EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Leslie Frazier has dreamed for years about one day stepping into an NFL draft room as a head coach.
He may be getting a little more than he bargained for in his first crack at it with the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings have the 12th overall pick in the first round Thursday night. But this year’s draft is different from any other. Labor strife and a lockout have prevented teams from addressing needs via trade or free agency.
That means the onus is even greater on the rookies to be contributors sooner rather than later. That puts a lot of pressure on them, and the people who select them.
Frazier has spent long hours with his coaches, scouts and vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman to prepare for one of the most important drafts in franchise history. The Vikings have major needs all over the field, none bigger than quarterback after Brett Favre retired for the third and, presumably, final time.
The Vikings also could use help on the offensive and defensive lines, at receiver and in the secondary. And with no idea when they will be able to dip into the free agent pool, it all starts this weekend.
Frazier, who coached the last four games of the season after Brad Childress before he was named the permanent replacement in January, has been involved in drafts before. As Childress’s assistant head coach and defensive coordinator, he had considerable say in who the Vikings picked on that side of the ball.
Now he has influence over the entire roster.
“So now, I have to look at it globally, especially when it comes to special teams, offense and defense, that’s a little bit different,” he said. “But it’s not something I’ve never had to do before and I really enjoy doing it.”
Frazier’s personality is different than that of Childress. Frazier appears to focus more on collaboration with his coaches, with the owners and with Spielman and top personnel executives Scott Studwell and George Paton. So who makes the final call on draft picks?
“It’s not like I’m trying to dictate or say it’s my way or the highway,” Frazier said. “I’ve got a lot of good people around me that I trust and the fact that we can communicate, we’ll resolve whatever differences of opinions we might have because we are working toward the same common goal and that’s what’s best for the Vikings.”
Spielman, a planner to the end, said he has enjoyed working with Frazier and bringing him into the college scouting side of the organization. Until now, Frazier has been concentrating primarily on the pro side, evaluating his roster and seeing where they need to improve.
“Leslie was outstanding,” Spielman said of the meetings they’ve held to prepare for the draft. “Very good at listening. It’s great because he’s getting a chance to see, like he talked about, the whole picture now.”
From the time he was named as the permanent successor to Childress, Frazier said one of the top priorities is drafting and developing a young quarterback. For years — aside from Daunte Culpepper — the Vikings have brought in veterans from outside the organization to play the game’s most important position.
Players like Favre, Jeff George, Randall Cunningham and Warren Moon all have had their moments in the last two decades. The Vikings are now looking for a player they can draft and plug right in for 10 years or more, a franchise quarterback to lead them to the Super Bowl they haven’t been to in more than three decades.
“That would be the ideal situation,” Frazier said. “I referenced a couple of guys, three guys, that have done it in the last couple of years — (Mark) Sanchez, (Joe) Flacco and Matt Ryan down in Atlanta — and hopefully that will be the case for us, but who knows who is going to be there at 12?”
Washington’s Jake Locker, Florida State’s Christian Ponder, TCU’s Andy Dalton and Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett are all possibilities for the Vikings, either at No. 12 or if they trade down in an attempt to recoup the third-round pick they dealt to New England for Randy Moss.
Other possibilities in the first round include Florida offensive lineman Mike Pouncey, Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara and North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn.
“We have some ideas about some people that we really, really like and we’ll just have to see how things play out,” Frazier said. “Some of what you like depends on what happens ahead of you and sometimes behind you. So we’ll just have to see how things go.”
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