Vikings

What Does Adofo-Mensah Do If Thibodeaux Slides?

Photo credit: Chris Pietsch-The Register Guard via USA TODAY Sports

It’s draft week, baby!

We all love the draft. Drama, intrigue, and hope abound to make this the greatest soap opera and reality-TV event in sports.

And few things are more fascinating to draft fans than a good old-fashioned slide on draft night.

We’ve seen it time and time again. Guys who are alleged locks for the top of the draft free-fall, leaving NFL teams and media scrambling to figure out what we’ve all been missing up until this point. Sometimes it’s a major scandal (a la Laremey Tunsil and the most impactful bong rip in NFL history). Sometimes it’s just a player being grossly overrated by the media like Vikings fans saw firsthand with Sharrif Floyd. Minnesota got him at pick No. 23 in 2012 after he was hyped as a top-three player in the draft by tape gurus like Mike Mayock and Greg Cossell.

The player endures a nauseating green-room time out as America watches and gossips like Bachelorette fans dialed in to the sports equivalent of a Rose Ceremony.

But with that glorious spectacle is also an opportunity.

Defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux entered this draft cycle as a nearly unanimous top-three player, and many speculated that he would be the Jacksonville Jaguars’ prime candidate at No. 1. But now Bovada places his odds of going first to Jacksonville at a whopping +5,000. Thibodeau has endured an offseason of speculation about character concerns, whether he loves football enough, or whether he’s too concerned with his branding off the field. That’s how a consensus top player in this class at a premium position found himself tumbling down boards in draft media over the past few months.

And admittedly, the living organism that is Vegas seems to have corrected the insanity around Thibodeaux. His draft over/under is now sitting at 4.5, putting him squarely between the New York Jets and New York Giants. That seems like a logical spot for the Oregon Duck. However, for the sake of the thought exercise, what if the draft breaks illogically as it so often has?

The Vikings sit at pick No. 12, with significant needs at edge and defensive back. Thibodeaux would be an incredible addition to Ed Donatell’s defense, and the volatility of his projections this cycle makes him a prime candidate for this exercise. But you could easily replace his name with another top player with volatile projections, like LSU’s Derek Stingley or Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton.

So, what should Kwesi Adofo-Mensah do if a top player starts to slide?

Do you sit and wait patiently, crossing your fingers that the player manages to fall to 12?

Patience can be rewarded on draft night. Trading up is often an inefficient practice, especially in a draft like this one with so many uncertainties. It might be best to maximize your chances of hitting by taking lots of swings rather than getting aggressive for one player. If the slide does happen, that player might slip to you without any additional cost.

It’s quite the gamble, though. You could easily get sniped by a team in front of you. Aggressive teams behind you could easily jump ahead with an enticing prospect in range. However, it can work. For example, the Washington Commanders stayed patient and drafted Jonathan Allen at 17th-overall back in 2017 after he’d received top-five hype.

But that’s perhaps too risky. Fans want to see some aggressiveness from their GM for once.

If a player like Thibodeaux slides, Adofo-Mensah has an important cost/benefit analysis to make. How highly does he value the player in question relative to how far they’ve slid?

NFL pick swaps almost always favor the team sliding back, from a value standpoint. And surely an analytic-friendly GM like Adofo-Mensah would agree with that. So trading up the draft order should be reserved for specific situations: to address a market scarcity, get ahead of the competition, or take advantage of a significant value.

Let’s say Minnesota has Thibodeaux as a top-three player on their board. What happens if he slips down to pick six with the Carolina Panthers on the clock? Many have speculated that Carolina would love to trade back and accrue more draft capital. Does the opportunity cost warrant a trade-up? Maybe. If Minnesota only values him as a top-five player and he slides to Carolina’s pick, it’s probably still too inefficient to make the move.

There should be value thresholds for this scenario. Let’s break out the Rich Hill Chart, which uses the value of selections in previous drafts and how NFL teams have traded them to determine a point value for each pick. Fair warning, there’s a bit of dreaded math up ahead.

Let’s speculate on a trade with the Atlanta Falcons, another team that could be prime for a trade back.

A top-three player (matching the value of the third pick) is worth 514 points. For example, the value of Atlanta’s pick (No. 8) is 326 points. The cost to move from pick No. 12 to 8 is roughly 75 points. However, the team moving up often needs to give a little extra to sweeten the deal, especially with a top player on the board. That might mean that Atlanta would demand something as high as Minnesota’s second-round pick (worth 86), and I wouldn’t be shocked if it would take an extra fifth-rounder as well (worth 8.7).

So, in summary:

  • Minnesota receives pick No. 8 (326 points)
  • Atlanta receives picks No. 12 (250 points), 46 (86 points), and 156 (8.7 points)
  • Point total: Atlanta +18.7 points (equal to a fourth-round pick)

Minnesota loses that trade on the surface. It’s a poor value. A fourth-round pick should be a legitimate contributor to your team, and you’re putting a lot of stock in one player who could be a bust or get injured.

But when we factor in that a player we value as highly as third-overall is there for us, all of a sudden it’s a different equation. Imagine it this way:

  • Minnesota receives a top-three player (514 points)
  • Atlanta receives picks No. 12 (250 points), 46 (86 points), 156 (8.7 points)
  • Point total: Minnesota +169 points (equal to a mid-first-round value)

That’s the kind of insane value that could fall into Minnesota’s range. Atlanta might leverage even more out of the Vikings in that scenario. But, frankly, it’s still such a massive bargain for that level of player, and it’s absolutely worth doing. Depending on Minnesota’s evaluation, it’d be irresponsible not to go up and make that deal if it presented itself.

It all depends on the right player and the right value. It’s up to Adofo-Mensah to make a proper evaluation. But draft slides happen all the time, and that possibility should be exciting to Vikings fans. They may finally have a GM willing to be bold and make the move.

Music to our ears.

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