[NOTE FROM ADAM: We are thrilled to welcome back the knowledge and insight we’ve grown to expect out of Ryan Boser. Ryan contributes a number of places, with very valuable draft and fantasy takes, and we encourage you to follow him on Twitter to keep track of everything he is doing.]
BY RYAN BOSER
From Adrian Peterson to Jabari Price, Rick Spielman has had varying degrees of involvement in 65 rookie selections during his eight-draft Minnesota Vikings tenure. While “need” is an ever-changing variable, we have a large enough sample size to begin to glean some of his general philosophical tendencies.
1. Spielman is fearlessly aggressive with offensive skill position players in the first two rounds.
With his first pick as VP of Player Personnel, Spielman eschewed infinitely more pressing defensive needs to select a supremely talented RB with durability concerns. Meanwhile, Chester Taylor had just eclipsed 1,500 YFS in the first year of his 4-year contract.
Two drafts later, Spielman & Co. snatched Percy Harvin in R1 despite a failed Combine drug test.
Spielman reached wildly for Christian Ponder, and traded up for backup Toby Gerhart, an ultra-raw Cordarrelle Patterson and Pro Day flop Teddy Bridgewater.
What it Means: Kevin White almost certainly ran himself out of the Vikings’ range, but if Amari Cooper slips, he’d be the odds-on favorite at 11. If both White and Cooper are gone, DeVante Parker would surely get a long look, and I wouldn’t count out stud RB Todd Gurley (pending Peterson) despite last season’s ACL tear — the precedent is there for such a pick. Monstrous WR Dorial Green-Beckham is a textbook Spielman pick in R2 (or late R1 via trade-up). He comes with drug and violence-against-women baggage, which will make him an especially tough sell at this juncture, but the team is officially .
2. In eight drafts, Spielman has selected seven DBs in the first three rounds.
Spielman puts a draft day premium on defensive backs. He used three top-70 picks on DBs in his first two years as GM (2012 and 2013), and in 2014 he added three more late in the draft.
What it Means: The Vikings have probably poured into than any other prospect, and they’re also on troubled CB Marcus Peters. If they go a different route in R1, expect them to add a DB on Day 2. Recent acquisitions of former Zimmer Bengals Terence Newman and Taylor Mays are merely depth/competition safeguards in case the draft doesn’t unfold favorably for a team with needs opposite both Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith.
3. In eight drafts, Spielman has selected six OL in R5/R6. Only twice has he taken an OL in the first four rounds during that span.
We get a good idea of Spielman’s perceived value sweet spot here, and he’s hit big at least twice with Sullivan and Fusco.
What it Means: On the surface, this is bad news for #TeamScherff in R1. However, Spielman has never seen the left side of the Vikings line in this much trouble. There’s a glut of Day 2 options, including #VikingsTwitter favorite Ali Marpet, if Spielman stays true to form in R1.
Spielman was promoted from his role as 1/3 of the “Triangle of Authority” to General Manager in 2012. Let’s take a look at some of the more recent trends in his three drafts as the unquestioned final decision-maker.
4. Spielman has made 10, 9 and 10 picks in the last three years. He currently has only seven bullets.
What it Means: I expect multiple trade-backs to add picks, beginning in R1. I think there’s a better than 50-50 chance Spielman trades back from 11, as he’s done with his first pick in two of his three drafts as GM (while still securing “his guy”). Both times he traded back one spot with Cleveland. Guess who picks No. 12 this year?
5. In three drafts as GM, Spielman has made seven R1 picks. Only one of those was made from an original Vikings draft slot.
Spielman’s draft board maneuvering is artistry in motion. He’s traded DOWN from his first pick to amass more capital in two of the last three drafts, while trading back UP into R1 (and securing his beloved fifth-year option) in all three.
What it Means: Don’t expect the Vikings to pick at 11, and don’t go to sleep early. Marcus Mariota falling to 11 would be the optimal situation, as Spielman could surely slide back in R1 while amassing multiple extra picks and giving himself the ability to hop back into the end of R1 from 2.13.
6. Spielman is willing to invest a draft pick in a K/P.
Thirteen Kickers/Punters have been selected in the last three drafts. Spielman has drafted two of them.
What it Means: Jeff Locke has been hot trash. Pro Football Focus ranked him 40th of 41 punters in 2013, and 37th of 37 in 2014. Locke should be looking over his shoulder on Day 3.
7. Spielman hasn’t drafted an offensive skill position player later than R4 as GM.
What it Means: Any and every team-based 7-round mock draft will end with boom/bust skill position players, because nobody wants to research a R7 guard. I’ve been guilty of it the last two years with QB Tyler Bray and RB Isaiah Crowell (batting .500). Spielman went 0-for-8 in R5-R7 of his first five Vikings drafts, and has apparently (wisely?) given up.
8. Spielman has recently opted to end drafts with defense.
Seven of his eight R7 picks as GM have been used on the defensive side of the ball. In fact, all five of his 2014 R6/R7 picks went to the defense (he surely had Mike Zimmer in his ear). Spielman currently holds two R7 picks.
What it Means: Rick has a pretty clear dart preference.
9. Spielman has taken a R7 LB in three straight drafts.
It’s an understandable strategy, as he’s doubling his odds of a “hit” by drafting guys who also project as special teams competition.
10. Spielman has taken a Day 3 high-risk/high-reward medical flier in each of the last three drafts.
There was a time when WR Greg Childs (knees) was being mentioned in the same breath as SEC counterpart A.J. Green, and both LB Michael Mauti (knees) and DB Antone Exum (knee) were considered Day 2 prospects.