If I had to summarize the Minnesota Vikings’ draft in one word, it would be value.
New Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah‘s selection of Vederian Lowe (sixth round, 184th overall) is a prime example of the kind of value pick he is willing to make but Rick Spielman would not have. Here’s why.
Adofo-Mensah is looking for exceptionally athletic players. Relative Athletic Score (RAS) is one way to track players’ athletic ability and is commonly used to rate rookies in the draft. It’s clear that the Vikings focused on this with their picks.
Most of their picks had exceptional RAS scores. Assuming the Vikings use this score or some similar metric behind closed doors, they followed suit with most of the rookies in this year’s draft.
All RAS scores are out of 10.
The Lowe pick stands out. He isn’t as quantifiably athletic as any of the other players, and it’s not just because he’s an offensive tackle. RAS only compares players within the same positional group.
Just because his RAS isn’t as high doesn’t mean he can’t compete. The biggest knock against Lowe is that he can’t keep up with the speediest rushers or blitzers. But he’s still a competent blocker and uses his size and length to his advantage. He’s just not going to be as efficient of a zone or downfield blocker as, say, Brian O’Neill.
Why is this notable? Well, Lowe doesn’t seem like a player that Spielman would have ever chosen. That might sound like a knock, but Lowe doesn’t have a very high talent ceiling. He does, however, have a high floor.
Spielman was known for taking flyers on projects in the later rounds of the draft. He favored guys who could be home runs, but the odds are significantly lower of that happening in the fifth and sixth rounds rather than the second and third. Lowe doesn’t fit this framework.
Lowe isn’t a project. Most scouting reports have already noted that he’s a backup tackle who can play the swing tackle role after some time. Usually, I wouldn’t take the scouting reports too seriously. But they all say the same thing, and there’s a reason for it.
Lowe’s biggest perk is his experience. He has the most starts in Illinois history with 52. He mostly improved each season and capped off his college career with two consecutive All-Big 10 honorable mentions. The Vikings almost certainly have him slated to fill Rashod Hill’s role after the Vikings did not re-sign him in the offseason. He will be a fill-in tackle who can play multiple positions adequately, and he’s cheaper than Hill.
For a team to have both tackle spots locked down with young talents, it’s good to have a swing tackle who can fill in when necessary. The backup swing tackle isn’t the most important position on a team, but you definitely notice when they’re not there in a pinch.
Hill showed that by playing six games last season due to Christian Darrisaw’s injuries. Hill played a significant role as a backup these past few seasons, so we should value the swing tackle position as much as any other backup.
Additionally, he only cost a sixth-round pick. If he can take over the swing tackle position by the end of this year, that’s the definition of value. Many of Spielman’s sixth-rounders barely saw playing time. But in Lowe’s case, he was drafted to be a backup, something that’s important when both tackles are relatively young and one has suffered injuries early in his career.
Instead of trying to land a star on Day 3, Adofo-Mensah drafts for value. That’s why he traded back in the first and traded up in the second (for what might’ve been the steal of the draft in Andrew Booth Jr.). Lowe is an example of getting value because Adofo-Mensah drafted him with a role in mind. He won’t be a wasted pick like the mass of sixth-rounders we’ve seen in years past.