Evidently, Rick Spielman Went Rogue in the 2021 Draft.

Evidently, Rick Spielman Went Rogue in 2021 Draft.
Rick Spielman

Ever wonder why the general population was high on the idea of putting guard Wyatt Davis into the lineup, whereas the Minnesota Vikings coaching staff was surprisingly rigid about putting the Ohio State alumnus on the field? Well, evidently, former general manager Rick Spielman went rogue in the 2021 draft while drafting Davis.

Rick Spielman
Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

On the Purple Insider Podcast this week, Courtney Cronin, who covered the Vikings for ESPN in 2021, opined the following about the selection of Davis:

“Do you want to know what I heard at the combine? That was a Rick Spielman special, where he didn’t listen to anyone else in the room on Wyatt Davis. He went after his guy. Two scouts I talked to in the Minnesota Vikings organization said that this guy wasn’t even a backup grade for them. Okay? That’s what the reality of the situation was.”

Courtney Cronin | ESPN

Davis was fruit from Spielman’s 1st-Round trade in last year’s draft. The Vikings moved back nine spots in Round 1, trading the 14th overall pick to the New York Jets for three draft picks [that would become] Christian Darrisaw, Kellen Mond, and Wyatt Davis. The Jets chose guard Alijah Vera-Tucker with the 14th pick.

Darrisaw emerged as the Vikings starting left tackle, but Mond and Davis experienced little playing time. The two men saw action in the preseason, but aside from one drive by Mond late in the regular season, Mond and Davis watched from the sidelines as Minnesota tunneled to an 8-9 season.

Ohio State Buckeyes offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere (78) and offensive lineman Wyatt Davis (52) block Florida Atlantic Owls defensive tackle Marcel Southall (92) during the NCAA football game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Monday, Sept. 2, 2019. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch] Osu19fau Xtra 11

Fans vehemently called for Davis, who looked serviceable at times during the preseason — but also appeared lost during stretches on the field. Instead, the Vikings stuck with Oli Udoh and Mason Cole at right guard, in varying degrees of success. Although, Cole performed quite well when he became the starter.

Cronin’s theory makes sense. Minnesota did not have a guard on the roster with a strangehold on the starting job, so Spielman, in theory, bucking the consensus to take a guard with a marvelous college career adds up. For a while, Davis was coveted draft stock, only tumbling late in the process during the 2021 offseason. He was even theorized as a 1st-Round pick in 2020.

What might have happened? Spielman identified Davis’ upside while the Vikings coaching staff offered a collective no thank you. As for Spielman and the coaching staff as not-in-cahoots entities, well, that checks out, too. After Spielman and Mike Zimmer were terminated, there was a vibe in the aftermath of the terminations that the two didn’t see eye to eye.

Davis, as an example, provides substantiation to that contention.

Whether Spielman went rogue or not, Davis is still on the Vikings roster. The new coaching staff, led by Kevin O’Connell, must determine who was correct — Spielman or the scouts.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. His YouTube Channel, VikesNow, debuts in March 2022. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).