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Updated: May 7th, 2014 8:32pm
Vikings GM Spielman sounds anxious to draft, with eyes to select a QB

Vikings GM Spielman sounds anxious to draft, with eyes to select a QB

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by Derek Wetmore
1500ESPN.com

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Vikings general manager Rick Spielman sounds like he's ready to stop analyzing and start drafting.

"It's been so long, this process," Spielman said Tuesday at a pre-draft press conference. "But very excited about Thursday night finally getting here. Can't wait to get on the clock."

It's been an extra long wait this year because the NFL moved its draft back to May. That allowed the Vikings to catch up, after finishing a coaching search and studying a draft class bloated with underclassmen.

With the draft pushed back two weeks, though, "It still seems like forever," Spielman said. 

It doesn't feel like it's overstating the importance of the upcoming decision to say that the next quarterback Spielman selects could define the GM's legacy.

We'll always remember the swing and miss on Christian Ponder in 2011. The Vikings' personnel boss can atone for that mistake during the 2014 NFL Draft, one he says is deep with quarterbacks.

"To me either you're the franchise guy or you're not good enough.  That's why teams are always trying to find that franchise guy," Spielman said.

Three years after he drafted Ponder it's fair to label the Florida State product a bust, meaning Spielman and the Vikings are again in the market for a quarterback.

"I know I'm going to get criticized -- and I take full responsibility for -- is Christian Ponder a bust or is [he] not a bust?" Spielman asked rhetorically.

"I know in traveling with Norv [Turner], I think we went to nine or 10 different quarterback public workouts, plus we did them privately as well," Spielman said. "All these stars have to line up [for a quarterback to pan out]."

Of course, Spielman would not tip his hand in the hours leading up to the draft. With that in mind, his answers to questions involving quarterbacks still may be informative. He didn't say anything in particular to disparage Ponder. And yet it probably is fair to guess at what he meant in his references.

"I know how Norv feels about Matt Cassel and I know how Norv feels about Christian Ponder at this time. ... and where they potentially are going to be next year as well. But Christian is still a very young quarterback. He's shown flashes but he just hasn't been as consistent as you wanted yet," Spielman said.

A short time after that partial defense, Spielman made clear he will not trade Ponder during the draft.

Will the Great Reach from 2011 discourage Spielman from drafting another quarterback early this year? He insists it will not.

"You can't be afraid, regardless of position, if there's a guy [available] that you have strong feelings for, whether it's at 8 or 40, or wherever it is - or 16 - then you take him," Spielman said. "The one thing you cannot be afraid in this job is to take chances or take risks on guys that you feel strongly about.

"When you don't do that, you know, I don't know how you get better.  So to me you always have to be aggressive."

The Vikings currently own picks 8 and 40 overall in the first and second rounds, respectively. But why the reference to 16 - a selection currently owned by the Dallas Cowboys? Might Spielman have orchestrated a trade, contingent on a player Dallas wants being available at 8? It's a possibility, but it's anyone's guess at this time of year.

"I would say if we covet a quarterback at 8, and let's say the next quarterback we would not touch until the second round, we're going to sit there and be patient and wait.  That's where we have him.  If he comes to us, great.  If not, we'll get another very good football player and move on," Spielman said. "We have quarterbacks lined up, I would say, throughout the draft at different rounds where we feel comfortable taking them.  We only have two [on the roster currently], so I know we need to get a third, as well."

Derek Wetmore is the senior editor for 1500ESPN.com. His previous stops include MLB.com and the Minnesota Daily.
Email Derek | @DerekWetmore
In this story: Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder
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