Tuesday, Jun. 15, 2021


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Odds So-So on Vikings Home Run Pick

 

What is the likelihood the Minnesota Vikings will make a home run pick in the seven round NFL Draft that begins Thursday and ends Saturday? Can general manager Rick Spielman find another Justin Jefferson (class of 2020) or Dalvin Cook (2017)?

In the last five drafts Jefferson and Cook have turned out to be the only high impact players from those years. That’s 40 percent on franchise-turning selections and shows it’s challenging being a draft specialist like Spielman.

There’s no guarantee of drafting an elite player in the first round. Laquon Treadwell, the 2016 first rounder, was a bust. Mike Hughes, from 2018, has struggled to get on the field, and while 2019 first rounder Garrett Bradbury has been a two-year starter he hardly draws raves.

Dalvin Cook (photo courtesy of Minnesota Vikings)

Jefferson went late in the first round and made Spielman look like prophetic after having one of the best rookie seasons ever for an NFL wide receiver. Cook wasn’t selected until the second round but his production at running back is worthy of all-pro recognition and he carries the offense.

With draft results dicey despite all the expertise and man hours devoted to the process, it’s no wonder Spielman hoards draft choices hoping to find a gem. “I treasure those and I try to collect as many as I can,” Spielman said after the Vikings drafted an NFL record 15 players in 2020.

Spielman has extra picks going into Thursday’s draft but is without a second rounder. With that hole and his reputation for making trades, it’s likely the Vikings will fill their void. Having 11 picks also allows Spielman to draft players who otherwise he would have to pursue as college free agents.

Spielman predicted at his news conference yesterday if the Vikings stay at No. 14 in the first round they will acquire a “very good football player.” Much of the speculation is he will take an offensive tackle at No. 14 but Spielman gave no hints about what he will do and indicated the Vikings will choose the proverbial best player available. “There is no position off limits in this draft,” he said.

The Vikings’ evaluators spend a lot of time anticipating where players will fall in the draft with 600 prospects currently on their board. Spielman said 100 of those prospects play the same position but, of course, didn’t offer further information.

Worth Noting

Condolences to my friend Denny Schulstad following the recent death of his wife Pam. The Schulstads shared many interests including their passion for Golden Gophers football.

The improving Minnesota Timberwolves, with a 19-44 season record, have won three consecutive games after defeating the Houston Rockets last night. Minnesota’s reserves out-scored Houston’s 54-23 in the 114-107 win. The 54 points total made the Wolves second in the NBA in bench scoring at 40.8 per game.

Minnesota Twins radio play-by-play voice Cory Provus had a candid interview about MLB’s slow pace of play with Twins manager Rocco Baldelli last Sunday, prior to the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Provus referenced a startling stat—last season fans waited an average of four minutes during games to see the baseball put in play (see Tom Verducci’s SI.com March 17 article). In the noon to 12:30 p.m. interview Baldelli acknowledged the concerns about lengthy games and said he is interested to see how experimental changes in the minor leagues will work.

Baldelli misses the friendship and wisdom of Mike Bell, the superb Twins bench coach who died of kidney cancer earlier this year. Bell, 46, had extensive experience in various baseball roles including player development.

Look for Twins Kyle Garlick, Max Kepler and Miguel Sano to return soon.  Sano has a hamstring strain, Garlick and Kepler are on COVID IL.

Kenta Maeda, who was the losing pitcher for the Twins last night against the Cleveland Indians, now has a surprising 6.56 ERA (career 3.84). Cold weather this spring has apparently been a challenge for Maeda who joined the Twins in 2020 when the pandemic impacted season didn’t begin until July—and before that pitched in Los Angeles for the Dodgers. Lower temps can make it more difficult to grip the baseball.

Ticket King owner Mike Nowakowski said tickets for the much anticipated Gophers-Buckeyes football game at TCF Bank Stadium Thursday, September 2 start at $100 and he has sold more than 300 tickets. “Every Gopher fan has circled that game on his calendar, much more than the Badgers or Nebraska,” he said.

The Vikings’ 2021 home schedule is loaded with box office draws including a rare Minneapolis visit by the Pittsburgh Steelers from the AFC. The Steelers have fan following in Minnesota and next fall could be the last season for 39-year-old quarterback hero Ben Roethlisberger. “We’ll get nailed (ticket demand) on that one,” Nowakowski said.

Goal Line Club members on Friday will watch a Zoom preview of Saturday’s Gopher spring game from Ryan Burns and Luke Buer of Gopher Gridiron Podcast. Attendance for the game at TCF Bank Stadium is capped at 10,000.

It’s farewell week for WCCO Radio’s Dave Lee who is leaving the station after 30 years to retire. Lee has spent 29 of those years hosting his popular morning show, rising early in the morning to be at the station by 3:45 a.m. Asked about retirement plans, Lee quipped, “Use the summer to sleep past three in the morning.”

Lee was the radio play-by-play voice of Gophers football for 10 years and basketball for five. He had to give up basketball sooner than he wanted because his absence from the morning show impacted listening audience and potential advertising revenues. Lee told Sports Headliners he will continue play-by-play TV for the state football and basketball tournaments, and is considering other freelance opportunities.

Lee, 67, has been named Minnesota Sportscaster of the Year six times. A North Dakota native, he has been working at some job since he was 12. “I’ve never not worked,” Lee said as he thought what retirement might be like.

Brian Cosgriff, Paige Buecker’s high school coach at Hopkins, said the University of Connecticut freshman who won multiple national player of the year awards, is lifting weights to add strength to her 5-foot-11 frame. “I know if anybody is going to train hard, it’s Paige Bueckers,” Cosgriff told Sports Headliners.

The Huskies lost to Arizona in a Final Four semifinal game earlier this month. Next year’s NCAA Tournament Final Four is in Minneapolis. “I know her goal is nothing short of a national championship,” Cosgriff said.

CORES spokesman Jim Dotseth said the organization is hopeful about resuming its lunch programs in September. Featuring local sports speakers, CORES has yet to meet this year because of the pandemic. CORES is an acronym for coaches, officials, reporters, educators and sports fans.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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