Trader Rick has brought Vikings treasures

Rick Spielman loves trading up and down in the draft, and he seems to be getting exactly what he wants over the last three years, including seven first-round selections.

Perhaps it's time to give Vikings general manager Rick Spielman a nickname. Given the last three Vikings drafts, that nickname might have to be Trader Rick.

A month ago when the Vikings entered the 2014 draft, Spielman had already shown a penchant for cutting deals to get players he and his scouting staff coveted.

In 2012, he cut a deal with Cleveland to flip-flop picks at Nos. 3 and 4 to select Matt Kalil, the player they would have taken at No. 3 had Cleveland not been willing to move, and used the fourth-round pick acquired in the deal to draft WR Jarius Wright and a fifth-rounder for CB Robert Blanton. Not content to wait for the draft to enter its second day, Spielman made a trade with the Baltimore Ravens to get back into the first round and draft Harrison Smith, giving up a second- and fourth-round pick to move up to the 29th pick. Two years later, one has to wonder if the Ravens, who had a need at safety, regret trading out of the spot.

Later in that same draft, the Vikings used a sixth-round pick acquired from Cleveland in the trade of Jayme Mitchell to sign kicker Blair Walsh, who has already etched his name in the all-time NFL record books and was named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie.

In 2013, Spielman traded away disgruntled wide receiver Percy Harvin to obtain a first-round pick in that draft and a 2014 third-round pick used to take versatile running back Jerick McKinnon. The first-round pick was used to draft cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who is expected to be a leader of the secondary for years to come.

When the draft was nearing the end of the first day last year, Spielman was at the podium addressing the media about the embarrassment of riches they gleaned from drafting defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and Rhodes. Suddenly, a member of the public relations staff frantically waved his arms to get Spielman's attention. Trader Rick had left orders to keep working the phones in case someone at the end of the first round was willing to package a deal together.

As it turned out, the New England Patriots were that team, trading the 29th pick (ironically, the same pick Baltimore traded to Minnesota a year earlier) to land wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. Just as one could wonder if the Ravens second-guessed themselves for trading out of a spot where they could take Dirty Harry, questions had to be asked about how much different the Patriots offense could have been had the they held their ground and given Tom Brady an explosive weapon like Patterson.

However, the 2014 draft may well be the cementing point of the Trader Rick persona. Hailed as one of the deepest drafts in NFL history, Spielman came into the weekend willing to make moves and wasn't shy about pulling the trigger when an offer came that he liked.

It started very early on. When Cleveland cut a deal with Buffalo for the Bills to move up from No. 9 to No. 4 to take wide receiver Sammy Watkins, the Vikings made a trade with the Browns to flip-flop picks at Nos. 8 and 9, adding a fifth-round pick that the team would use to select guard David Yankey – a player many scouts had rated as a third-round prospect.

For the third straight year, the Vikings once again traded back into the end of the first round – this time with Seattle for the final pick of the round – to take quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

But, in a draft deep in talent, Trader Rick came into the final day of the draft willing to move down to stockpile picks, which he did by making a pair of trades in the span of an hour. Spielman traded the 148th of the draft to Carolina for a fifth-round pick (No. 168) and a seventh-round pick (No. 225) which was used to select cornerback Jabari Price.

The fifth-rounder acquired from Carolina was quickly shipped off to Atlanta for a sixth-round pick (No. 182, used to take safety Antone Exum and a seventh-rounder (No. 220, used to select defensive tackle Shamar Stephen).

When the Vikings entered the draft, they had eight picks and Spielman was looking to increase that number to 10. When all was said and done, he not only got to 10 picks, but did so despite trading back into the end of the first round for the third consecutive year.

In the process, the Legend of Trader Rick may have immortalized.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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