“That can have a little bit of an adjustment on your board if you are talking about a scheme change and a philosophy change,” said former Ravens, Browns and Eagles scout Daniel Jeremiah, now an analyst for NFL Network. “Then you’re going to have your board shaken up a little bit just to cater to your coach. But you don’t want to pass on great players because they wouldn’t be perfect fits.”
Zimmer’s main task in his first year will be fixing the team’s 31st-ranked defense. His attacking, multiple scheme is vastly different from Leslie Frazier’s Cover 2 defense. In Cincinnati, Zimmer built top-10 units with pass rushers with length on the edges, feisty defensive backs and aggressive linebackers.
“I think it’s a little bit of a change from what they’ve looked for defensively in the past,” Zimmer said.
Zimmer used last week’s minicamp to identify how the defenders on the roster will fit, and the front office and scouting department also have had to adapt to what Zimmer is looking for in a short period of time.
“He’ll look at a player, and he’ll tell us the strengths and he’ll tell us how he’s going to use him and utilize his skill set within his system,” Spielman said.
Search for a quarterback
Zimmer and Spielman, along with the Turners, drove into big-time campuses such as Alabama and Texas A&M and visited more remote college football outposts such as Central Florida and Eastern Illinois. They have been linked to a dozen quarterback prospects, from potential top-10 picks to small-school sleepers. Picking the right one, perhaps more than anything, will provide job security for years to come.
Zimmer has left scouting the technical aspects of the position to Norv Turner, the noted quarterback guru who will have a say in which passer Spielman picks. Zimmer instead focused on character and the unquantifiable traits that can make or break quarterbacks. He watched how they interacted with teammates and total strangers, tried to identify leadership qualities and looked them in the eyes in interviews.
“What you’ve got to figure out is, who is the best guy for the Minnesota Vikings?” Zimmer said. “Who’s going to fit in best with Norv? Who’s going to play well in the cold? With the team the way it is, how do they fit in with the defense? Is he better off sitting for a year or playing now? What’s his potential down the road going to be like? And they’re all good kids, and we talked to all of them. They have different personalities so there is a different flavor a little bit.”
The Vikings, who have starter Matt Cassel and 2011 first-round pick Christian Ponder around to keep the position warm for the next quarterback of the future, have narrowed their list, but no one will know which flavor they prefer until Thursday night at the earliest.
Whomever they choose and however his first draft in Minnesota plays out, Zimmer said he and Spielman will travel this road together.
“He’s a little bit like me,’’ Zimmer said. ‘‘He’s a little bit sarcastic at times and we give each other a hard time, but we really respect each other. And when we come out of the room we are going to come out of the room together.”