By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
As the Minnesota Vikings prepare to kick off the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine this coming Wednesday, they understand that this year's class brings with it a new and unique challenge. Not only will the team have to sift through thousands and thousands of social media posts and messages to get a grip on a players personality, this year's class will bring with it a unique challenge put on the plates of the team's psychological analysts.
The Vikings made their way to Indianapolis during the first half of this week with a team of nearly sixty individuals poised and ready to deliver their best analysis on the physical, emotional and psychological aptitude of this year's draft class.
Topping the list of players with questions surrounding their mental competency, is arguable one of the top line backers on the board as well. In light of a fake girlfriend scandal that through the college football world into a tizzy, Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o is sure to face a gauntlet of questioning the likes of which has never been seen at the Combine. Regardless of it's uniqueness, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman feels prepared to tackle this new task, admitting that, despite the very public troubles that have plagued Te'o in 2013, he is a good football player and good football players are always on their radar.
Last week, Spielman shared that he was the one who introduced the psychological testing to the Vikings when he joined the team in 2006. Since then, psychoanalysis has become a staple for all 32 teams at the NFL Combine.
"I think it's part of the total picture," Spielman said. "If something from the psychological profiling came up, you address it with that player and you kind of make your own determination too. It's kind of an instinct and an experience factor that goes into that decision. It's a tool, it's not a be-all, end-all."
Once thought to be a top five draft selection, a very public bad game (2013 BCS National Championship game) and a very public fake girlfriend sent Manti Te'o free-falling down draft boards across the league. This unique position has left NFL teams across the country questioning the true value of a player like Te'o. And with millions of dollars on the line, team's are putting as much attention into analyzing the psychological makeup of players as they are the physical status of a player.
Poised to make the 23rd pick in the first round, the Vikings will have to take a long, hard look at Te'o at The Combine this year. With Jasper Brinkley and Erin Henderson set to depart, the already thin linebacking corps is potentially anemic for the 2013 season. Te'o may very well be the best linebacker on the board at 23, but the baggage he brings to the table has left everybody concerned.
Last week Spielman admitted that the situation surrounding Te'o prompted him to watch Dr. Phil and The Katie Couric show for the first time, but in the end insisted that they will treat Manti's situation the same way that they treat anybody else's.
"Every team will have to make their own determination," Spielman said. "How do you compare what happened [to Manti], because he's an extremely talented football player, against a guy who may have a drug issue or may have an arrest record or may have some other off-field issue. Everybody's going to have, just like on any player, their difference of opinion. We'll go through that process as well."
It should also be added that Spielman also added that the Vikings "know some things that have not been reported in the media" surrounding Manti's situation.
On the poor performance in the National Championship game, Spielman had this to say about Te'o.
"I'm sure that's something that will get addressed at the combine. Was it [the girlfriend issue]? Was it because he's such a talented player and on the banquet circuit? I don't know, but I think you evaluate the whole body of work. You don't just evaluate off one game."
"There are other guys you look at who had a poor game in Week three," Spielman continued. "[Manti] just happened to have it in the biggest college game of the year, but I don't think that's a reflection of what he is as a total overall football player."
Having been quiet since his last interview with Dr. Phil, Te'o has surely been working with handlers on constructive ways to answer and deflect interview questions. Spielman and the Vikings have plans for this as well.
"These kids get really polished up for the interview process," Spielman said last week. "We try to [interview] where we can get that guard down and focus on ways to really get to know the kid and take some of that polish off. There's ways, I think, that we've come up with that we can do that."
Whatever the interviews may yield from the Combine this week, the Vikings will have a tough decision to make come draft night. With a big need to fill at linebacker and a talented player falling down the board, Te'o is a very real possibly and could be very good value for the Vikings at pick #23. Let's not right him off because of a fake girlfriend just yet.