Vikings GM Rick Spielman Quotes 4/24/20
COURTESY OF MINNESOTA VIKINGS COMMUNICATIONS DEPARTMENT
Okay. We're very excited about Ezra Cleveland falling to us in the second round. Spent a lot of time with him at the Combine. I know he played through a turf toe this year. I know our scouts had talked about how tough he was to get through that and some of the limitations he had during practice, during the week, but lined up every Saturday to play. We went back and watched 2018 tape on him when he was healthier and there was a pretty good running back behind him, as well. But he fits everything we're looking for from a schematic standpoint. He's long. He's athletic. Reminded us a lot of Brian O'Neil when we took him almost in the same spot in the second round. I know talking to our coaches, they see him being a possible position flexibility-type guy. You know, left tackle, right tackle. Even some potential guard if we needed to. So I think the coaches will figure that out. When we got into the third round, we did try to move up on some of the players but we just weren't able to get a deal. And then the corner, Cameron Dantzler, fell to us there. I know our coaches were very excited. He's a long, athletic corner. If you watch some of the tape on him, you watch what he did against the LSU receivers and him going against all these top SEC receivers, with his length and his athletic ability, it was another ideal scheme fit for us. I know he ran a slow time at the 40. We did have his agents send some kind of virtual tape, so we estimated that he plays a lot faster than that 40 time that he showed at the Combine, and he showed that on the virtual work out, as well. Then when we get down to 105, we had a couple guys in mind, but as you looked at the board, we have a lot of guys that we think can come in and help us tomorrow, and then the New Orleans offer of a fourth, a fifth, a sixth and a seven gives us enough ammunition to hopefully go up and get what we need to get tomorrow. It would be hard for us to trade back, to be honest with you. I think everybody is going to be exhausted, but tomorrow is a big day because that's our college scout day. I've got to see a lot of those guys and just get to know them, but this is where our college scouts are excellent, led by Jamaal Stephenson, our college director, and all the work they put in during the year. So I know it's going to be a big day are to us tomorrow. I know coming into this draft, I think we only had 60 players under contract. We had to get 30 more to get to 90, and we know we have to add a lot of depth and it's going to be a lot of young depth, so as much competition as we can create, we're going to definitely do that, and there's a lot of good players on there tomorrow. So look forward to a big day tomorrow.
Q. When we talked to Jamaal after the second round and he was talking about Cleveland, he mentioned that he sees a situation where he can come in and help out right away. Do you anticipate maybe a switch or a change at one of your two tackle spots?
A: No, you know, I would say that right now, we just want to get these guys in the building. I think, like they always do, until our coaches actually start working with them on the field, the coaches will figure out the best five offensive linemen. I mean, there's no one -- everybody that we've drafted, you know, they have to come in and still earn a spot, you know, to be a starter or a backup. But we think he just has an extremely high ceiling. Felt almost identical when we went through that tape and then when we talked about Brian O'Neil two years ago, it was almost the same type of conversation. And I remember when Brian, you know, he was going to be a little bit of a project and then he ended up playing his rookie year and playing very well, and is now probably one of our most consistent offensive lineman up front. We see, I think a very similar path to Ezra, but who knows until we get everybody in here and get them out on the field where it shakes out.
Q. With accumulating all those day three picks and undrafted free agency being a wildcard this year, how much is about being able to pick guys and having control of you getting them versus having to try and sign them in rookie free agency?
A: I know I feel very confident about our plan in college free agency and how we're going to do that. But having this amount of picks, it alleviates some of that stress in college free agency just because of the situation that we're dealing with right now. So having a lot of those picks in the third day, especially, I don't know if we have maybe four in the seventh round and three in the sixth round. A lot of those guys that we like that if they did get the free agency, you'd have to be battling with. We have an opportunity to probably select those guys.
Q. You alluded to it a little bit, but how much did that LSU tape really stand out for Cameron when he shadowed J’Mar Chase and doing a good job shutting him down?
A: Well, LSU, that football team was the litmus test I think. Just like the Georgia offensive line was a litmus test for all the defensive guys we were looking at. When you see him go out there and get on -- I don't want to mention any names because they are still not eligible for the Draft, but one of their top receivers down there and how he stood up to them and rose to that challenge, he's another guy that I think plays with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder and wants to go out and prove that he can go out there and be a corner that's going to compete against the best, and he's showing that.
Q. Back to Cleveland. I know everybody is kind of in the same boat, but being an offensive lineman, how many could it potentially hamper him not having a chance to look at him and not really know what you have, maybe not until training camp or later?
A: Well, there's nothing we can do about that. All we can do is I know we tried to take the cleanest players that we possibly could that were very -- not only athletic traits that our coaches love to work with, but also the intelligence level is off the charts, and the physical ability to develop. So we really honed in and tried to take as clean of players as we could.
Q. You mentioned last night that you wanted to be aggressive going into day two here and you said, especially in round three, you were trying to move up. Did you just find that other teams were asking too much to get up, or was the communication part of it?
A: No, to be honest with you, the communication was excellent and there were just players I think in that top third round that there wasn't a lot of trading going on and teams were just taking the guys that they liked because of the depth there. So it wasn't anything to do from the technology standpoint at all it. Was all just trying to find a partner that wanted to trade with you. We tried to be aggressive. We just couldn't get a trade partner to deal with us.
Q. Could you ever have envisioned you would have accumulated 17 picks in a seven-round draft and is this like turning back the clock, the last 17-round draft in the NFL was in 1976.
A: Well, you don't know what's going to happen tomorrow; if we'll keep all those picks. We could move up. We could turn some of those picks to picks next year, as well, and flip over to 2021 picks. Like I said, I really have a lot of faith in Jamaal and our college staff and the work that they have put into this draft; that we are going to get some good players out of that third day, but also gives us some opportunity to potentially add some picks to next year's draft and also when we really -- and we can even, I don't want to say overpay but be even more aggressive if we hone in on some guys, especially in that fourth round area, with three picks, if you can potentially move in there and get more picks in that fourth round, you're getting the best of the third day and hopefully that will be what we try to do, but we'll just have to see how it all goes.
Q. How has the communication gone with the rest of the Vikings staff, just everyone being sequestered?
A: Oh, it's been excellent. I mean, we have a draft room that's a chat room where everybody that sits in that room during the Draft is on that: Our coaches, our ownership, trainer, all of our scouts, coordinators have a separate draft chat with George and Rob and our pro guys, Ryan and Reed, all those guys that work on the trades and were following the needs and how teams fill the needs. I have two phone lines here where the trades are coming in, but also Rob and George are handling a lot of that. So when we -- if I receive a call or Rob receives a call or George receives a call, we can actually hear just like we're sitting right next to each other and then to have the phone directly to the league as well if something happens. But the technology that our IT department did, with Cheryl Nygaard and with Paul Nelson, these first two nights have been as flawless as you could possibly ask for.
Q. In round two there with Cleveland, was there any point where you thought you might have to move up to get a guy like that, or did the way it was starting to fall, did you think that you were going to be okay sitting there?
A: We talked and discussed that and then you kind of like, let’s hold our horses here. Just be a little patient to see how things start to fall. I knew there was going to be some good running backs, the run on receivers, the offensive line run. I think the Hunt kid went first if I recall. But then all of a sudden the offensive line run kind of started were we were at. You’ve just got to kind of be patient and kind of get a sense and a feel for the run on the positions when you’re in those rounds.
Q. Is there any part of this process that you really enjoyed and you'll integrate going forward or not?
A: Yeah, with the technology that we have now, and I think I mentioned it before, we have draft meetings in December. We have draft meetings in February before the combine. I plan on having virtual meetings instead of flying the scouts in and then just bring everybody in in April. But as smooth as this operation has gone through our draft meetings, through this process, you know, so far, and I don't expect anything else going into tomorrow, but it's been very efficient for us, and I do give a lot of credit again. I wish I would say I was an IT guy -- I think I am, but I'm not, but our IT department was just off the charts on what they were able to accomplish. Maybe we'll do press conferences like that and Zim can mute you all like you're muted right now. He'd love that.
Q. How do you convince a team to give you three extra picks like at the end? Seems like from a value standpoint, you got the better end of that.
A: Yeah, we had probably five or six calls at that 105 spot, so it was very busy. I mean, we were working with five different teams and you know, we just felt that the New Orleans situation, they went up and got a very good player that they needed and the New Orleans situation gave us an opportunity that was the best option that we were offered when we were on the clock.
Q. Some people thought you might have taken a defensive lineman at this juncture. Is this an indication that you're pretty happy with the defensive lineman you have at this juncture?
A: We looked at some of those defensive linemen, but I know there's a lot of good defensive linemen. The one, you know, who I think we all have trust in is Andre Patterson, and he usually has some pet cats that may not be well known, but his history with taking guys that are not well known that have the physical traits we're looking for, there's going be to some opportunities to get those guys and maybe multiple guys tomorrow.
Q. Cameron Dantzler was mentioning to us the weight and strength he's been trying to add this offseason. Is that a priority in your mind for him to fill out a little bit going forward?
A: I think the priority is -- Zim says it the best -- don't let the receiver catch the ball. He's a young kid that's still maturing and growing into his body, but he has such unique length, and the athleticism that goes along with that length gives him a chance to be a really good corner in this league.
Q. When you have a situation like that where an agent is sending a time in of him running a 40, is a matter of trying to stop the video and take the time off the video or the frame stops?
A: No. Again, you're guesstimating a little bit, but a couple agents have called me and I suggested a way to at least shoot the video. If it's smooth, it's like, you know, when we time in person at the Combine, but we also get the video of the 40s, and you can actually time and get an estimate. So you can tell if it's a 4.6 or a 4.3. Usually it's somewhere in between. So we were able to get a time that I know that was faster, just us trying to do it with the circumstances we're dealing with. It would have been great to go down there and time him in person, but unfortunately that's not where we are at right now. But it gave us a pretty good indication, I know he was a little banged up and still tried to gut it through at the Combine, but I know he plays faster than what his 40 time was at the Combine.
Q. Both guys seem like they play with a lot of swagger, that kind of competitive edge. Is that a trait that you're looking for in defensive backs?
A: I think especially at corner because you know, you're going to win some and you're going to lose some. But if you have that swagger, to forget if you do give up a play or something and come back and go compete again, I think that's a special personality that we look for in corners.