Spielman Talks QBs At Combine

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 24, 2011 – 1:12 pm

Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman spent much of the late morning and early afternoon in the media center meeting with reporters, appearing on radio shows and speaking at the podium. He addressed a number of topics and we’ll try to touch on a few of them right here on the Blog throughout the next day or so.

We’ll start with a hot-button topic for the Vikings this offseason – the QB position. Many of the questions Spielman fielded were QB-related and he did a good job of speaking in general terms about the topic without giving away any specific opinions on players or strategies the Vikings have with regard to addressing the position.

Spielman said he feels this is a strong QB draft class that is deep not just in the 1st round but also in later rounds. He was also asked about the difficulty in evaluating QBs who didn’t play in “pro style” offenses in colleges. One example is the QB who many regard as the best in this year’s class – Blaine Gabbert. He took most of his snaps in college from the gun formation. Another example is Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick, who played in the “pistol” offense in college.

“What happens with a lot of these guys,” Spielman explained, “just knowing the agents these guys have, is after their season they go to these training centers and they start taking snaps under center, they’re working on drops (drop backs), they hire ex-coaches and things like that to work with these kids. By the time they get to your facility, it’s not the first time they’ve taken a snap.”

Another factor to consider is the learning curve college QBs face when entering the NFL. Whether a QB was in a pro style offense or not in college, he has a lot to learn at the NFL level. Let’s look at 2 examples from last year’s draft in Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy. It was Clausen who came from a “pro style” offense in college and McCoy who came from a spread attack. Yet by most accounts, McCoy had the better rookie season. Neither player was anything to write home about, but McCoy fared a touch better than Clausen despite not coming from a supposed pro style offense.

Ultimately, though, the question is “How will the Vikings address the QB position this offseason.” Only time will tell that answer, but clearly the Vikings are committed to addressing the issue.

“We’re going to look at all avenues when it comes to quarterback,” Spielman said. “Whether it’s a trade, whether it’s a UFA (unrestricted free agent), whether it’s the draft or whether it’s Joe Webb. We’re excited about what Joe Webb brings to the table, too.”

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Interview Process A Key Aspect To The Scouting Combine

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 24, 2011 – 11:58 am

The NFL Scouting Combine is an event that’s seen significant changes over the years, not the least of which has been how big of a media spectacle it has become. Originally designed to be an exclusive event born from the idea of convenience, the Combine is now must-see TV for avid and even casual football fans alike.

When you think of the Combine, you think of the 40-yard dash and the vertical jump and position-specific drills conducted by actual NFL coaches. All of those aspects of the Combine are important, but perhaps the most valuable part of the Combine for NFL teams is what happens when the cameras are not around.

Part of the Combine regimen is the team interview process, where the players cycle through a series of interviews with NFL teams. Most of the interviews are conducted in the player hotel just a block or so away from Lucas Oil Stadium. Each team has a private room and then a list of players who are scheduled to visit. What transpires in those interviews has every bit as much impact on the NFL draft as a 40-yard dash time or impressive display on the bench press.

The task for NFL teams is to get to know the players on a personal level, and that’s a challenge because player agents do such a good job of “coaching up” their clients to interview well. It’s really no different than a typical job interview for a college graduate or someone else looking for work.

“It’s just to get the kids to get their guard down and make them feel comfortable,” Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman said of the interview process. “Knowing what you need to find out about that kid, you can kind of get into that area and get his guard down so he’ll open up and discuss it freely. These guys are pretty polished up when they come into the room.”

One illustration of how important these interviews are is the amount of time teams dedicate to the process. Again, the images most people see of the Combine are of coaches sitting in the stands and players running around cones. But coaches and scouts spend just as much, if not more, time in the interview rooms with players.

“We’ll start on Friday and go through our last [interviews] on Monday evening,” Spielman said. “As you would guess, we have pretty much every position coming through.”

No doubt the QB position is a key one this offseason for the Vikings. Spielman said the team will focus on junior QBs in the interview process at the Combine because Vikings coaches and scouts haven’t had much exposure to that group of players. They don’t participate in many post-season all-star games and many of them don’t declare for the draft until January.

I’ve had the opportunity to see some of these interviews take place first-hand and I can attest to how critically teams look at them in the overall evaluation process. While a single interview that lasts 15 minutes in a random Indianapolis hotel room won’t necessarily make or break the average prospect, there’s no doubt it’s a key piece of the evaluation process for all 32 of the NFL teams.

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Day 1 Of The Scouting Combine Is Underway

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 24, 2011 – 9:00 am

I’ve made the trek from my hotel room to the Lucas Oil Stadium media center and am ready to get rolling on Day 1 of the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine. We have a lot on the docket for today, let’s break it down.

– We’re set up in the media center near the other teams who send their websites to cover the event. The media center is located in the East Club of Lucas Oil Stadium and the room is complete with tables for media members to set up the computers and equipment, podiums for NFL coaches and executives to use during press conferences and then round tables for reporters and players to use for interviews.

– The Combine is a week-long event and it’s invitation-only for the players. So about 330 of the top college prospects will shuffle though Indianapolis this week.

– But not all the players are here at the same time. The players are broken up into position groups and then those position groups go through the various stages of the Combine on a staggered schedule. For example, the first groups to arrive here were the OL, kickers, punters, long snappers and TEs. They arrived yesterday, went through an orientation process and then today they’ll go through measurements, medical examinations, psychological examinations, interviews with teams and a media session. The second groups are QBs, RBs and WRs. They’ll go through the orientation process today, then tomorrow they’ll do what the first group is doing today. So on and so on.

– At 11:30 a.m. CT Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman will have a press conference today at one of the podiums in the media center. We’ll record that and have on for you as soon as possible. Then Spielman will meet with Twin Cities beat writers and I’ll sit in for that and report back to you.

– Voice of the Vikings Radio Network Paul Allen will host his radio show from Lucas Oil Stadium today and tomorrow. He’ll have both Spielman and head coach Leslie Frazier on, but he’ll also chase down players, NFL personnel and national media members.

That’s it for now. I’ll have much more for you later, so be sure to check back in with us frequently.

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