Rick Spielman has never been a fan of the nickname “Trader Rick,” but if the evaluation fits …
For a man who openly admits his goal is to have 10 picks in every draft, there should be no shame in the label. This year, Spielman has some work to do to get to his Tantalizing 10, but it’s exactly the kind of draft where it makes sense for him to trade back in the first round … if, of course, anyone is willing to pay a price. Judging by the reviews at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis over the past four days, the law of supply and demand may not be in Spielman’s favor.
Fans may not like the idea of trading down, but picking at No. 23 isn’t going to produce the so-called “blue-chippers” within Spielman’s complex rankings, and in Spielman parlance “blue-chipper” translates to Pro Bowl or Hall of Fame-caliber players in his estimation. With an ascending, young roster, there is no need for the Minnesota Vikings to pigeonhole themselves into picking for need at No. 23, especially since most analysts have questions about many of the prospects that could be available at that range.
“The theme and philosophy we’ve done is built through the draft, and all those draft picks now we’ve been able to accumulate, and with the coaching staff and how they develop young players, that’s starting to show up on the field,” Spielman said before heading to Indianapolis last week.
By many estimations, this is a deep draft class without the pizazz of the past.
Need a receiver, like the Vikings do? According to NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, there is an easy first-round pick there – Laquon Treadwell – and the rest have questions, leading the evaluator to give them second-round (or lower) grades.
“This is not the same receiver class we saw the last couple years. You saw that (Saturday) – nowhere near as explosive. Treadwell didn’t run, but Treadwell isn’t going to run fast anyway. He didn’t jump well today. He jumped below average and I expected that. Treadwell to me is kind of a bottom-half-of-the-first-round person. Corey Coleman didn’t run. I think Coleman and (Will) Fuller are two of the people that people are going to talk about. Whether or not it’s first round, it’s hard to say, but 4.31 or 4.32 or whatever he ran, and he caught the ball better than what I expected him to catch the ball. I still think he’s a two – Fuller. I still think Fuller is a two. I think Coleman, some people have him late one. I have trouble seeing more than one or two wideouts in the first round.”
“At the wide receiver position, we’re looking at, second and third rounds, Michael Thomas, Josh Doctson. I think they’d be the logical ones – Thomas, Doctson (toward the end of the second round) – assuming Corey Coleman and Fuller are off the board.”
Time to blow up all those mock drafts that Doctson and/or Thomas going to the Vikings at 23? If you trust Mayock’s opinion, maybe it is.
Need an offensive lineman, like the Vikings do?
There are some possibilities there, led by highly regarded left tackles Laremy Tunsil and Ronnie Stanley. After that? Not so much, and spending a pick at No. 23 on a guard might mean bypassing other more highly rated prospects. There is some depth there, so why reach if Tunsil and Stanley are gone, especially when guard Cody Whitehair likely hurt his value with a weak showing on the bench press, putting up only 16 reps, far lower than an NFL guard should?
Whitehair and Joshua Garnett have both been picks for the Vikings’ 23rd selection in national mock drafts, but it’s clear Mayock has a different opinion of them.
“The Stanford guard, Garnett, I like him a lot. You get him in the second or third round, you’ve got a starting right guard or left guard immediately,” Mayock said. “(Christian) Westerman is another guard I like in those mid rounds. I think he’s going to be a starting guard quickly. I was disappointed that Whitehair had 16 reps. I think he’s a starting guard and to come out there and have 16 reps at 225, that one I struggled with.”
Need an outside linebacker, like the Vikings do eventually – either this year if Chad Greenway doesn’t return (he is expected to) or next year if he is back in purple in 2016? There is Darron Lee as a possibility at No. 23 and then question marks.
“Darron Lee to me is a 4-3 (weakside linebacker),” Mayock said. “He runs as well as any linebacker in this draft.”
Need a cornerback?
The Vikings might not if 2015 first-round pick Trae Waynes can grab hold of a starting spot this year and play solidly next to Xavier Rhodes. And Terence Newman is giving indications he would like to play another year. But, still, Zimmer admitted he likes his high-round cornerbacks because of the passing pressure these days, and Mayock is more impressed with the cornerback class, especially the depth, after the Combine workouts.
He’s not alone. Most see this defensive line class stacked, but cornerback might be next on the list for depth in the first two days of selecting.
“The one thing we want to do regardless of position is continue to create competition. My goal is always to have 10 draft picks,” Spielman said. “And we can get that amount to come in and even push some of the guys that are starters right now. Or push some of these guys that are backups, our young guys. I’m always trying to get the guys beat out, if I can.”
Spielman said he always looks at the talent that’s left on the board and how far the team can trade down and still get a player close to the same grade as the player they would have selected in that spot. This year, that might not be too hard to justify.
He said it’s too early to make that determination as they transition in the next couple of days from the workouts in Indianapolis to free agency, where they likely won’t be active in the early days, and then it’s off to pro days and private workouts to put the finishing touches on their prospect grades.
There will be guys with plenty of character questions, but the ever-honest Zimmer admitted there is a balancing act between character questions and athleticism.
“How fast they can run? How good a player he is,” Zimmer quipped when asked about the fine line between risk and reward with those of questionable character.
Ultimately, the mesh between Zimmer’s desires and Spielman’s exhilaration over the draft-day trade might be decided by the offers on the other end of the phone line, and with this draft they might not find worthy value in trading down early, even if the tight grades say they should.