During this time of year, football brains are so “used to” studying mock drafts and scouting reports that it seems odd when any other form of football-related rankings hit the wire. For instance, who really cares about NFL QB Power Rankings in the middle of April? Nobody. April is about the draft.
But NFL.com aptly combined the worlds of the draft, general managers, and “ranking things” on Thursday. The guys and gals at NFL.com delivered a list of general managers in terms of drafting supremacy.
On the list, the Minnesota Vikings were represented by Rick Spielman — and Trader Rick, as he is affectionately labeled by Minnesotans, fared quite well.
Gregg Rosenthal at NFL.com considers the Vikings general manager the sixth-best drafter of talent in all of the business. He is only outdone by Chris Ballard (Indianapolis Colts), Kevin Colbert (Pittsburgh Steelers), Jason Licht (Tampa Bay Buccanneers), Brandon Beane (Buffalo Bills), and Mickey Loomis (New Orleans Saints).
The rankings did not adjudicate the “new” general managers to the business like George Paton from the Denver Broncos. It’s simply “too soon” to give a fair judgment. For context, the combination of Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock checked in as dead last among those executives that were eligible.
What’s more, Rosenthal’s rankings imply that Spielman is the best drafter of personnel in the NFC North. Brian Gutekunst of the Green Bay Packers ranked at #13. Ryan Pace from the Chicago Bears was near the bottom at #20. And then Brad Holmes in Detroit is allowed a few years to prove himself like Paton in Denver.
On Spielman, Rosenthal wrote:
“Spielman has quietly been with the Vikings since 2006 and received the general manager title in 2012. Selecting Justin Jefferson last year was the latest in a string of big draft hits (Stefon Diggs, Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks and Dalvin Cook). Plucking five Pro Bowlers over the past six drafts is impressive, though Spielman’s getting further removed from the 2015 bounty that landed Diggs, Hunter and Hendricks. The Vikings GM would rank even higher if not for a few first-round misfires (Laquon Treadwell, Mike Hughes, Garrett Bradbury) and a general struggle to solve the offensive line despite investing a lot of draft capital.”
He maintains that Laquon Treadwell was the worst pick issued by Spielman — and Rosenthal is not wrong. The best pick to date per NFL.com is Justin Jefferson, although several Vikings heads could argue that Harrison Smith is a better or equivalent choice for the distinction.
Curiously, Bradbury is coined as a”first-round misfire,” and the Vikings center hasn’t even played his third year of football. Players take time to mature, so this classification of Bradbury is a bit shortsighted — or, Rosenthal can predict the future.
Spielman is generally applauded for most of his deeds as the Vikings general manager. This list confirms his approval rating. Nevertheless, some folks laser-point to Treadwell in efforts to decry Spielman’s body of work. And that is strange because it is, quite frankly, one bad pick.
On the whole, Spielman can be commended for his draft acumen — but then properly held accountable for routinely failing to solve the Vikings longstanding offensive-line woes. Particularly via pass protection.