Thursday, April 30, 2015

Spielman's History Suggests That the Vikings Will Be Picking Twice in the First Round of This Year's Draft

Rick Spielman has served as the Minnesota Vikings' general manager since 2012.  In that time, Minnesota has made 29 selections in the NFL entry draft.  Of those selections, seven were first- or second-round selections.  Of those seven selections, five are currently starters with seemingly bright futures in the NFL, one is a rotational player on defense, and the seventh might be on the way out of Minnesota and possibly out of the league.

During Spielman's tenure in Minnesota, identifying the diamonds has not been a problem.  What has caused problems, however, has been identifying players who can develop into starters in the NFL.  That's a challenge for every NFL team, but, for Spielman, that has appeared to be particularly difficult.

Of the 22 selections that Minnesota has made after the second round during Spielman's tenure as Minnesota's general manager, 16 are still with the Minnesota Vikings.  At first blush, that's a terrific net.  On closer inspection, however, the results have been less than scintillating.  Of the 16, seven are from the 2014 draft and have the benefit of still being in the evaluation stage of their development.  None have shown starter promise, yet, with Jerick McKinnon being the closest to a starter that the Vikings have to offer from the bunch.  The remaining nine offer much of the same, only with a bit more tread, with Jarius Wright and Blair Walsh being the closest things to keepers from the lot.

With annual turn-over through free-agency alone, it is critical for NFL teams to identify a minimum of three position players in each year's draft who can develop into NFL starters in the short term.  Relying on the known, Spielman has come close to meeting this goal with his first- and second-round picks.  He has not helped himself much in the latter rounds, however.

For Spielman, the lesson must be to stick with known entities.  With the 11th pick in this year's draft, that means shoring up the offensive line.  The most obvious target would be Iowa lineman Brandon Scherff, a player capable of playing either guard or tackle.  With their release of Charlie Johnson, the Vikings have an opening along the offensive line.  If Scherff is available, he represents a logical replacement and a substantial upgrade over the sloth-footed Johnson.

Unfortunately, Scherff likely will be off the board at eleven.  But there are still at least two viable alternatives to Scherff in Stanford tackle Andrus Peat and Miami tackle Ereck Flowers.  Following the adage that it is easier to turn a tackle into a guard than a guard into a tackle, both Peat and Flowers offer some flexibility that Scherff might not, in the event that Matt Kalil continues to struggle at left tackle.  Following the adage that Miami players tend to have adjustment issues in the NFL, Peat is the preferable choice.

Solidifying the offensive line would be the safe approach for the Vikings in this year's draft.  There is a second, more tantalizing option, however, that would shore up the offensive line and give the Vikings considerable options at other position.

Spielman has suggested that he is interested in moving down in the draft, but that's not ever been his modus operandi and it doesn't seem particularly logical drafting at eleven--barring a one- or two-slot move.  Instead, it is far more likely that Spielman will trade some of the team's selections from the later rounds to move into the bottom half of the first round for a second first-round pick.

If Spielman lands a second pick in the first round, the Vikings almost certainly will either draft an offensive lineman-running back pair or an offensive-lineman-wide-receiver pair.  Either would help a team in need of help at lineman, receiver, and running back.  But selecting an offensive lineman and running back such as Melvin Gordon would give the Vikings full leverage in their dealings with Adrian Peterson, a player whom the team would prefer to trade under the proper terms.  Having Gordon in the fold likely would allow the team to trade Peterson for a second-round pick this year and a first in the future, without irritating the fan base or undermining the team's present.  And it would give Spielman an opportunity to select in the second round, rather than guessing later.

Up Next:  The Picks.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Well, you were wrong, but geeks can be forgiven. I too, thought Spielman might trade back into the first round, but they, like most, didn't do much trading for the top.

I agree that the Vikes want to trade Peterson if they can get their terms. They are willing to take the risk he will not hold out. They don't seem to think running back is their biggest concern at the moment. They shored up the defense again and took a flyer on the project of fixing up the o-line.

We'll see.