In the draft world, everyone will agree that nothing is more difficult to predict than draft-day trades. While trades will make any mock draft or team prediction more exotic and captivating, they are far from accurate more times than not.
Saying that, here are five pre-draft trades that Rick Spielman could be pursuing and the ripple effects they might have. Like every year, free agency will determine the draft. However, the Vikings have a handful of veterans at richly deep positions. Guys like Anthony Barr and Everson Griffen could attract a positionally needy team that has multiple selections to spend.
ANTHONY BARR TO THE OAKLAND RAIDERS FOR PICK #27
For Spielman, there isn’t a bigger-named free agent than Anthony Barr, who could be franchised and then swapped for picks. Jon Gruden took the heat when he cut loose the best pass rusher in the NFL in Khalil Mack. Now with extra picks in his pocket, Gruden has the luxury to get a young and still developing tool as a guy who can get after the passer. The fact the Raiders would still have two other first-rounders (including the fourth overall pick) could mean they’d be more likely to swap for a proven Pro Bowl player at a position of weakness.
HOW IT COULD SHAKE OUT:
18) DALTON RISNER, OL, KANSAS STATE
Offensive lineman first and foremost with a top-tier physical skillset that can start inside or out.
27) DEVIN BUSH, LB, MICHIGAN
A linebacker-for-linebacker swap when they use their pick from Anthony Barr on Michigan’s Devin Bush, a high flying hammer.
50) DRU SAMIA, OG, OKLAHOMA
More guard help as the Vikings may have to spend all their early attention on their weakest unit.
81) JERRY TILLERY, DT, NOTRE DAME
Good value in a loaded second tier of defensive lineman. Tillery offers size up the middle, along with great pass rushing skills. If and when Sheldon Richardson departs, there will be a costly need in the middle to compete with Jaleel Johnson right away.
120) BEN BURR KIRVEN, LB, WASHINGTON
Another linebacker is still needed to bolster the depth of a quietly weak group top to bottom. Kirven was a tackling machine, destroying everything in his grasp as the Pac-12 linebacker of the year.
190) PENNY HART, WR, GEORGIA STATE
In a pass-happy league you can’t have enough legitimate weapons. The Vikings receiving core needs more competition both outside the hashes and inside at the slot position. Hart is undersized but explosive out of his breaks, looking uncoverable down at the Senior Bowl. A cheap lottery ticket that has big upside and a possible jackpot return.
EVERSON GRIFFEN AND LAQUON TREADWELL TO THE OAKLAND RAIDERS FOR PICKS #66 AND #131
I’m not saying they will, but after coming off a down year with some off-field concerns, the Vikings could deal Griffen to a Raiders defense that had a league-worst 13 sacks. This deal wouldn’t even be a discussion if not for the outstanding depth provided by Stephen Weatherly behind him. Throwing in Laquon Treadwell is a cherry on top, offering a young physical option that has yet to come close to his potential for nothing but peanuts.
HOW IT COULD SHAKE OUT:
18) GREG LITTLE, OT, OLE MISS
If any one of the top-tier offensive lineman are still there, than pick 18 is a no-brainer. A former five-star recruit Little would be a starter immediately and add more youth and talent into the mix.
50) CHARLES OMENIHU, DL, TEXAS
I’ll always find a way to plug in Omenihu when I can. My early draft crush on day two for Andre Patterson to develop as a player who can disrupt from both the edge and tackle positions.
66) MICHAEL DIETER, OG, WISCONSIN
Finish the job on the O-line with your first of two picks acquired from Oakland.
81) DRE’MONT JONES, DT, OHIO STATE
The more I watch of him the more I think he won’t be around this late. However, with a loaded defensive line class, someone of high caliber and great value should fall in their laps.
120) ANDY ISABELLA, WR, BOSTON COLLEGE
Another possibility in a deep group of wide outs. Isabella accounted for nearly half of his entire offenses production, by far the best in the country. With rumors he’s been training with Randy Moss and could run in the 4.3s, Isabella could be a huge riser at the combine.
131) OSHANE XIMINES, EDGE, OLD DOMINION
Stiff in the hips without as much flexibility, but Ximenes still knows how to get home with 32 tackles for loss and 20 sacks the last two seasons of play. Coach Patterson now has two new players with huge upside added to the talented rotation.
190) FOSTER MOREAU, TE, LSU
A tremendous blocking tight end that will help soften the edges of Kubiak’s zone scheme. And although he lacks much burst after the catch, Moreau has NFL size that could still translate in the red zone immediately.
XAVIER RHODES TO THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES FOR PICKS #25 AND #57
After consistently replenishing the cornerback position, the Vikings have put together one of the deepest units in the entire NFL from top to bottom. At his best he’s a top-tier shutdown cornerback. However, Rhodes hasn’t been able to stay on the field as much as many would like.
The Eagles have extra second-round picks, giving them ammo to make a blockbuster move at a major position of weakness.
HOW IT COULD SHAKE OUT:
18) T.J. HOCKENSON, TE, IOWA
If he’s there, you have to pull the trigger. The best tight end prospect I’ve seen over the past few drafts that is both a polished pass catcher and devastating blocker. Hockenson will give Kirk Cousins a legitimate third option in the offense while paving holes for Dalvin Cook and the running game. One of the most complete prospects in the entire class that all 32 teams would be lucky to have.
25) RASHAN GARY, DL, MICHIGAN
Gary is a guy that could soar after Indianapolis with his light feet and athleticism for such a powerfully big man. The Vikings and Coach Zimmer will love his versatility, showing the ability to win both at tackle and off the edge equally. This pick would assist with life after Sheldon Richardson.
50) GARRETT BRADBURY, IOL, NC STATE
They’d be cutting it close by waiting, but there are still plenty of scenarios that allow the front office to get starting quality interior linemen outside of round one. Like teammate Pat Elflein, Bradbury is a Rimington Trophy winner for the nation’s best center.
57) DRU SAMIA, OG, OKLAHOMA
A dream scenario where the Vikings stay true to their board with the best available early and still get two starting guards on day two. The risk was easily worth the reward this time around when you look at the haul thus far.
81) ROCK YA-SIN, CB, TEMPLE
Even after trading star Xavier Rhodes, this secondary is still in tip-top shape. But that wont stop Zimmer from banging on the table for another talented defensive back. Ya-Sin is a talented ball of clay with all the physical tools to be a major contributor in the NFL.
120) TERRILL HANKS, LB, NEW MEXICO STATE
Three straight seasons with over 100 tackles, Hanks is ready to jump into the NFL and help on special teams right away while competing for the backup job.
190) DEVIN SINGLETARY, RB, FAU
One of my favorite Day 3 bargain buys. Singletary jumps off the tape with crazy balance to stay on his feet through the toughest of circumstances. Injuries have kept him off the field, but when healthy he offers home-run potential every touch.
TRAE WAYNES TO THE INDIANAPOLIS COLTS FOR PICKS #34 AND #164
The Vikings and Colts seem like plausible trade partners given the circumstances I previously stated above. Waynes would cost the Vikings nothing in dead cap space, and there’s no guarantee they re-sign him the following offseason.
HOW IT COULD SHAKE OUT:
18) CHRIS LINDSTROM, OG, BOSTON COLLEGE
The number one need is offensive guard, plain and simple. Lindstrom is the best pure guard in the draft. Punch it, and don’t look back.
34) DEVIN BUSH, LB, MICHIGAN
I’m loving him more and more as LB2 in an ultra-weak class. Nabbing him here would take a bit of luck. However, his small frame and short stature may push him down similar to Eric Kendricks at Pick 45.
50) AMANI ORUWARIYE, CB, PENN STATE
Despite great depth remaining, Zimmer can’t help himself here with a ball-hawking playmaker. When it comes to coming down with the contested catches, Oruwariye is everything Waynes wasn’t. Just like that, this secondary is stocked up with young talent again.
81) ERIK MCCOY, IOL, TEXAS A&M
The second best center in the class, McCoy will play next to Pat Elflein one way or another from Day 1. Now, with Lindstrom and McCoy, the Vikings are set to give Kirk Cousins the clean pocket he needs.
120) JAYLON FERGUSON, EDGE, LOUISIANA TECH
Freaky college production capped off by a senior season with 26 TFLs and 17.5 sacks. Ferguson may not light the combine on fire, but he could be a solid starter for a long time.
164) KHALEN SAUNDERS, DT, WESTERN ILLINOIS
A powerful clog in the middle with much better quickness than you might expect. Coach Andre Patterson gets two new toys in back-to-back picks.
190) TREVON DIGGS, CB, ALABAMA
ANTHONY BARR AND KYLE SLOTER TO THE NEW YORK GIANTS FOR PICKS #37 AND #132
Another suitor for the 6-foot-5, 26-year-old linebacker. Despite inconsistent play, Barr played in his fourth pro bowl in as many years and proved once again to be a key component inside the powerhouse defense. Meanwhile, Kyle Sloter remains one of the better young and developing third-string quarterbacks in the NFL. Even better, Pat Shurmur has seen him up close and personal and would love to have Sloter working behind Eli Manning for cheap.
HOW IT COULD SHAKE OUT:
18) ED OLIVER, DL, HOUSTON
Before you go shaking your head, remember this: every year a few defensive linemen fall further than they had been projected leading up to draft weekend, much like former Vikings DT Sharrif Floyd. While at one time last season it couldn’t be any higher, Oliver’s stock has dropped heading into the pre-draft process. However, with game-changing skills that can blow up the interior of an offensive game plan, Oliver would be a prized weapon for Mike Zimmer, assuming the departure of Sheldon Richardson.
37) YODNY CAJUSTE, OT, WEST VIRGINIA
The last of the top-tier tackles, Cajuste will help improve the Vikings power in the trenches right away while adding a major shot of youth into the unit.
50) MACK WILSON, LB, ALABAMA
All things considered, I think getting Wilson here would be a steal. While he isn’t always flashy, Wilson is clearly planted inside the top-tier of linebackers in an otherwise weak class. A true three-down linebacker that will make plays on both sidelines, much like Oliver, Wilson helps soften the blow of a big-named departure in Anthony Barr.
81) ELGTON JENKINS, IOL, MISSISSIPPI STATE
It remains to be seen if the Vikings have any notion of moving Pat Elflein to guard. However, there are a handful of outstanding options at the center position on Day 2. Jenkins is in the thick of the top tier of centers with his physical style of play and quick wits. Adding him and Cajuste into the mix would turn a weakness into a strength right away.
120) DARRELL HENDERSON, RB, MEMPHIS
A lightning bug of chaos, Henderson is small and slippery making it easy to get loose for huge plays. While Dalvin Cook remains the main man in the backfield, it’s imperative to have another game-changer waiting in the wings if Cook goes down once again.
132) DAWSON KNOX, TE, OLE MISS
It’s a loaded class of underrated playmaking tight ends, and guys like Knox are exactly why. Despite his big play talents, Knox was buried behind WR1 D.K. Metcalf, as well as A.J. Brown and Damarkus Lodge. All three of these wide outs will be drafted earlier than later on draft weekend. Knox shined as brightly as any of them when finally given the opportunity to shine in the offense. Grabbing a piece of this talented tight end class gives the front office more flexibility with aging Kyle Rudolph in the near future.
190) T.J. EDWARDS, LB, WISCONSIN
More depth is needed with a thin group behind Eric Kendricks and not much else. Edwards was a machine in the Badgers front-seven as a dependable piece in the middle.