NEW ORLEANS -- Vikings coach Leslie Frazier spent last Thursday afternoon in Columbia, Mo., watching Blaine Gabbert throw passes. Later, Frazier joined a Vikings contingent that spent time talking to Gabbert over dinner.
Frazier acknowledges that what he heard in the evening was just as important as what he saw during the day.
The Vikings are giving serious consideration to selecting a quarterback in next month's draft. Minnesota holds the 12th overall pick but there is a possibility they could try to trade up or perhaps even trade back and take a QB. Players of interest include Gabbert, Auburn's Cam Newton, Washington's Jake Locker, TCU's Andy Dalton and Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett. Gabbert and Newton are expected to be long gone by the time the 12th pick comes up.
Frazier knows that vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson can evaluate mechanics. What Frazier is focused on entering his first full season as a coach, is evaluating whether any of the above players can be the Vikings' long-term answer at the most important position on the field.
"The quarterback position is unlike any other person on the team," Frazier said Sunday after arriving at the Roosevelt Hotel for the NFL meetings. "That guy, his mental is as important as his athletic ability. More important, in a lot of ways. Good athletes at quarterback don’t always become franchise quarterbacks. For us, we’re looking and hoping to find a franchise quarterback. So my time with him is as important or more important than what we see on tape."
Reports have linked the Vikings to Dalton, Locker and Newton when it comes to conducting private workouts and they are expected to meet again with Mallett.
Asked if he was falling in love with any one quarterback, Frazier made it clear he is trying his best not to do that.
"I'm trying to be opened minded until we finish some of these private workouts," Frazier said, "but it's hard not to [become enamored with a quarterback] when you watch a certain tape and go, 'Oh, man, this is the guy.' Then you put on another tape and go, ‘Wait a minute. This guy …’ So you have to be a little careful and just go through the process. But each one of them, they all have good qualities of some type. I do have to catch myself sometimes not getting biased before we finish this process.”
It surprised some when Spielman and Johnson showed up at the Gophers Pro Day on March 8, the same day that Newton held his Pro Day. The Vikings were represented at Auburn but not by some of their heavy hitters.
However, Gabbert's Pro Day attracted both Spielman and Frazier. So why skip Newton's workout but then attend Gabbert's? “There’s kind of a plan in place," Spielman said. "Certain people will be at private workouts, certain people will be at the Pro Days.”
Spielman did not elaborate on the Vikings' plan, but did say he will attend all the private workouts. Frazier admitted there isn't any "real rhyme or reason" to the private workout process, at least when it comes to who attends.
"There are just certain guys I just have to make sure that I’m part of and then others … there’s no particular reason," Frazier said. "We’ve got a competent quarterback coach, a competent coordinator. They’ve done this a thousand times.”
The NFL lockout means the Vikings can't attempt to address the quarterback position in free agency or through a trade at this point. Joe Webb might get a chance to compete -- especially if the lockout is an extended one -- but all indications are the Vikings would like to bring in a quarterback who can end the rotating door of QBs who have been wearing purple in recent seasons.
That means right now that acquisition would have to be through the draft. So is Frazier confident he will get his quarterback of the future during that late April event?
“I have a feel for it," he said. "But you’re guessing a little bit on what people ahead of you are going to do, so you think you have a feel. But you guys have been around long enough, you know [things] can change in a hurry. All of a sudden somebody you think wasn’t looking at quarterbacks jumps up to a spot and you go like, ‘Uh, oh.’”