Vikings

Vikings GM Rick Spielman Never Stops Trading and Other Draft Highlights

Photo Credit: Kirby Lee (USA Today Sports)

The NFL Draft is always one of the most anticipated sporting events every year. Millions tune in to watch the NFL Commissioner get showered by boos and then read a bunch of names from a notecard.

Of course, the significance of the names is what draws in sports fans. NFL Draft time is about the one period every year when every football fan is optimistic about their team. The previous season is in the past and no longer matters. The upcoming season is the focus, and each team has a record of 0-0.

The draft was especially meaningful this season. Aside from the recent WNBA Draft, virtually no live sporting events have been televised in recent weeks, and fans have been yearning for something, anything. The NFL Draft provided that entertainment, and it’s not a surprise that it was the most-watched NFL Draft in history.

Credit needs to be given to the NFL, ESPN, ABC and all of the IT employees that made the draft possible. Everything went smoothly with no glaring hiccups.

We would have known if there was some sort of issue if Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman had taken any sort of break. However, Spielman was on the phones constantly during the entire draft. How else do you accumulate 17 (!) draft picks in a single draft?

It’s worth mentioning that the Vikings entered the draft with 12 picks due to compensatory selections and several selections from Buffalo in the Stefon Diggs trade. But 12 picks? That’s not enough for Trader Rick. He had to set a record.

It began when the Vikings were on the clock at No. 25 overall. Spielman moved back six spots to No. 31 overall and still got his guy, cornerback Jeff Gladney from TCU, and gained a fourth-round pick in the process. The Vikings were mostly quiet on Day 2 until the end of the night when Spielman took his trade-down addiction to another level.

Spielman traded the 105th overall pick, near the end of the third round, to New Orleans for pick Nos. 130, 169, 203 and 244. The Saints used that pick on a tight end, which might be the funniest part of the trade.

By the way, those picks were all the Saints had left in the 2020 draft at that point. Meanwhile, the trade increased Minnesota’s pick total to 17 — and 13 alone in rounds 4-7.

That’s right. The Vikings entered Day 3 of the draft with 13 picks remaining. The Saints entered Day 3 with zero picks remaining. Both of those facts are simply outrageous. Vikings beat writers had to be soiling themselves at the thought of covering 13 draft picks in a single day.

Minnesota then made trades with Chicago and Baltimore on Day 3 to gain draft picks in 2021. The Vikings gave the Bears the 155th overall pick (fifth round) for a 2021 fourth-rounder. Spielman then moved pick Nos. 201 and 219 to Baltimore for No. 225 and a fifth-rounder in 2021.

When it was all said and done, Spielman and the Vikings selected 15 players in the 2020 NFL Draft, which is a record in the seven-round era.

Oh yeah, Spielman has already started on 2021. The Vikings already have 12 picks in next year’s draft if you include likely compensatory selections awarded for some of the free agents that left the Vikings this offseason.

Trading down has been, and will always be, part of Spielman’s draft day strategy. In the nine years since Spielman has been the general manager of the Vikings, Minnesota has never made fewer than eight picks and has made 10 or more picks six times in the draft. During the five years prior to Spielman’s tenure when Brad Childress controlled the roster, the Vikings never had more than eight picks.

Spielman’s repeated trading down during the draft highlighted a unique virtual NFL Draft experience that provided some new entertainment from the traditional broadcasts of previous years. We had the chance to see inside the homes of coaches and front office executives all across the NFL, many with their families. We saw some outstanding NFL Draft home setups. We saw the Green Bay Packers put together one of the worst drafts in recent memory. And we saw commissioner Roger Goodell’s fatigue set in as he announced over 100 draft picks on Thursday and Friday night from his basement.

This new draft broadcast delivered some incredibly entertaining moments. Let’s recap.

Roger Goodell’s Fatigue Gradually Set In

Goodell makes $40 million per year. He’s relatable to the average person in almost no way at all. Even when the NFL set him up to share a touching story or give thanks to frontline workers during the broadcast, it lacked sincerity. Goodell has almost no charisma, and it’s no surprise why he is mercilessly booed at the NFL Draft every year.

However, Goodell became relatable to everybody watching the NFL Draft on Thursday and Friday as he slowly showed his fatigue when announcing picks. He began Thursday night in a suit and standing upright with excellent posture. By the end of Friday night, Goodell was lounging back in his chair, in a sweater, nearly falling asleep like your rich uncle on Thanksgiving.

Any normal person would progress the same way Goodell did in that scenario. I’m sure his back started to ache and he probably started to sweat a little bit. Plus, the NFL Draft takes way too long, so he was definitely up past his bedtime both nights. He was probably exhausted.

It was at this point we knew Goodell had just thrown in the towel.

It’s the most relatable Goodell has ever been. Part of me is hoping for a virtual draft in 2021 so we can watch this progression all over again.

Mike McCarthy Sits two Inches From His Camera

One of the best parts of the draft broadcast was getting to look in at the home setups of NFL coaches and front-office executives. New Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy decided to set his camera about two inches from his face, and it was a sight to behold when the Cowboys were on the clock.

McCarthy is definitely wearing sweatpants or shorts with that suit on. It’s the only explanation he has for placing the camera that freaking close to his face.

Trey Wingo Roasts Kirk Cousins

Trey Wingo was a busy man during the NFL Draft. When he wasn’t sharing the most heart-wrenching story he could about a particular prospect, he was trying to moderate the conversation between way too many analysts that were featured on the broadcast.

As the draft entered the fourth round, ESPN showed the below graphic on-screen.

 

With the graphic on screen, Wingo rifles through the names, “Hall-of-Famer John Stallworth, Hall-of-Famer Steve Largent, Hall-of-Famer Andre Reed, Hall-of-Famer Charles Haley and Kirk Cousins, who’s in the Hall of Fame of cashing in.”

Whew, Trey. That’s spicy. But fair.

Bill Belichick’s Dog Makes a Pick

Bill Belichick’s setup is the most Belichick thing ever. No fancy screen. No home office. No Patriots decorations. He’s just got two laptops and his dining room table.

As they cut to Belichick’s home setup when the Patriots were about to make their first pick, it was just his dog sitting in his chair. And of course, the memes that resulted were fantastic.

Did the dog actually make the pick? After all, New England’s pick was Kyle Dugger, a Division-II safety that was much farther down many draft boards. It’s a savvy move by Belichick because if Dugger doesn’t succeed, Belichick can just blame it on his dog.

McVay and Kingsbury In The Same House?

Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay and Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury are both young, good-looking head coaches in the NFL. It would make sense that they are friends.

But do they share a house? Many are suspecting it after each coach’s home draft setup was shown on screen and the backgrounds looked quite similar.

Maybe Kingsbury is just copying McVay. I mean, McVay took his team to the Super Bowl in his second season. Kingsbury is entering his second season as head coach of the Cardinals.

Regardless, those houses (or that one house) are so on-brand for those coaches. Good for you guys. You’re young, rich, good-looking and successful. Thanks for rubbing it in.

Packers Draft Hideously

For Vikings fans, the most entertaining part of the draft (besides the Vikings’ own picks and endless trades) was the Green Bay Packers assembling one of the worst drafts they possibly could. They simultaneously ignored their immediate needs while reaching for players they absolutely didn’t need to reach for.

First of all, they traded up four spots in the first round to draft Jordan Love. I’m all about investing in the quarterback position. It’s smart to ensure security at the most valuable position in sports.

But Aaron Rodgers has been pretty clear about the fact that he wants to play into his 40s as a member of the Packers. Trading up in the first round to draft a quarterback doesn’t exactly support that idea. On the bright side, at least Rodgers is very easy-going and will absolutely welcome Love with open arms and definitely won’t hold a grudge against Love or the franchise for this.

(The last sentence was written with sarcasm.)

Plus, the Packers didn’t even need to trade up! They took the bait. They fell for some rumors that the Colts were going to trade up to snag him. The Colts never called the Dolphins about the 26th pick. The Packers bid against themselves and won.

Meanwhile, in the second round, the Packers drafted running back AJ Dillon, a large runner who is very effective in between the tackles. However, he doesn’t offer much in the passing game. It’s an ideal fit for the Packers 25 years ago.

Drafting running back in the second round is not advisable due to the position’s diminished value. Drafting a running back in the second round that offers next to nothing in the passing game is definitely not advisable.

Drafting a running back in the second round when you already have one of the most effective 1-2 running back punches in the NFL in Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams downright insanity.

This wide receiver class had been presented as one of the deepest and most talented in recent memory. The Packers, meanwhile, needed help at the receiver position more than just about anything else.

The Packers drafted zero receivers.

BUT, they did draft a tight end that they expect to play as a fullback!

All 32 teams are supposed to get better at the NFL Draft just by adding useful talent. It’s the margin to which teams get better that makes a difference. But I’m not sure the Packers got better.

In fact, the Packers may have helped the Vikings during the draft as much as the Vikings helped themselves. And that’s saying quite a bit.

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