Thursday, April 25, 2013

Spielman Mixes Now Expected Good Fortune With Sound Process

The Minnesota Vikings entered the 2013 NFL draft with two late first-round picks.  They emerged from the event with three starters, two of them having fallen to the team through a series of bad picks and need selections by other teams.

With the 23rd pick in this year's draft, the Vikings selected Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd.  Virtually every mock had Floyd projected in the top five of the draft, with most mocks showing the tackle going at number three.  Floyd fell to Minnesota because teams became nervous about the perceived run on offensive linemen and because the Jets took Sheldon Richardson at 13, rather than one of the more highly touted defensive tackles.  And, yet again, Vikings' GM Rick Spielman was the beneficiary of a mighty fall.

That, along with Manti Te'o, probably would have made for the perfect first day for the Vikings.  But fortune was not done shining on the team.  Nor was Spielman done showing his increasing value to the team.

While most expected the Indianapolis Colts to nab free-falling Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes--a player widely viewed as an early to mid-first round pick--the Colts, instead, selected defensive end Bjoern Werner.  The Vikings did not hesitate in selecting Rhodes, picking up a player who will be expected to start this year.

A Floyd-Rhodes combo was more far more than any reasonable Viking fan could have hoped for in the first round this year and yet another sign that Spielman is living right.  But the Vikings were not done.

With multiple middle-round picks and a bottom-third second-round pick, Spielman sent the New England Patriots a second-, third-, fourth-, and seventh-round pick for New England's 29th overall pick.  For some, the price seemed steep.  But if, in selecting mercurial Tennessee wide-receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, the Vikings picked up the receiver that they needed to fill the void left by Percy Harvin's trade to Seattle, Spielman will have made the right move.

In every draft, the goal must be to select three players capable of immediately starting for the team.  Last year, Spielman selected Matt Kalil with the Vikings' original first-round pick, traded up to the bottom of the first round to select safety Harrison Smith, and, later, selected placekicker Blair Walsh.  This year, in addition to adding wide-receiver Greg Jennings in free agency, Spielman has added Floyd, Rhodes, and Patterson.  If the latter three live up to expectations, Spielman will have his second consecutive successful draft--regardless of what happens with any of the other members of the 2012 or 2013 draft class.

What should be most heartening to Vikings' fans about Spielman's two-year run is that he has demonstrated an understanding of process and has committed to a process that is both intuitively sensible and, so far, productive.  The object in the NFL is to find starters at the front end of the draft and role players and specialists at the back end.  Spielman has defined a process that makes use of middle-round chips to provide greater certainty at the front end of the draft while leaving options for filling role positions at the back end of the draft.  This represents a sea change for an organization which, for many years, tappeared to have neither a sensible draft philosophy nor an ability to evaluate talent.

With several picks remaining in the middle and later rounds, the Vikings are now left to canvass the field for an linebacker, another receiver, another cornerback, an offensive guard, and, perhaps, yet another quarterback.  At a minimum, after only one day in this year's draft, the Vikings have met all of their most pressing needs, save for that of linebacker--the position the Vikings almost assuredly will be targeting with their next pick.

Up Next:  Will the Vikings Trade Back Into Round Two?  Plus, the cost of three first-round picks.


HBandM said...

Wow, VG, I think that’s the most optimistic post I’ve seen you write. Ever.

While I would have loved to cheer for fellow Punahou alum Mantei Te’o, it was not to be. Urlacher is still out there…

Great first day for the Vikes.

Peter said...

"I think that’s the most optimistic post I’ve seen you write. Ever."


As far as trade ammo, the Vikings have an extra 3rd round pick in 2014 from Seattle and one Toby Gerhart. I wonder what they could parley those into. I'm hearing about Te'o. dropping or Minter being available later. I'm also hearing about stop gap FA LBs such as Urlacher and Dorsett. So MN has options there, but it would be nice to upgrade at guard, receiver, corner and/or safety.