If Rick Spielman needed a reminder not to rest on his past draft-day successes, all he had to do was look at all the new faces making the decisions at the top of Thursday night’s first round.
Eight of the first 14 picks were made by the league’s seven new general managers. They’re new because the teams they work for were a combined 34-78 and 0-for-7 in playoff appearances a year ago. They’re new because their predecessors messed up way too badly on way too many draft days.
Those seven new faces mean that nearly a quarter of the league’s decisionmakers are new this year. That’s a good thing for the Vikings, who look comfortable and confident with Spielman overseeing the Vikings’ draft for the seventh time, including the past two with final say on all transactions.
In his first six drafts, Spielman used his first-rounders on rookies of the year Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin, a rookie Pro Bowl tackle in Matt Kalil, a 16-game rookie starter at safety in Harrison Smith and trade bait to land multiple All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen.
Spielman also used Day 3 picks (fourth round or lower) to land five starters – Brian Robison, John Sullivan, Brandon Fusco, Jamarca Sanford and Letroy Guion – a rising star in Everson Griffen and an All-Pro kicker in Blair Walsh.
Thursday night, he filled not one, not two, but three needs with first rounders. No. 23 pick Sharrif Floyd will play nose tackle this year and then replace Kevin Williams, the last Vikings’ defensive tackle taken in the first round back in 2003.
No. 25 pick Xavier Rhodes gives the Vikings a pair of 6-2 starting cornerbacks, along with Chris Cook, to combat the NFC North’s giant receivers. And No. 29 pick Cordarrelle Patterson fills a huge need at receiver, which was obvious by how much the Vikings paid (picks in the second, third, fourth and seventh rounds) to New England to trade back into the first round to get him.
The seven new GMs — Kansas City’s John Dorsey, Jacksonville’s David Caldwell, Cleveland’s Michael Lombardi, Arizona’s Steve Keim, the Jets’ John Idzik, San Diego’s Tom Telesco and Carolina’s Dave Gettelman – would be more than happy to do as well as Spielman has on draft day.
The new guys owned the first (Chiefs), second (Jaguars), sixth (Browns), seventh (Cardinals), ninth (Jets), 11th (Chargers), 13th (Jets) and 14th (Panthers) picks.
Four played it safe with offensive linemen in what was considered a meat-and-potatoes draft. Also taken were two powerful, mobile defensive tackles, a pass-rushing 3-4 outside linebacker and the top cornerback.
Here’s who the new guys took in Round 1:
Chiefs: Dorsey. No. 1 overall: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan.
Dorsey gave himself leverage to trade disgruntled franchise player Branden Albert when he went with a predictable position, but a surprise player. Fisher was considered more of a risk because he came from a smaller school than Luke Joeckel, the consensus No. 1 projection from Texas A&M.
Jaguars: Caldwell. No. 2: Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Jacksonville had the fewest sacks in the league (20) a year ago. But rather than take Oregon pass rusher Dion Jordan, they went the safer route with Joeckel.
Browns: Lombardi. No. 6: Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU.
Cardinals: Keim. No. 7: Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
Jets: Idzik. Nos. 9 and 13: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama; Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri.
Idzik is by far the biggest risk-taker among the new GMs. He wasn’t a popular guy when he traded All-Pro corner Darrelle Revis to Tampa Bay for the 13th pick. But he came back with Milliner, a big corner who can tackle, cover and even rush off the edge.
Chargers: Telesco. No. 11: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Panthers: Gettelman. No. 14: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah