Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Leslie Frazier wants -- and needs -- a QB
By Kevin Seifert
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- One thing was clear Tuesday after listening to Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier during a 40-minute media session: He really, really, really wants to draft a long-term answer at quarterback this week.
I mean, really.
"In our league," Frazier said, "... until you answer the bell at that position, it really doesn't make a great deal of difference about some of the other positions. You really want to identify the right guy under center. That is key in our league to long-term success."
Asked if there is a position that keeps him awake at night, Frazier said: "I don't know if there is one that's keeping me awake at night, but there is one that I'd like for us to get solved sooner than later. The obvious one is the one that everybody tries to fill and there are a lot of teams in this draft that are trying to fill the need that we're trying to fill."
Would the Vikings spend a first-round pick on Jake Locker despite accuracy concerns?
To be sure, Frazier realizes there are no guarantees in a draft, especially when you're positioned outside of the top 10 as the Vikings are. But put yourself in Frazier's shoes for a moment. You're 52 years old. Your 22 years in coaching has led to this moment. You interviewed for seven open NFL positions before finally landing the Vikings job. How disconcerting must it be, in your first offseason in the job, to have a quarterback depth chart that reads 1) Joe Webb and 2) Rhett Bomar?
There are no doubt some safety nets available if the Vikings fail to draft a worthy starter, from free agent Matt Hasselbeck to the possibility of trades for Donovan McNabb or Kevin Kolb. But after watching the Vikings roll through annual Band-Aid applications at the game's most important positions, I think Frazier understands the value of a more permanent solution. Band-Aids might help bridge a season, but doesn't the bridge have to lead somewhere eventually?
To me, there is no better time to jump to the other side than in a coach's first year, giving him a building block for the rest of his program.
The question for the Vikings is not whether Frazier wants to draft a quarterback in the first or second round. It's whether Rick Spielman, the Vikings' vice president of player personnel can get him one. We went through the scenarios earlier this week in conjunction with a mock draft that netted them TCU's Andy Dalton at No. 12 overall.
Spielman was predictably more diplomatic Tuesday, saying only: "We feel very confident with how we have these guys stacked." Spielman said he has received at least three calls about trading down in the first round, a move that ostensibly would allow them to draft a quarterback around pick No. 20 or so. But, Spielman said, there are also several players on the Vikings' board that would override any trade offer if available at No. 12.
The worst-case scenario, of course, is the Viking drafting one of those so-called more valuable players at No. 12 and then missing out on a quarterback by the time they choose in the second round at No. 43. I know there has been a lot of talk in the Twin Cities about the Vikings' apparent interest in Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle as a mid- to late-round pick, but a developmental quarterback like Enderle isn't going to solve the problem the Vikings have. You can hope he one day develops into a starter, but you certainly can't build your program around that expectation.
Ultimately, as we've been discussing for months, the Vikings first needed to decide whether they like Washington's Jake Locker enough to take him at No. 12. The primary concern with Locker is his accuracy. The Vikings have made that decision, and although neither Spielman nor Frazier would reveal it, what follows is how they answered when I asked if they believed accuracy can be improved at the NFL level.
Spielman: "I think everybody has different opinions on that. I know we've had thorough discussions on that and thorough discussions with our coaches on it. We came up with an opinion on it. ... I think it depends on how your coaches feel."
Frazier: "There are different opinions on whether or not you can improve accuracy. There is a faction that says you are to able to improve accuracy. There is a small group that says you can improve accuracy. I've had a chance to talk to so many quarterback coaches and people that work with quarterbacks and just hearing some of their thoughts. ... But I think it's hard to be a quarterback and not be an accurate thrower. That's what you have to be able to do in our league."
If you took Frazier's response as skepticsm about Locker's chances to excel at the NFL, you're not the only one. Certainly, NFL teams routinely lie when it comes to public pronouncements about the draft. But if Locker truly doesn't pass muster with the Vikings, you wonder if they have another candidate in mind -- Dalton? Florida State's Christian Ponder? -- or if they really do have long-term hopes for a player like Enderle.
We'll know in a few days. But here's what we already know: Like most first-year coaches, Frazier wants someone. On the hop.