Vikings GM Willing to Take Risks
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman leads the Vikings in the NFL Draft this week, and his past profile tells fans to prepare for surprises.
Minnesota has two first round draft choices and 12 overall in the seven round event that starts Thursday and continues through Saturday. It seems likely Spielman will trade picks during the 2020 draft, perhaps in the first round.
In the last three drafts, Spielman made multiple trades to maneuver for college players he wanted. More of that makes sense given the club’s many needs including at cornerback, wide receiver and in the offensive line.
Spielman, now in his ninth season as Minnesota’s GM and 30th working in the NFL, is in the last year of his contract. The pressure is on him to reshuffle a roster that has both strength and soft spots by coming up with a winning draft list, and making moves to sign free agent veterans in the weeks ahead (or even in the next few days).
Spielman’s history has consistently been that of a leader not afraid to take risks. He hired Mike Zimmer even though the longtime NFL defensive coordinator had never been a head coach. Just before the season started in 2016 he traded for Sam Bradford, a veteran quarterback known as much for his injuries as his skills.
A couple of years ago Spielman set a Vikings and NFL payroll record by giving free agent Kirk Cousins a guaranteed $84 million deal, and then this offseason signing the inconsistent quarterback to a rich contract extension. Last month he also traded star wide receiver Stefon Diggs to the Bills for the No. 22 pick in the first round of Thursday night’s draft.
You decide whether to label Spielman “Trader Rick,” but there is no doubt one of the NFL’s most intriguing storylines Thursday night will be what the Vikings do in the first round. Their first round picks at No. 22 and No. 25 might be leveraged to move up in the draft, or one of them could be used to acquire two draft picks in the second round.
A headline maker would have the Vikings dealing to move into the top dozen picks of the first round. There they could acquire one of the draft’s biggest prizes among corners, offensive linemen and wide receivers. A low-risk-high-reward draftee is Iowa tackle Tristan Wirfs. If the Vikings could draft Wirfs to play right tackle and sign Washington Redskins free agent left tackle Trent Williams, the moves would provide a lot of security for star running back Dalvin Cook and Cousins, who often falters under pressure in the pocket.
At Spielman’s pre-draft news conference this afternoon he wouldn’t describe the 2020 draft as the biggest or most important he has led, but did acknowledge the “evolution period of our roster” and the many spots that need to be filled.
Spielman expects a lot of contributions right away from this year’s draft choices, and plans to add to the rookie pool next week with free agent signings. He said the goal of growing the roster from the present 60 total to 90 can also be aided by signing veteran free agents and acquiring players via what he termed “minor trades.”
This is a particularly deep draft for wide receivers. Spielman expressed optimism the Vikings could find quality even in the fourth and fifth rounds.
Spielman expects the Vikings will be playing inexperienced cornerbacks next season. While that is a position of need, the GM said corners the Vikings select need to fit their scheme and have traits liked by the team’s coaches.
Other teams have been calling Spielman in regard to possible draft choice swapping that could have his club moving up or back in the draft.
Former Viking Bob Lurtsema predicted to Sports Headliners last year that Minnesota would use its first round pick to select center Garrett Bradbury. Now what about 2020? “I think they will draft a wide receiver with speed,” Lurtsema said.
The first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday begins at 7 p.m. Minneapolis time. Start times for Friday (rounds 2 & 3) and Saturday (rounds 4 thru 7) are 6 p.m. and 11 a.m. respectively.
Casey O’Brien, the University of Minnesota football player whose triumphs against cancer have been a national story, is on track to be cancer free next month. His father Dan O’Brien said a spot found on Casey’s lung last January was removed surgically earlier this year and the junior holder is finishing up chemo treatments. Casey will have his degree from the Carlson School of Business in December.
With the pandemic going on and no sports being played, WCCO Radio’s “Sports Huddle” show has been sidelined for more than a month. Dave Mona, co-host of the show since 1981, said the program will resume when Minnesota sports start up again.
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