Rick Spielman

[NOTE FROM BRETT: At the beginning of April, we posted an article by Ryan Boser that detailed the draft tendencies of Rick Spielman. Ryan is back just a few days before the 2015 draft begins to emulate Spielman’s draft habits through a mock draft. Ryan contributes at a number of different places and is a fantasy football guru with some great draft takes. You should definitely follow him on Twitter and check out his blog, Out of My League.]

Hi, I’m Ryan. My name is in the byline, but this is not my mock draft. Let me explain…

Three weeks ago, I did an eight-year study of Rick Spielman’s draft tendencies with the Vikings. You should probably check it out, because this mock is based solely on the findings of that study, and I’ll be referencing it throughout. Again, these aren’t my picks. This is essentially an automated Spielman simulation, so please direct your complaints to SlickRick@Vikings.NFL.net.

Note: All trades are based on this value chart.


Fast forward to next Thursday in Chicago…

The Vikings enter the draft with seven selections:

1(11)
2(45)
3(76)
4(110)
5(137)
7(228)
7(232)

This is not enough. We know Rick wants nine or 10 picks. He’s traded back one spot with Cleveland in two of his last three drafts, and they’re ripe for the picking again at No. 12. However, he’ll need to slide back a bit further to acquire requisite ammunition, and for a team with numerous needs, it’s a flatter tier—the value of pick 11 isn’t much different from the value of pick 16.

TRADE: Minnesota sends 1(11) to Houston for 1(16), 3(82) and 4(116)

Houston comes up for whichever WR of Parker/White/Cooper is left, forming a dynamic duo with DeAndre Hopkins in the Post-A.J. Era. Rick is up to nine picks:

1(16)* HOU
2(45)
3(76)
3(82)* HOU
4(110)
4(116)* HOU
5(137)
7(228)
7(232)

TRADE: Minnesota sends Adrian Peterson to Arizona for 1(24)

I’ve long been of the belief that bridges have been burned, and this whole process has been another “we have no intent of trading Percy Harvin” dog and pony show. Thankfully, Rick is a master of creating trade markets out of thin air.

I don’t know if it’ll be Arizona, Dallas, or one of the longer shots. What I do know is that Rick’s still stacking his chips from the Harvin trade, while simultaneously playing the Peterson suitors against each other. I think he ultimately gets his R1 pick (maybe more?), and another standing ovation.

1(16)* HOU
1(24)* ARI
2(45)
3(76)
3(82)* HOU
4(110)
4(116)* HOU
5(137)
7(228)
7(232)

Hey, let’s make a pick!

1(16) Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia; 6’1”, 222

We know that Spielman is fearlessly aggressive with offensive weapons early in the draft. This dates back to his very first selection as VP of Player Personnel, when he took an “injury-prone” Adrian Peterson, despite urgent defensive needs and Chester Taylor coming off a 1,500-YFS season in Year 1 of a 4-year contract.

Frankly, the similarly freakish Gurley is the best RB prospect to enter the league since Peterson, and he’s ahead of schedule in what’s been described as a clean, standard, fully recoverable November ACL tear. A stud RB has long been the centerpiece of a Norv Turner offense, and Gurley’s hands actually make him an even better fit than Peterson. Second year stud Jerick McKinnon (22) buys Gurley (20) some time, and the two would combine with franchise QB Teddy Bridgewater (22) to form a terrifying backfield trio.

1(24) Marcus Peters, CB, Washington; 6’0”, 197

We know Spielman really values DBs, and he’ll get no argument from HC Mike Zimmer. Peters, who’s met privately with the Vikings, is widely believed to be the best cover corner in the draft. While he comes with some Harvin-esque character/authority issues, Zimmer has made lemonade out of worse (Pacman Jones and Vontaze Burfict, to name two). The team has also shown Pro Day interest in fellow CBs Byron Jones and Kevin Johnson. Depending on availability, one of the three would be the pick here, and would make a dreamy tandem with budding superstar Xavier Rhodes.

TRADE: Minnesota sends 2(45) and 3(76) to Indianapolis for 1(29) and 5(165)

You knew better than to go to sleep. Rick loves his fifth-year options, as he’s proven by trading back into the end of R1 in three straight drafts. He’s made seven R1 picks in the last three years (2, 3, 2), with only one coming from an original Vikings draft slot, so we’re right on trend here.

1(29) Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA; 6’0”, 232

Kendricks is in play for the Packers at 30, so 29 is probably the necessary destination. Although the 2014 Butkus Award winner is a bit undersized, he’s extremely intelligent, instinctive and aggressive. Whether he remains inside or moves to WILL, Kendricks quenches the team’s most desperate thirst, and allows Zimmer full freedom to deploy his bazooka (Anthony Barr) however he pleases.

1(16)* HOU – Todd Gurley, RB
1(24)* ARI – Marcus Peters, CB
1(29)* IND – Eric Kendricks, LB
3(82)* HOU
4(110)
4(116)* HOU
5(137)
5(165)* IND
7(228)
7(232)

3(82) Tre McBride, WR, William & Mary; 6’0”, 210

Spielman hammers offensive skill position players early; he hasn’t taken one later than R4 in his three drafts as GM. Highly respected draft analyst Matt Waldman says McBride “could have kidnapped Amari Cooper, donned a Crimson Tide uniform, and—if he knew the offense—could have tricked most of the football-watching public.” I tend to agree. The highly intelligent and athletic McBride is a boss in traffic, playing much bigger than his size.

On the surface, the Vikings appear squared away at WR. They’re not. Mike Wallace is essentially on a one-year deal (he has no guarantees after this year, is owed $11.5M in each of 2016/2017, and has been outwardly unwilling to restructure). Cordarrelle Patterson is entering an uphill make-or-break season with the Vikings. Replacement-level WR3 Jarius Wright is entering the final year of his contract. Charles Johnson might be the only top-four WR on roster in 2016.

4(110) Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon; 5’9”, 192

Like both Greg Childs and Antone Exum, Rick takes a Day 3 chance on an early-round prospect who’s falling due to a knee injury.

Ifo’s scouting report reads like a carbon copy of Tyrann Mathieu’s. He’s an instinctive dynamo with elite ball skills, but he only projects as a slot CB—or possibly an FS—due to size and speed limitations. The real appeal here is Ifo’s potential as a safety. He profiles as an ideal deep defender, which would free up Harrison Smith for more of the aggressive playmaking assignments we began to see last season.

1(16)* HOU – Todd Gurley, RB
1(24)* ARI – Marcus Peters, CB
1(29)* IND – Eric Kendricks, LB
3(82)* HOU – Tre McBride, WR
4(110) – Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, DB
4(116)* HOU
5(137)
5(165)* IND
7(228)
7(232)

4(116) Za’Darius Smith, DE, Kentucky; 6’4”, 274

In terms of size, length and motor, Smith is a prototypical Zimmer DE. He’ll add instant rotational depth, and battle disappointing 2014 R3 pick Scott Crichton to become Brian Robinson’s heir apparent.

Smith becomes the 4th DL (Everson Griffen, Christian Ballard, Scott Crichton) Rick has selected in R3/R4 in the last six drafts.

5(137) Mitch Morse, G, Missouri; 6’5”, 305

You’ve probably been pulling your hair out over the OL, but Spielman has proven time and again that he’d prefer to wait until R5/R6 to pepper the line. Morse is a versatile prospect who played LT, RT and C at Missouri, and is thought to be best suited for G at the next level. Smart, strong and dependable, he’ll push David Yankey for starting LG duties immediately.

5(165) Chaz Green, T, Florida; 6’5”, 314

Green is an intelligent prospect with good feet, and he has high-level college experience at both tackle spots. While his athletic measurables don’t jump off the page, they’re good enough to project as a No. 3 swing tackle at the next level. The Vikings could badly use a consistent safety net behind both Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt, and Green fits the bill.

1(16)* HOU – Todd Gurley, RB
1(24)* ARI – Marcus Peters, CB
1(29)* IND – Eric Kendricks, LB
3(82)* HOU – Tre McBride, WR
4(110) – Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, DB
4(116)* HOU – Za’Darius Smith, DE
5(137) – Mitch Morse, G
5(165)* IND – Chaz Green, T
7(228)
7(232)

7(228) Bryce Hager, LB, Baylor; 6’1”, 234

For the 4th straight year, Spielman takes an LB in R7. Underrated due to physical limitations (primarily size), Hager is an instinctive, speedy tackling machine. At worst, he profiles as a special teams demon.

7(232) Trevor Pardula, P, Kansas; 6’5”, 212

Were it my pick, I’d be banging the table for Alabama FB Jalston Fowler, but again, Rick hasn’t taken an offensive skill position player later than R4 in any of his three drafts as GM. He has, however, taken two of the 13 K/P selected in the last three drafts. Pardula would be favored to beat out the disappointing Jeff Locke, and the dollars would be a wash. Pardula has a booming leg, and he’s another lefty, which is thought to be preferable, as it gives returners an abnormal look.

Your 2015 Minnesota Vikings Draft Class:

1(16)* HOU – Todd Gurley, RB
1(24)* ARI – Marcus Peters, CB
1(29)* IND – Eric Kendricks, LB
3(82)* HOU – Tre McBride, WR
4(110) – Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, DB
4(116)* HOU – Za’Darius Smith, DE
5(137) – Mitch Morse, G
5(165)* IND – Chaz Green, T
7(228) – Bryce Hager, LB
7(232) – Trevor Pardula, P