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INMAN’S MOCK DRAFT COLLECTION
With the NFL Draft coming up on Thursday, the Minnesota Vikings likely have a plan in place for how they’d like to execute their eight picks.
But as notoriously tight-lipped general manager Rick Spielman confessed in his pre-draft press conference Tuesday, nobody outside the room really knows what they’re thinking, and he wasn’t eager to share any further secrets.
“I don’t know what other teams are thinking right now. Teams don’t know what we’re thinking,” he said at TCO Performance Center. “Teams could be putting stuff out there that might not be true, but they want it out there. So what we’re doing is just honing on what we believe, what our draft board is, how we have that draft board developed and how we’re going to attack this draft.”
The best we can do is read between the lines and see what Spielman goes on record admitting — or not admitting.
- Spielman is not committing to the offensive line in Round 1. And why would he? While offensive line remains the number one need, the Vikings have found O-Line starters in Day 2 of the draft each of the past two years, and Spielman doesn’t want to lock himself into a position group before seeing how the board plays out on Thursday. “If there’s a unique situation where a Pro Bowl caliber player falls to you at No. 18 and you’re taking a less talented player,” said Spielman, “I think you’re going to make a mistake.”The GM explained that the Vikings have been inconveniently positioned behind runs on offensive linemen the past two years. In 2017’s third-round flurry, they were forced to trade up in the third round to draft Pat Elflein. In 2018, they watched first-round prospects fly off the board and had to settle for Brian O’Neill in Round 2. “I always kind of go into a draft really truly honing in on, let’s just get the best guys that we can and get them in here and hopefully fill a need at the same time.”
- When it comes to offensive linemen, zone-scheme fits are a priority. With Gary Kubiak’s influence on the running game, the Vikings seem as determined as ever to bring in prospects on the line that fit Kubiak’s mold of quick, athletic, lateral-moving athletes. “There’s a point of emphasis on specific traits we’re looking for to run what we’re going to run on offense,” Spielman said. “And when you get on the same page with the coaches, where we recognize this guy is a good player, but he may be a really good starter in this scheme — he may not be a really good scheme in another scheme. So you have to marry that up.”This bodes well for the mobile Andre Dillard, Garrett Bradbury and Chris Lindstrom; perhaps not as well for the slower Cody Ford or Greg Little.
- Spielman’s wife would not be happy with another corner selection. “She said if I draft another corner, don’t come home,” Spielman joked. “‘You could just stay in the office.'” Maybe it’s the ultimate smokescreen, and Spielman is getting needled by head coach Mike Zimmer to look at Greedy Williams or Byron Murphy. Or maybe he and the Vikings are content fulfilling their need for more corner depth later in the draft. The next bullet point may have a big influence on the team’s decision, though Spielman did drop this qualifier after his wife anecdote: “There are some pretty good corners we like in the first round.”
- Spielman kind of tempered the rumors of a potential Trae Waynes trade, but didn’t exactly squash it. When asked if he might consider dealing a player to conserve salary cap space, Spielman averted a direct answer — but leaned more towards a ‘No.’Speculation has abounded over the Vikings’ cap woes, making a cornerback trade one of the most logical solutions. Waynes’ departure before his contract season would clear up around $9 million of cap space. Spielman said he hadn’t received any calls on Waynes but left a morsel for any teams who might pick up the phone. “It would have to be value to get rid of a player,” he said, “because we do have a pretty good roster.” There isn’t much precedent for the current GM dealing players on draft day, dating back to his first year as sole GM in 2012. While Spielman said he’s not anticipating any moves right now, he’ll at least be answering the phone. “I can say no right now, and then I can go up and get a phone call an hour later.”
- There is a plan in place to rectify the salary cap situation. Could it be through the aforementioned trade? Or something else? We’re left in the dark as to how the Vikings will sign their draft class, but Spielman indicated they are not just “shooting from the hip.””There’s a method, and there’s a plan in place from a budgetary standpoint on what we need to do and how we need to get there,” Spielman assured. The Vikings will need $4-5 million to sign their draft class and currently have less than half of that remaining in cap space. Kyle Rudolph voiced his willingness last week to accept a restructured contract but said he hadn’t been contacted. Barring a straight cash dump via trade, cap manager Rob Brzezinski will have to get creative.