Preparing for the draft
26 April 2006
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Fran Foley: Thanks for coming out. We appreciate you taking the time on a busy afternoon to come out and see us. On Saturday and Sunday, we will select players from a consensus of information. The Vikings are structured as you all know to select players that are agreed upon by a group of people and a consensus of information that is gathered from numerous sources. Speaking for the personnel department and our standpoint, it's our philosophy and our job to provide Coach Childress and the Vikings with the necessary talent to win games. We are scheduled on Saturday and Sunday to pick five selections within the first 95 slottings in the draft. This is a very unique situation for any team in any year. We have gone through over 2,000 reports in which there were 800 different possible prospects. We have added coaches' evaluations, including additional evaluations from myself and other evaluators in our pro personnel staff. This process has allowed us to condense our evaluations into a draft board of some 300 possible drafted players. Our computer liaison, Paul Nelson, has done a remarkable job in managing all of this data. Our medical staff, including Eric Sugarman, our trainer, Dr. (Sheldon) Burns and Dr. (David) Fischer, our team doctors, have been both diligent and thorough in their medical opinions. We have utilized Les Pico (Director of Player Development/Legal) and Kim Klawiter (Director of Security) and their talents to secure the necessary character checks on all of these players. Obviously Scott Studwell and the college scouts have done a great job as well in preparing for this weekend's selections. The draft, as you know, is an exhausting process but we are well prepared for both Saturday and Sunday. Both of these days are equally important in the procurement of players, so we're looking forward to it and we're excited. Obviously a lot of work has gone into the preparation for this weekend, but it's fast approaching. We do have some work to do yet, but we're very excited about this weekend. Unless has Brad or Scott has anything more to add, we'll welcome any and all questions.

Q: Could you give us an overall appraisal of the talent in this draft?
Studwell: Obviously every draft class is a little different. We think it's a rich draft early. It's a heavy second round draft after that. It's a real heavy third and fourth and fifth round draft. So there is a lot of quality but there are also some positions that are very deep, especially in the linebacker group, the cornerback group. The receiver group is a little thin this year. The quarterback group is good early but then that tails off considerably in our opinion. Defensive line is probably as thin as it's been in some time, but there is a lot of quality in this draft. Obviously with the number of picks that we have on the first day, we feel like we're going to add five real good football players to our football team.

Q: Coach, what would make you happy after Saturday?
Childress: I think like Scott just said, there are so many different flavors that if we could get five good football players, exceptional football players, I'd be elated. It doesn't make any difference what order, offense, defense, it makes not a difference to me. Good football players are the name of the game. You want to hit on those guys.

Q: Fran, does it make it more challenging that this is the first time you guys have worked together?
Foley: I think the philosophy within this group is pretty much the same. We're all on the same page with what we're trying to get accomplished. Of course Rob Brzezinski is also involved in the decision-making process this weekend. I feel very comfortable working with everybody.

Q: What are you doing to make sure that everything goes smoothly?
Foley: Trying to get as much sleep as we can at night, lots of sleep.

Q: Do you still take the best player available regardless of position?
Studwell: Absolutely. Our process quite honestly has not changed. I think what's really been unique and helpful for us as a scouting staff is number one, Brad and Fran I think have agreed to watch our process, learn about our process, and work within our process that we've had that Rob (Brzezinski) implemented three years ago. It's been a good system for us. I'm sure that at some point after this draft that if there are some changes that they want to make, then we'll certainly implement those. We're after the best players. Obviously we've identified some positions of need for our football team. If we fill them, great, but I'm still of the school of thought that you can't go wrong taking a good football player regardless of position. We know what the needs are on this football team, at least we think we know what the needs are. If we can fill them, great, and if not, we're still going to get some real good football players that are going to help us win championships here. That is our philosophy, to take the best player available and it will continue to be that unless it changes somewhere down the road, but I don't see that change any time soon. I think you build your team with good players and you fill in around them. That will continue to be our philosophy.

Q: Can you tell us what those needs are?
Studwell: No.

Q: Is there a lot of gamesmanship and unpredictability with this draft?
Studwell: It is. Obviously you spend 10 months a year preparing for two days worth of action. I think there are a lot of smokescreens getting sent up right now by a lot of clubs. Last year we were in a position picking at #7, obviously as I said before every draft is different, but that is a very high pick and it is a very valuable pick. You're going to spend a lot of money on a player up there. I think these teams are jockeying for position. I think these three quarterbacks are certainly going to be in the equation at some point early in the draft. Nobody wants to tip their hand because everybody has flexibility to go up in this draft. There are good enough players in probably the top 10 or 11 spots that teams would like to get up there to get them, ourselves included. We do have a lot of picks available to do that if we decide to do that, but that will be a draft day decision. I think you can read a lot into what a lot of people are saying, but I think you could certainly target who the top seven or eight players are going to be. It's just a question of who is going to get them.

Q: Do you see any scenario where one of those three quarterbacks falls to you at #17 and what do you think of them?
A: We like all three of them. Obviously they are all good players. None of them are ready to step in and play right away. I think that's a position, the quarterback position, I think if you throw a young quarterback into that type of environment or that type of setting, I think there is a high chance of failure. If you do that and there is that, then there is an awful lot of damage control that has to go along with that. We like the talents of all three of those quarterbacks. We have to wait and see what happens on draft day. You never know, things change. People get scared of players, people get afraid of taking players. For whatever reason, could one of them fall to us? We don't know that. We'll find out Saturday.

Q: How much of this process has been the scouting side and the coaching side figuring out what kind of player you want?
Foley: I think that was the main point we addressed when we came together. I'm talking more myself with Brad than with Scott. One of the first orders of business we had was to conduct extensive meetings on what exactly it was the coaches wanted for each position. If they had a size, weight, or speed requirement for a player, what is it that it would be for every position and then we communicated that early in February to the scouts so they could do a better job of preparing for this draft. As Scott mentioned, this draft started in May of last year. That's when you start getting the information ready for the next draft. The scouts have been on the road for quite some time. We came in and we said here's the change and this is what we are looking for player-wise, now make your adjustments. The coaches have been very involved in the preparation for this draft. They have been involved in the intensive meetings that we have conducted the last two weeks. There has been a lot of interaction.

Childress: That was one of the first things, even before Fran got here, was to evaluate the players in this program, to write up a protocol if you will of what the guys looks like that plays the three-technique on defense. What is a prototype tight end in this offense. We went through that, hammered it out, put it down on paper, talked about it, talked about it with Fran, Scott, the scouts, the coaches and so more you talk about it the more you see that guy. In our business, a picture paints a thousand words. You see that guy on tape, hey, here's what I'm talking about. This guy right here, see what he's doing right here? That's what we're looking for, the kind of guy that can do that. That's part of the process as well. We did that at an early stage.

Q: In a broad sense, can you articulate what kind of player you want?
Childress: Every position has different parameters in terms of height, weight, speed and size. We want guys that are squared away character-wise. We've said that over and over, good people that are good players.

Q: Can character be the deciding factor if all of the other things are equal?
Childress: Yeah, I think Scott does a great job of identifying those guys, whether we tag them or whether they have a different mark by them. We talk about what factors make up that guy as a player. We also talk about some of those intangibles. Was his dad a coach? Did he have issues with the coach on his team? Did he have some type of record? Did he have an arrest? Did he have a disorderly conduct? Those are all things that we end up taking a look at.

Q: Will this weekend be the first true test of this process with all of you working together?
Foley: No, I think we've been working every day on a number of different issues, different fronts. Scott has had his process with the scouts and managing them, and Brad and I and Rob have been through the free agency process. I think the only difference between now and the free agency process is that this draft is going to start on time where the free agency process started a couple weeks late. That's not going to happen this time. But no, I think we've already been through a big process in itself, and I think it better prepares us for the draft.

Q: Brad, what has been your role on draft day in the past with Philadelphia as a coordinator?
Childress: Well because you have to look at all the positions on offense, you get a group of guys that were targeted in the offensive line, fullback, wide receiver, running back, tight end, etc. Whereas an offensive line coach may look at 25 to 45 guys, the coordinator might look at 15 to 18 guys that are earmarked, and then after you write your reports, you sit and listen to all the position coaches who come through and talk about their guys as the draft process occurs, as we have draft readings, if you will, and throw your two cents worth in, how you see a guy.

Q: Scott, do you ever compare your draft board to all the mock drafts that are out there?
Studwell: Obviously there is a lot of information that's floating around about the draft and all the so-called draft experts. We would like to at least consider ourselves draft experts, so no, we rely, obviously, very heavily on our information, on our scouts' input, and we don't care how other people have their boards stacked. We don't care how Mel Kiper has his board stacked. Are we going to take a shot on draft day? Boy, I hope not, but if we do, we do. That's because they're our picks, and that's all that matters. We totally discount that information. We're not draftniks; we get paid to evaluate players, and hopefully we do it well enough to put the best players on the field for the Minnesota Vikings.

Q: How many times have you nailed the mock draft you created?
Studwell: To be honest with you, we had a mock draft today and it's the first time we've done it. It's just something that we've never really done in the past. Obviously you can sit and create hundreds of different scenarios. Who's going to take who? Who's going to move here? Who's going to move there? We did go through the exercise today, and actually it was kind of fun. I think the guys enjoyed it. I think everybody knows who the top players are. I liked the way the first time went through, and I didn't like the way the second time went through. If we get the players we picked the first time through, I'll be doing cartwheels out here. But we have not done (a mock draft) historically here, but I think it was a good exercise because what it does is it may identify some players all your scouts liked that nobody picked. Maybe that's an indication of, "Well we liked him and we graded him that way but we'd rather take him a little later

Q: You didn't have a draft where Reggie Bush fell to you at number 17 did you?
Studwell: No.

Q: How many rounds did you go in these mock drafts?
A: We went through two rounds, but we went through it twice. It was a good exercise and I'm sure it's something we will continue to do.

Q: Do you look at other teams' needs when you're thinking about when to select a guy?
Studwell: I think that's something that Fran has spent some time on with our pro scouts as well, identifying the particular team needs of everyone else, which we've done in the past, but we haven't really paid a lot of attention to it because our focus is on trying to take the best player available when we're on the clock. We try to take the needs factor out of it, and to be honest, when we went through the exercise today, a lot of the guys really took the best player on the board that they felt was left. Maybe that's ingrained in us, but I think more so than anything else, it helps you if there's any type of potential trade talk if you think you may need to go up to this certain point to get this certain player because there are other teams in front of you with the same needs and wants that you have. I think that's what really helps identify what the other teams are looking at, where their holes on the roster are, who they signed as free agents and who they lost. I think that really helps from that perspective, but as far as taking quote-unquote the best player, it really doesn't affect that.

Q: Have you had any indication from the league on Onterrio Smith's situation, and does that affect what you do this weekend at all?
Childress: Well it does, but as you know, the substance program is highly confidential with the NFL, so you really can't make too many statements about that.

Q: Are you open to trading picks to help the team get better?
Foley: We have exercises in place that will allow for movement throughout the draft if need be. Now we haven't covered all of those, but we have numerical values put on slots; it's used as a guide. They've used one in the past; we're currently using one this year.

Q: What are you looking for with the linebacker position in this defense?
Childress: Well there's just a premium on speed, on being able to run. You're seeing all kinds of shapes and sizes - 255-pound guys that can run and 225-pound guys that can run - and we like some of both and everywhere in between there. Just how they play the game and that they're playing it wide open and again, being able to get there and make something happen violently when you get there.

Q: What about quarterbacks for the future?
Childress: Well there are a lot of different flavors for those guys too. Scott kind of talked about the three guys at the top, and we'd certainly take any one of those guys. We'll just have to see how that all plays out, but there are a number of other guys as you go through; you just have to make sure you like them enough.

Q: Can you give an indication of how many guys are rated 1st or 2nd round picks as far as talent but with injuries or character concerns, you completely take them off the board or drop them a few rounds?
Studwell: We don't take anybody off the board. We basically tag players, as Fran or Brad had alluded to earlier. We assign them their value and their ability grade, and then if there's an issue, whether it be a medical issue or a character issue or a learning issue or something that would be a red flag for us, then we'll just pass over. But I'm not at liberty to tell you how many players there are in that category.

Q: Is there an impact player you could get at that number 17 pick?
Studwell: We won't know that until we go on the clock. There are a lot of good football players that we have identified that we would be happy to take at 17. We don't know if they're going to be impact players or not; we won't know that for two or three years. I think it's unfair to label guys as impact players, even the top pick in the draft. You're grading players based on their college production and their pro potential. That's what we're doing. You obviously hope they carry that over to our level, but there will be a player there that we think is going to be a heck of a football player for us and obviously we've identified as a starter for us at some point, whether it's this year or next year or the year after. That's a high pick; those are supposed to be the best players in the draft, and if we miss on those guys, I won't be here next year. It's an important pick, so all the players we've identified that we would take with that pick, we feel like they are going to be very good players.