For years the listeners of our Football Machine Vikings podcast have sent in amazing Twitter questions, and far too often we’ve had to leave many of them on the cutting room floor because of time. No longer! Each week we’ll pull some questions that didn’t make the cut and address them in this space.
If you were Rick, which moves would you make now and before the beginning of the next season’s year to help build the team?
— James Kunau (@James1297) October 28, 2020
That’s a tough question to answer since each move has its own set of ripple effects. There will be a day to lay out a more thorough blueprint, but let me give you three moves that would be worth pursuing: one now, one in free agency, one in the draft.
- Trade Riley Reiff. Of all the realistic trade candidates on the roster, Reiff is one of the few that has arguably increased his value this season. There are tackle-needy teams that could use him. He’s playing on a minuscule salary relative to his positional value and production. Odds are, the Vikings were going to shed that salary in the offseason, and teams know that. If you wait until after the year to deal him, his value goes down. The stars are aligning to maximize value on Reiff, which could be a Day 2 pick, plus his absence might give you a chance to truly see what Ezra Cleveland has to offer.
- Get in on Joe Thuney or Brandon Scherff. Both are in contract years, and both are playing like top-10 guards right now. At some point the Vikings have to look themselves in the mirror and realize their draft-and-develop strategy for the interior offensive line isn’t working well enough. In theory, the Vikings won’t need to fill that many major holes in the offseason. Probably a safety and probably a pass rusher, yes, but they should be able to devote some resources to patching up the offensive line. If they can clear over $20 million in cap space through trades and salary slashing, I’d devote a big chunk of that to finding an elite guard.
- If your preferred QB’s not there, trade down in the draft. I only see one reason to lock yourself into your first overall selection, and that’s if you can get the quarterback you covet most. Don’t force the pick like the Vikings did in 2011 with Christian Ponder when there was a run on QBs. A trade down could easily help the Vikings reacquire their second-round pick, which has always been a sweet spot for them to find talent.
Who’s your All-Team media good guy for interviews in your tenure?
— Michael Chau (@Miketchau) October 30, 2020
Love the question. It’s Year 7 full-time on the beat for me, as a reference point.
I’ve always respected Adam Thielen, not necessarily for being verbose or insightful (though he has those moments), but from 2016-18 he was one of the most accessible stars you’ll ever find. Thielen would often do interviews multiple days a week with multiple reporters each day, speak weekly at the podium, talk immediately after games and find time to do national stories as well. And he never seemed to lose patience. As his status has grown, he’s put up a few more barriers in terms of his accessibility, but he’s still the team’s most available star player.
Harrison Smith has probably the greatest discrepancy between group interviews and one-on-one interviews. Like many players, he’s not as comfortable with the cameras swarming, but he’s unbelievable when you get him alone. Anthony Barr is the same way.
Alex Boone was probably the best sound bite for his one year.
Jerick McKinnon was underrated.
Laquon Treadwell was good for as much criticism as he received.
Stephen Weatherly was awesome until he had to start doing more interviews.
What’s the next best thing watch the rest of this season besides Dalvin being a beast and the development of Jefferson & Gladney / Danztler?
— Tim Speake (@timspeake) October 30, 2020
I think the battles in the trenches will be pretty fascinating. As I wrote earlier this week, virtually the entire defensive line rotation has a chance to play themselves into a role in the future. Armon Watts has played brilliantly two games in a row, D.J. Wonnum was supposedly a big reason the team felt comfortable trading Yannick Ngakoue, and James Lynch should get a much bigger chance as the season goes along.
Offensive line is similar. Gary Kubiak said he wouldn’t be surprised if they roll through several of their depth pieces before the season is over, and if Reiff gets traded, that could have a domino effect that gets younger players involved. I’m guessing we’ll see Ezra Cleveland play at a position other than right guard before the season is done, Dru Samia may get another crack (especially if Pat Elflein is dealt), and Oli Udoh is still lurking as a potential swing man.
There are probably a couple long-term starters buried on the depth chart right now that haven’t had a chance to shine. If the trade deadline creates more openings, they may get a long stretch to audition.
OK I’ll ask a serious question. Which departed cornerback (Rhodes, Waynes if he was healthy, Alexander) would have helped the Vikings the most this year if the team had retained him?
— Eric Thompson (@eric_j_thompson) October 30, 2020
Well, it’s easy to say Xavier Rhodes after what he’s done in Indianapolis with the fourth-best coverage grade in football, but he’s doing such different things schematically that I’m not sure that would’ve translated in another year with the Vikings. Mackensie Alexander was coming into his own as a slot corner, and Jeff Gladney and Mike Hughes are both bottom 15 in slot coverage this year, so it’s tempting to say Alexander.
But I think I’d go with Trae Waynes.
What has been the kryptonite of the Vikings’ defense? Deep passes. Where was Waynes most effective? Preventing deep balls over the top. Say what you will about his inability to prevent the underneath stuff. Mike Zimmer would happily give up 10-yard passes if it means stopping the 40-yarders.
Currently the Vikings are around the #6 for the draft. What would it take for Spielman to move up within striking distance for one of the top 3 QBs next draft?
— Florian (@flokubes) October 30, 2020
First, let’s look at the projected top 10 teams drafting and see who needs a quarterback.
Cowboys: Probably Not
Outside of the Vikings, I think the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars are likeliest to draft a quarterback, and both could be drafting before Minnesota. The New York Giants and Washington Football Team both have to decide whether they feel good about their former first-round picks after two seasons. And the Atlanta Falcons and Vikings have to decide whether they want to find successors to their veteran quarterbacks.
If the Vikings are sitting behind Washington and the Giants, you know those teams would posture as if they’re taking a quarterback, even if they weren’t, so odds are Rick Spielman would need to make a move if he wanted to snag either Justin Fields or Trey Lance. If Minnesota is only needing to move up one spot, the 2017 Mitch Trubisky trade between San Francisco and Chicago set a precedent of exchanging first-round picks while throwing in a third-round pick, fourth-round pick and future third. That’s a no-brainer considering the Vikings have multiple thirds and fourths in 2021.
In the trade where Kansas City took Patrick Mahomes, they moved up 17 spots for an exchange of first-round picks, a third-round pick and a future first-round pick. That future first is steep, but the Vikings also won’t be moving up 17 spots.
The price may land somewhere in the middle, which is why not having a second-round pick is so troublesome. At least the Vikings have ample mid-round picks to throw around.