EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman is well aware of the biggest shortcoming on his resume.
Whether it was in Miami or Minnesota, Spielman has not been able to find a franchise quarterback and that remains the Vikings' biggest need heading into this year's draft. Most recently, Spielman missed badly when he chose Christian Ponder 12th overall in 2011.
When the Vikings come on the clock at No. 8 in the first round Thursday night, Spielman said he can't afford to let past failures color his judgment if he believes a quarterback is there with the potential to be team's the long-term answer.
"You can't be afraid," Spielman said Tuesday. "Regardless of position, if there's a guy there that you have strong feelings for, whether it's at 8 or 40 or 16, then you take him."
Spielman did just that with Ponder in 2011, believing that Ponder's combination of mobility, intelligence and personality made him an ideal fit. Taking Ponder that high surprised many observers and he struggled in three seasons with turnovers, inaccuracy and injuries. Veteran Matt Cassel will enter training camp atop the depth chart, but the Vikings are still very much in the market for a young guy who can eventually take over.
"When you don't do that, you know, I don't know how you get better," Spielman said of trusting the work the scouting staff puts in evaluating players. "So to me you always have to be aggressive. You have to do things that you think are going to help your football club and help you win ballgames on Sunday. You always have to have that mentality and approach."
In a year when the draft is being held much later than usual, there appears to be more confusion and uncertainty at the top than in recent memory. There are differing opinions on the quarterback class that includes Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Central Florida's Blake Bortles, Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and Alabama's A.J. McCarron.
Spielman said he has run through countless scenarios that include taking a quarterback in the first round or waiting until later in the draft to address the position. If the Vikings don't go with a quarterback right away, they could address needs on the defensive line or in the secondary. Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley, Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Pittsburgh defensive lineman Aaron Donald and Bortles are among the many names being linked to the Vikings.
"I've read the mocks," Spielman said with his usual self-assuredness. "Everybody reads the mocks because we're tired of yelling at each other. At night I read the mocks, kind of get caught up on things. You guys are missing some names on our spot at 8, I can tell you that."
There remains a strong possibility that the Vikings will trade down Thursday night. Spielman said he "loves" wheeling and dealing on draft day, and he has a history of making deals to accumulate extra draft picks, and then using those draft picks to move around if a player the team covets is sliding down the board.
He said he's already had multiple inquiries about potential deals, and not just in the first round. As usual, he will let things play out and see where things stand on Thursday night when the Vikings come on the clock before making a decision.
Spielman said he would not trade Ponder on draft night because the team has only two quarterbacks on the roster. Spielman also shot down rumors that the Vikings were speaking with the St. Louis Rams about trading for Sam Bradford.
"I have not had any specific talks with the Rams," he said.
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