INDIANAPOLIS -- If they aren't already, draft-eligible players should be aware that at least one NFL team -- and surely many others -- have been digging into their social media to create a more complete character assessment. Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman acknowledged his efforts in that regard Thursday at the NFL scouting combine, bluntly saying that the Twitter problems of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o was the catalyst.
"The one thing we've done this year is we've done a lot of digging on social media," Spielman said. "We have a pretty in-depth picture of these players who are involved or not involved in social media -- how many times they tweet or twit. I'm not a technical guy. But it's interesting to see the patterns of some of those players."
Asked if that represented a change from previous years, Spielman said: "I'd say a lot more in depth this year and probably because of all the highlights of what happened with the Notre Dame linebacker."
Te'o is scheduled to speak with the media Saturday. We've discussed the possibility of the Chicago Bears' interest in him, and Spielman said the Vikings will interview him this weekend as well. The Vikings spent last season with Jasper Brinkley as their middle linebacker, but Brinkley is a pending free agent and our friends at Pro Football Focus ranked him as their No. 50 middle/inside linebacker in the NFL last season.
"There will be a lot of questions thrown his way," said Spielman, who said he is interested to know how Te'o explains his poor play in the BCS Championship Game against Alabama. He added: "When you look at the overall big picture, he is an extremely talented football player."
I think it's fair to say that the Vikings will add a starting-caliber linebacker this offseason, considering that both Brinkley and outside linebacker Erin Henderson are eligible for free agency. Before the Alabama game, Te'o was considered one of the top prospects in the entire draft. His performance this weekend could well determine whether he regains that status or if he becomes a second-tier prospect who would be available in the bottom third of the first round.
More to come in a bit.