Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, more often called “Trader Rick” this time of the year, is a genius at the negotiating table. When it comes to the NFL Draft and accumulating picks, no one does it better.
Between 2012 and 2014, Spielman selected a league-recorded seven players, and between 2011 and 2014, he successfully executed 15 trades involving 39 picks and the exchange of five veterans, per Mark Craig.
The general manager famously fleeced the Cleveland Browns in 2012, swapping the third overall pick for the fourth overall pick and three additional selections that year. The result? Minnesota ended up with current left tackle Matt Kalil and the Browns landed one of the draft’s biggest running back busts in Trent Richardson. And in 2013, the Vikings drafted three players in the first round, even after giving up four selections to acquire Cordarrelle Patterson.
Some may argue that trade was a flop, but Patterson’s had his moments in Minnesota and will get one more chance to prove himself in 2016. Even with that massive transaction, Spielman has been conservative, especially over the last two drafts. In 2014, he selected Anthony Barr and Teddy Bridgewater in the first round, and the following year, came away with just one selection in Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes.
Spielman doesn’t always stick to the script, though. According to Vikings Journal, Sharrif Floyd was only one of seven first round draft picks taken in Minnesota’s original slot. It’s clear that Spielman will move down and trade his way out of picks, but he rarely trades up. When Spielman does move up, it’s almost always to get back into the first round, as he did in 2012, 2013, and most recently in 2014 with Bridgewater.
Sitting late in the first round with the 23rd-overall selection, Spielman’s options are limited. He can trade back and acquire more draft picks, but the Vikings already have eight slots; any more, and the roster won’t have enough room for all the new talent. If he wants, Spielman can select the best available player with the original selection, though it’s possible the prospect they really want isn’t there.
So, in a hypothetical world — since all mock drafts are pure speculation — imagine Spielman trading up and breaking his tendencies. What player would cause him to do such a thing, and are there any prospects worth such a move?
Option #1: Josh Doctson, WR — TCU
Doctson’s stellar pro day sparked talk that the TCU wide receiver, not Laquon Treadwell, is the best player at the position this year. It’s possible that Doctson’s stock soars to the point where he’s not available with a late first-round pick. If that’s the case, the Vikings will have to trade up for him.
Mike Zimmer and Spielman reportedly love Doctson, who many (including myself) believe would be a perfect fit in an offense lacking a jump-ball wide receiver on the outside. But a few other teams in front of the Vikings are potential suitors for the 6’2″ prospect, including:
- Los Angeles Rams, 15th-overall selection
- Detroit Lions, 16th-overall selection
- Washington Redskins, 21st-overall selection
To move up to either of these spots, Spielman would need to leverage his first round selection, as well as picks from the later rounds. Using the NFL Draft Pick Value Calculator, it’s possible to determine a few scenarios for the Vikings that would make such a move possible for the right price:
- Vikings (23 and 54) for Rams (15)
- Vikings (23 and 54) for Lions (16)
- Vikings (23 and 121) for Redskins (21)
It’s very possible the Rams, Lions, or Redskins target Doctson, who will likely come off the board after Treadwell. If the Vikings love the TCU star as much as reports indicate, a trade up isn’t out of the question.
Option #2: Darron Lee, OLB — Ohio State
Wide receiver is the popular choice for the offensive-needy Vikings, who currently field one of the league’s most athletic, aggressive defenses. Like Sam said in his latest mock draft roundup, he’d be okay with Spielman passing on a first-round receiver to add another athletic linebacker to the bunch. Vikings Territory co-founder Adam Warwas also projected Lee to the Vikings before free agency began last month.
With the signing of Emmanuel Lamur and the return of Chad Greenway, spending a first round draft pick on another linebacker doesn’t make a ton of sense. However, Zimmer likes his defenders athletic, and Lee is of a rare breed. At the NFL Scouting Combine, he jumped out of the gym and posted one of the fastest 40-yard dash times among all attendees, not just linebackers. His numbers alone may convince Spielman and Zimmer to jump ahead of a few teams, including:
- Atlanta Falcons, 17th-overall selection
- Indianapolis Colts, 18th-overall selection
- New York Jets, 20th-overall selection
Moving up to any of these three spots would require a similar investment — Minnesota’s first-round pick and their second-round pick, the 54th-overall selection. It’d be a steep price to pay for Lee, who does have the potential to step into Chad Greenway’s position, but may find himself stuck at the middle of the depth chart.
Are the Vikings willing to trade up in the first round? Which players would warrant such a move? Share your answer in the poll and join the discussion in the comments section below!