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Updated: April 5th, 2011 3:26pm
Notebook: Five positions in play for Vikings at No. 12, Spielman says

Notebook: Five positions in play for Vikings at No. 12, Spielman says

by Tom Pelissero
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Quarterback stands alone as the Minnesota Vikings' most pressing need in the upcoming NFL Draft.

But the most important position is far from the only one at which the Vikings need help, and vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman on Tuesday said the team is honing in on five positions if it stands pat at No. 12 overall.

"There are a lot of other needs to fill at that 12th position if it's not a quarterback," Spielman said. "I can tell you this: we're going to take the best player available when it comes to our pick. That I know."

Though Spielman declined to reveal the other four positions, roster makeup and positional value seems to make them obvious:

• Two of the Vikings' starting defensive linemen, nose tackle Pat Williams and left end Ray Edwards, are free agents and unlikely to return.

• At age 31, left tackle Bryant McKinnie is in decline at another core position usually addressed with first-round picks.

• The Vikings want to re-sign receiver Sidney Rice, but he plans to test the free-agent market and depth is shaky behind him.

• Two of the Vikings' top three cornerbacks, Cedric Griffin and Chris Cook, are coming off season-ending knee injuries, and Antoine Winfield turns 34 in June.

Coach Leslie Frazier has said he wants to upgrade the tight end position as well, and strong cases can be made for addressing the interior offensive line and safety. However, it's extremely rare for guards or centers to be drafted before the late first round, and the tight end and safety groups in this draft lack a standout worthy of consideration at No. 12.

Spielman said the pre-draft process this year has been "a lot more detailed," in large part because the Vikings have made an effort to spend extra time with most of the top quarterbacks. Whom they end up targeting at that position -- signs have pointed to Missouri's Blaine Gabbert as their top target -- seems certain to dictate any consideration of trading up or down in Round 1.

"It seems like that has definitely dominated the conversation, and for good reason, because of our situation," Frazier said. "We have other needs other than quarterback, but that is the most glaring one, because when you look at teams that played in the Super Bowl and the teams that were in the playoffs, they had quality quarterbacks, guys they can hang their hats on for years to come, and we want to get to that point as well."

Two quarterbacks, Arkansas' Ryan Mallett and TCU's Andy Dalton, were expected to be among the prospects attending the Vikings' "Top 30" event, which kicked off on Tuesday. The Vikings also had dinner with Gabbert after his campus workout last month and reportedly have held private workouts with at least four other quarterbacks.

Scheduling conflict

A day after canceling the minicamp scheduled for this weekend, Frazier said he won't try to schedule any other activities involving players until the lockout ends.

"You can have thoughts but nothing is concrete," Frazier said. "You just wait and be patient."

As a first-year head coach, Frazier would have been permitted two mandatory minicamps instead of one this year. Not only is there no guarantee the next CBA will include that provision -- owners' last proposal to players called for scaled-back offseason workouts -- it's unknown whether the labor situation even will be resolved in time for it to matter.

"Right now we're just so busy with the draft that you don't think about it very much," Frazier said. "That takes up a lot of my thought process. Who were taking in the draft and are we looking at the right kids? Just trying to discern who fits us best.

"To be honest, the lockout doesn't really enter into your mind right now. This is my first draft in this role, so that is all encompassing for me."

Quick hits

• Spielman said he doesn't anticipate the lockout's ban on player transactions affecting draft-day trades. "Very rarely do you see a player for a pick trade during draft day," Spielman said. "So, I think it will be just business as usual."

• New linebackers coach Mike Singletary said he didn't have a chance to speak with any players before the lockout began. But after watching tape, he believes it is "a very solid group. A very good group with the opportunity to be a very special group. I think that's the thing that I'm really excited about."

• Spielman continued to reiterate he doesn't believe there will be disagreements with Frazier when the Vikings are on the clock. "Draft day, there is no discussions," Spielman said. "We know exactly what we're going to do, and we're going to know the options. We don't talk about players on draft. Everything has been discussed, and everything has been stacked. We put them in specific order - 'If this guy is here, we're going one, two, three.'"

• Many coaches and team officials were on hand for a charity luncheon put on by Athletes in Action, a global sports ministry group, and Target. Former NFL coach Tony Dungy, who is close friends with Frazier, gave the keynote address. Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk, a St. Paul native, also attended.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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