This is the time a year when NFL fans exercise their well-earned right to express opinions as fact, deal only in absolutes, and show off the skills they have groomed via Madden‘s Franchise Mode for years and years. In a lot of ways, Draft season is the most exciting time of year.
Those that have been following along here at Vikings Territory for awhile now, however, might know me to be a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to these definitive projections from fans and analysts claiming to know exactly what the Vikings will do or even claiming to know exactly what they should do.
One thing that irks me most are statements about which position they should take in which round. I am a huge proponent of “best player available” or, as Rick Spielman is known to do, trading around to try and fill a need in a spot that presents the appropriate value.
What I do not subscribe to is this idea that a man actually paid to make roster decisions would actually ignore an evaluation based on career-long projections in exchange for filling an immediate need for the position at hand.
As it turns out, according to Benjamin Allbright, my ideology may not be based on reality.
For all the guys on twitter that talk about drafting BPA, all the decision makers on NFL teams I talk to stress BPA …at position of need.
— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) April 11, 2016
I do not know Rick Spielman. He has surprised me plenty of times over the years, sometimes pleasantly and sometimes not, and I cannot claim to have any insider insight. With that being said, I think Allbright’s statement fits with Spielman’s draft tendencies in a lot of ways.
Spielman is not afraid to stress a position of need, even if it is not a popular move (Christian Ponder). He is also not afraid to exchange picks with another team to try and get value at a position of need (Teddy Bridgewater). He has also shown that he is more qualified than the masses, as he should be, to identify these positions of need and make selections accordingly (Anthony Barr).
Ryan Boser documented in great detail the tendencies Spielman has displayed in years prior to 2015 in this guest post. It is an incredibly well fleshed out piece by a very intelligent individual, but even someone that has looked that hard at the predictability of Spielman had trouble identifying what would happen.
Boser followed up the analysis with this “Rick Spielman Mock Draft” which attempted to use the identified tendencies to predict the 2015 NFL Draft. Boser predicted two trades involving the first round and ended up giving the Vikings Todd Gurley, Marcus Peters, and Eric Kendricks in the first round.
In total, one of the ten mocked picks (Kendricks) actually ended up being a Viking. The fact that he got one right is actually pretty impressive when you consider the accuracy of expert mock drafts in general (it isn’t good).
Rick Spielman has set himself up to be one of the biggest wild cards in the NFL Draft landscape this year, however, and I think a lot of people that pay very close attention to this team are going to be hesitant to make any absolute statements about their Draft Weekend intentions with any certainty.
The process already has too many variables built into it to be overly predictable on an annual basis. Teams have a different perspective than fans on their needs, their long term vision of the roster, and they have much better access to prospects from a medical and character standpoint.
When you combine those facts with a very well-built roster like Rick Spielman is currently in charge of, then anything seems possible. At the very least, everything seems to be on the table.
He has players he could deal away. He has the fire power to go trade block shopping. He used free agency to provide himself some incredible flexibility in terms of “Draft needs” and could go in any number of surprising directions.
I guess that is the ultimate purpose of this post: Casual fans and diehards alike should expect the unexpected come Draft Weekend and try not to get too upset when things don’t go the way they planned.
If you think wide out is a huge need for this team, they may very well neglect to select your favorite guy. If you think wide out isn’t a need at all, they’ll probably draft one sooner than you prefer. They’ll go linebacker when your favorite guard is still available, or select a center when your safety of choice is atop your personalized big board.
About the only thing we can all seem to agree on right now is that the Vikings should target a punter late or as an undrafted free agent.
The great unknown is what makes the NFL Draft so fun, and the point of this rambling post isn’t to put a damper on your excitement, but to prepare you for the fact that your list of personal favorites is not (and will not) be under consideration in the Winter Park War Room.
Regardless of what happens, you should rest assured that this team appears to be in very capable hands and has a lot going for it even before a fresh crop of rookies are harvested in Chicago later this month.
The Minnesota Vikings are heading into this thing with very few, if any, absolute positions of need. They’re a playoff team that has already improved (on paper) this offseason.
As such, something tells me there are big things coming this time… bigger surprises than we are used to seeing. This year the Vikings are a big Draft Weekend wild card to keep a close eye on.
[NOTE: Just to make me mad (kidding, of course) and counter the spirit of this post, please use the comments below to make one definitive prediction that you just know will come true on Draft Weekend.]