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Sunday, March 20, 2011
Frazier focusing on mental aptitude of QBs

By Kevin Seifert

Cam Newton
Does Cam Newton possess the leadership skills the Vikings are seeking in a franchise quarterback?
NEW ORLEANS -- As Minnesota Vikings officials arrived Sunday to the NFL owners meeting, they found themselves at about the midway point of their offseason project to draft a franchise quarterback. Vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman suggested the team will devote multiple visits to at least six quarterbacks, and coach Leslie Frazier said he is starting to get "a feel" for how the team will stack its draft board.

Through various reports, five of those quarterbacks have been revealed: Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, Auburn's Cam Newton, TCU's Andy Dalton, Washington's Jake Locker and Arkansas' Ryan Mallett.

"I'm trying to be open minded until we finish some of these private workouts," Frazier said. "But it's hard not to [get enamored midway through the process] 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 careful and just go through the process. But each one of them, they all have good qualities of some kind. I do have to catch myself sometimes not getting biased before we finish this process."

The Vikings are using the private workouts mostly to make social observations and to give Frazier and other coaches a chance for more personal conversation that can reveal character and leadership insights. To understand how important that facet of the scouting process is, look no further than the Vikings' experience over the past four years with quarterback Tarvaris Jackson -- an excellent athlete with a rocket arm who was more comfortable in a secondary locker-room role than as a leader.

"For me," Frazier said, "the communication and getting to know them -- sometimes in their environment, sometimes if it's at the combine or if we're going to bring them to our facility -- that to me is as important as the mechanics and so on. I think we've got good people that are going to help them [in] their fundamentals and get them from a technique standpoint. But I've got to feel good that they've got the leadership qualities and can mesh with some of my thoughts on the quarterback position. My one-on-one time with them, and just being around them is as important to me as what they can do from a pro day or workouts.

"Sometimes you have to be careful about being too enamored with a pro day or that combine workout. ... So I have to have a good feel for that person. The quarterback position is unlike any other person on the team. 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. For us, that's what we're looking to find. So my time with him is as important or more important than what we see on tape."

I'm not sure if there is much to read into Frazier's comments, although it might help explain why neither he nor Spielman attended Newton's pro day. There aren't many questions about Newton's ability to throw or run; it's his football savvy and leadership abilities that the Vikings no doubt want to investigate further.

My thoughts on this situation haven't changed much since last week, when I suggested the Vikings aren't likely to have either Newton or Gabbert available to them at No. 12 overall. They'll have to decide whether they want to pay a steep price to trade up for one of them, or if they feel comfortable taking Locker at No. 12 or if they will target another quarterback lower in the draft.

I asked Frazier if he was far enough in the process to feel confident the Vikings will be able to draft one of the quarterbacks they like in this draft.

"I have a feel for it," he said. "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 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.'"

The Vikings' goal over the next five weeks? Ensuring that "uh-oh" never gets uttered in their draft room.