General Manager Rick Spielman just wrapped up his annual pre-draft press conference, and no, he didn’t tell us whom the Vikings plan to select with the 11th overall pick Thursday night.
Spielman did say their options are “wide open” when it comes to their first-round selection.
“We’re sitting at the 11th spot right now,” Spielman said. “But I just went through five different scenarios this morning. What if a potential pass rusher falls down? What if a potential offensive lineman [does]? And there’s multiple offensive linemen that we’re looking at it. What if a [defensive back] falls down? What if the receivers fall down? … We are wide open on any direction that we’re going to go. There’s no way set [position], honed-in, we’re taking this position.”
Spielman said that the way the team’s draft board has been assembled, with a smaller first tier of prospects and a large cluster of similarly-rated prospects in a second tier, the Vikings might have an opportunity to address a need with their first pick without sacrificing much, if any, prospect value.
“After we developed our draft board, and you look at maybe those top five or six players and how we drafted this draft, I think when you go from the seventh or eighth player down to the 20th player, I don’t know if there’s that much difference,” Spielman said. “We think they’re all very talented but we think they’re all close in talent. So the benefit to that now is that you have an opportunity to fill a need. … If those [prospects] are that close, then what are we going to do to fill a need?”
Spielman said that a trade-up is unlikely this year, but the Vikings are receptive to trading down.
Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph has played just 17 games over the last two seasons due to injuries. He’s hoping his luck will change this season.
Entering his fifth season, Rudolph said his goal this offseason is to play in all 16 regular season games this year. That’s only happened once during Rudolph’s second year in the league in 2012. He’s attempted to become more durable with an emphasis on stretching.
“I think this is the first time in my career I haven’t felt like I’ve come back in April in the best shape,” Rudolph said. “I’m in great shape. I can go out there and run, but at the same time, I’m not peaking in the middle of April or in June when we’re out there running around in shorts. You look great running around but then halfway through the year you’re on the decline.”
Rudolph hopes the offseason change will allow him to peak during the season rather than Phase 2 of the NFL offseason schedule. He was expected to become a big weapon in offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s offense last year, but Rudolph needed sports hernia surgery after Week 2. He missed seven games and never returned to form after the injury.
Fresh off a five-year contract extension worth $36.5 million during training camp last year, Rudolph had just 24 receptions for 231 yards and two touchdowns last year.
“We can say all we want right in April, but the only way I’m going to put this behind me is going out there in September and playing until January.”
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman just concluded his pre-draft media availability. Not much he said was terribly surprising, some of it was pretty interesting and none of it really changed my opinion of what the Vikings are likely to do in the first round Thursday and with Adrian Peterson going forward.
On Peterson: Spielman said, “Our position has not changed since all of the statements we’ve made at the owners meetings. …. I think (head coach Mike) Zimmer made it clear we have no interest in trading Adrian Peterson, and we don’t.”
But Spielman was asked flat-out if he is NOT going to trade Peterson, and he would not say that. As such, it remains important to note the semantic distinction between saying “no interest” in trading Peterson and “not” trading Peterson. He answered questions about Peterson very carefully and showered praise on his agent, Ben Dogra, when asked specifically about him.
All of it feels like a calculated smokescreen at this point, and I remain convinced that the Vikings will trade Peterson this offseason. This is based on my gut and on how similar situations (Randy Moss, Daunte Culpepper and Percy Harvin) have played out in the past. Spielman did nothing to dissuade that opinion Tuesday.
On the first round: Spielman flat-out said he doesn’t want to trade up and that he would like to trade down and accumulate picks. In this case, I think we should believe him.
He said he thinks the value of players in the 7-20 range in this draft is fairly close together and made a good point about an extra trade enticement the Vikings have with the No. 11 pick: every first-round pick gets a four-year contract with a fifth-year option, but for picks 1-10 that option year is potentially more expensive. Pick 11 is the first one for which the price drops (this MMQB piece explains it). A team with an eye on a future salary cap and a specific need at No. 11 could be more motivated to deal with the Vikings than a team in the top 10.
Spielman also said the team has analyzed draft value and “sweet spots” in the draft with the help of an outside analytics consultant. That kind of predraft work could give Spielman and the Vikings the kind of specific information and game plan they would be driven to execute.
Spielman talked of the risks of moving too far down, which are fairly obvious: you risk missing out on a player or cluster of players you want. My guess is the Vikings won’t move more than 5-6 spots down, but I think Spielman will do everything in his power to trade down and get more picks. The best thing that could happen is that one of the two top QBs slides that far and that a QB-hungry team like, say, Houston at No. 16 or even the Chargers (if they trade Philip Rivers) at No. 17 want to jump in.
But there is value all over the board at No. 11, and if Spielman really believes the top-end value stretches as far as No. 20, he could make a deal with any team with any specific need.
The Vikings only have 7 picks in the draft. Spielman covets more. The best way is to make a move with that first-round pick, and I came away from Tuesday’s news conference convinced the Vikings will wind up picking somewhere between, say, 14-18 by the time Thursday’s first round is said and done, picking up another decent pick and late pick in the process. Maybe they even flip it twice, depending on who comes calling and who is left on the board.
Once the dealing is done, the Vikings will wind up with an offensive lineman or a pass rusher with their top pick.
How will the Vikings get that bonus first round-pick they’ve enjoyed in the last three seasons (seven total first-round picks in those three years)? Go ahead and let your Peterson imagination run wild …