Minnesota Vikings GM Rick Spielman Has the Ammo to Move Around the Draft Board
There’s a reason why fans often refer to Minnesota Vikings GM Rick Spielman as Slick Rick. After more than a decade of General Managing in Minnesota, Spielman has repeatedly demonstrated his proclivity for trading.
It isn’t just his propensity for squirreling away sixth-round draft picks like a squirrel preparing for winter. He has also made massive trades outside of the draft. Sam Bradford, Stefon Diggs, and Yannick Ngakoue (X2) are merely a few recent ones that come to mind. That being said, an oft overlooked Slick Rick detail rests in his history of moving up in the draft.
A Brief History
How did the Vikings turn themselves into an above-average team from 2015-2020? Well, a large part of the equation rested in accumulating high draft picks. In 2012, Minnesota took Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith in the first. In 2013, they took Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes, and Cordarrelle Patterson in the first. In 2014, they took Anthony Barr and Teddy Bridgewater in the first. Seven first round draft picks in a three-year window. Not bad.
Fast forward to our current moment. Minnesota took two first-round draft picks in 2020: Justin Jefferson and Jeff Gladney. Jefferson was nothing short of sensational. He is an All-Pro, and the rightful heir of the OROY throne (back off, Herbert). Gladney, though not nearly as spectacular, still had a strong rookie year, all things considered (listen to Blitzology Brian on our most recent pod if you disagree).
We now come to 2021. Minnesota has the 14th overall pick, and it’s safe to say that most of the discussion has involved trading down. There’s an important caveat, though. It takes two to tango, as they say. For him to continue with his slick ways, Spielman will need to find someone to trade with. If no one wants that 14th pick, then there is no trade. Moreover, the trade has to be worth it. Rick Spielman needs to make a decision that is in the best interest of the Minnesota Vikings; that means he needs to get sufficient compensation to move down.
Moving Around the Draft
It’s entirely possible that all the stars will align and Spielman will move down. What I’m trying to suggest, though, is not only that it’s plausible Spielman instead moves up from 14, but also that he moves back up into the first round.
First, the case for moving up from 14. There are several players in the top 10 who would likely make a massive difference in Minnesota. How about a Penei Sewell and Brian O’Neill tackle tandem for the next several years? Sounds appealing to me, and I’m sure the Vikings’ front office would agree. Making it happen would require leveraging their draft ammo to move up.
As of early January, the Vikings officially have ten picks. They have two thirds, three fourths, and two fifths. Now, tossing in an extra third with the 14th pick isn’t going to be enough to move into the top 5-10 picks. Nevertheless, the Vikings do have some ability to shift around the board, especially since they can draw on future years to help move around. It may not be a smart move, but Spielman and Zimmer are both sitting on the hot seat (it’s a big seat). Don’t be shocked if they steal from Peter to pay for Paul.
Moving back up into the first round is also a legit possibility. Again, let’s go back into our time machine. The Vikings don’t have Smith patrolling the secondary unless they trade back up into the first. The Vikings don’t have Patterson burning it down the sideline with another long return unless they trade back up in the first round. Bridgewater may not have as many defining moments in a purple jersey, but that doesn’t change the fact that Spielman traded back up into the first to go get him. There is a precedent here.
Here’s the irony of it all: in order to move back up in the late-first, Minnesota may need to first trade back from 14. Doing so might get them a second rounder (depending on how far they go back), which could then be used as the main bargaining chip to get back into the late first.
Players to Target
All this discussion inevitably leads us into an important question: will there even be any players Minnesota would want in, for instance, a 27-32 range? Well, as my wife would say, “Is a duck’s butt watertight?” The answer to this rhetorical question, I’m told by people who know, is a definitive yes. Both Spielman and Zimmer know that the issue isn’t merely a lack of talent but, rather, the lack of elite talent. Quite often, elite talent comes from the first round.
Interested fans should take a look at PFF’s Top 100 Board. Their 20th ranked prospect, Jayson Oweh, certainly sounds like an intriguing player: “Oweh can do things physically that other edge rushers can only dream of. With reported 4.3 speed, he can play both ends of an option play with ease. The Penn State product took a massive step forward this season as a run defender in his first season as a starter, earning an 89.8 grade in the process.” If he started to fall into the late 20s, would Spielman go get him? Sounds like he would be a nightmare to block, especially if Danielle Hunter comes back healthy.
Wyatt Davis is widely considered to be the top iOL prospect in the draft, and PFF has him as their 33rd ranked prospect. A world where the Vikings have strong guard play is one that I want to live in (I miss you, Steve Hutchinson).
What about Alim McNeil? PFF says he has the potential to be a “holy grail” insofar as he is a 320 pound DT who also has a really strong pass rushing grade: “He’s got one of the best first steps in the entire draft class even though he weighs 320 pounds. He earned grades of 80.8 and 77.5 as a pass-rusher the past two seasons — mostly from a true 0-tech alignment.” Don’t be shocked if Spielman makes a move here.
A lot will happen between now and the draft. The Minnesota Vikings and Rick Spielman therefore have a lot of time to hone their plan. The departure of George Paton likely makes the process a little trickier, but the Vikings will be ready. The safe money is on them continually moving back, but don’t be at all surprised if Spielman aggressively moves up. There is a precedent of him doing so, and now might be the time to put that Slick Rick moniker to good use.