 PM
Boston College
Johnson (TN) 5:00 PM
Char Southern
Wentworth 6:00 PM
Boston Univ
Lipscomb 6:00 PM
Chattanooga
Toledo 6:00 PM
Duke
FIU 6:00 PM
Florida A&M
Quincy 6:00 PM
Illinois State
Valparaiso 6:00 PM
James Madison
Southern Miss 6:00 PM
LSU
Capital 6:00 PM
Miami-Ohio
Maine 6:00 PM
Quinnipiac
North Florida 6:00 PM
Tenn Tech
Fair-Dickinson 6:00 PM
Towson
Cleveland State 6:00 PM
VA Commonwealth
Rider 6:00 PM
Wagner
IUPUI 6:00 PM
NC Central
Southern Arkansas 6:30 PM
Louisiana Tech
Howard Payne 6:30 PM
Sam Houston St
Hampton 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
Mount St Marys 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Midwestern St 7:00 PM
SMU
Tennessee St 7:00 PM
TCU
North Texas 7:00 PM
Texas Tech
Alice Lloyd 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Morehead State 7:00 PM
Central Arkansas
Nebraska Omaha 7:05 PM
Chicago State
Middle Tennessee 8:00 PM
Auburn
Portland 8:00 PM
BYU
Saint Josephs 8:00 PM
Denver
Pepperdine 8:00 PM
Loyola Marymount
San Francisco 8:00 PM
St Marys-CA
Stephen F Austin 9:00 PM
CS-Northridge
Santa Clara 9:00 PM
Pacific
UC Irvine 10:00 PM
Oregon
Gonzaga 10:00 PM
San Diego
Ark-Pine Bluff 10:00 PM
Stanford
Southern U 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
Miami-Florida 21 FINAL
So Carolina 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Penn State 31
(25) Nebraska 42 FINAL
(24) USC 45
Texas A&M 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Florida
Toledo 1/4/15 8:00 PM
Arkansas State
Holy Cross 11:00 AM
Western Mich
Chattanooga 12:00 PM
South Dakota
UNC Greensboro 12:00 PM
Florida A&M
Savannah State 12:00 PM
Fordham
NJIT 12:00 PM
Clemson
St Gregorys 1:00 PM
Oral Roberts
CS-Northridge 1:00 PM
Saint Josephs
Harvard 1:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Norfolk State 1:30 PM
Stony Brook
LSU 2:00 PM
Miami-Florida
Princeton 2:00 PM
Hartford
New Mexico St 2:00 PM
Southern Utah
SIU-Edwardsville 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
Loyola Marymount 3:00 PM
Pepperdine
Fla Gulf Coast 3:00 PM
Quinnipiac
Lipscomb 3:00 PM
Georgia Tech
Miami-Ohio 3:30 PM
Davidson
Nebraska Omaha 4:00 PM
Utah Valley U
Robert Morris 5:00 PM
Marshall
UC-Riverside 5:00 PM
Brown
Kennesaw St 5:00 PM
Alabama A&M
Auburn 5:00 PM
FIU
Seattle 6:00 PM
Oregon
St Francis-PA 6:00 PM
(21) West Virginia
SE Louisiana 6:00 PM
Ole Miss
Southern Miss 6:00 PM
Nicholls
Rider 6:00 PM
Delaware
Drexel 6:00 PM
Virginia
Furman 6:00 PM
Elon
UMBC 6:00 PM
Penn
UNC-Wilmington 6:00 PM
Florida Atlantic
Akron 6:00 PM
Youngstown St
Jacksonville 6:00 PM
Florida State
Grambling 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Evansville 6:00 PM
(7) Louisville
Western Ky 6:00 PM
Belmont
Chicago State 6:00 PM
Wright State
Buffalo 6:00 PM
Canisius
Cleveland State 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Iona 6:00 PM
East Tenn St
Ohio State 6:00 PM
(15) Maryland
Mercer 6:30 PM
Jacksonville St
Ark-Pine Bluff 7:00 PM
(19) Miss State
Northwestern St 7:00 PM
(18) Oklahoma St
James Madison 7:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Texas Southern 7:00 PM
McNeese State
Bowling Green 7:00 PM
Hampton
Prairie View 7:00 PM
(6) Baylor
Samford 7:00 PM
Kansas
South Dakota St 7:00 PM
Northern Iowa
Howard 7:30 PM
Iowa State
Old Dominion 8:00 PM
California
Charlotte 8:00 PM
Utah
(5) Texas A&M 8:00 PM
Washington
San Diego 8:00 PM
Gonzaga
(10) Duke 8:00 PM
(2) Connecticut
UT Martin 8:00 PM
Arizona
(12) Nebraska 8:00 PM
Minnesota
Coll of Idaho 8:00 PM
Idaho State
BYU 9:00 PM
Portland
Pacific 9:00 PM
Santa Clara
St Marys-CA 9:00 PM
San Francisco
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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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