The 2016 NFL draft isn’t until late April, but ESPN assembled a conference call with draft expert Todd McShay today, Thursday, Dec. 17 to talk about it. That says a lot about many things, and maybe it even says something about me because yes, I jumped on it to ask McShay about the Vikings. My two-part question (sneaky!) asked him to both evaluate GM Rick Spielman’s performance in the draft, particularly in the last four years when Minnesota has had eight combined first-round picks, and look ahead to what the Vikings might be thinking in 2016. Here is what McShay had to say:
*ON SPIELMAN AND RECENT DRAFT HISTORY: “They’ve put themselves in good position, really, when you look at what they’ve been able to do. I think Rick Spielman has done a really good job and is one of the better, more underrated GMs when you look at his draft history.
“I know he has a couple issues. Christian Ponder is obviously the one that stands out. But it looks right now like Teddy Bridgewater, while he hasn’t had an amazing year, continues to develop. That looks to be a good pick, right at the end of the first round, after getting Anthony Barr (in 2014). They’ve played (Barr) differently than he was played mostly at UCLA, and it’s benefited him. They had a plan for Barr, and they’re getting the most out of him.
Eric Kendricks, I love that pick from a year ago. Trae Waynes and Kendricks, we’ll see, it’s very early. Sharrif Floyd is starting to play better, and we saw more out of him this year. I think overall when you look at Matt Kalil, Harrison Smith … some of the guys you can look at and say they haven’t been exceptional, but overall they haven’t had many misses and that’s critical in early rounds. I think they’ve done a very good job. Stefon Diggs is a good example of a guy they found in the fifth round who has been able to come in and been a big help to the football team.”
*ON WHAT THE VIKINGS WILL LOOK FOR EARLY IN THE 2016 DRAFT: “Chad Greenway, I believe his contract is up at the end of this year, and with a lot of good weakside linebacker types in this year’s draft, I think that’s a position to watch. Jaylon Smith from Notre Dame probably will be gone based on where Minnesota is projected to draft right now, but with if Darron Lee from Ohio State ends up leaving early, Miles Jack from UCLA, there are some good players who could wind up fitting what they need at that position. So that would probably be the top spot there I would say if you’re looking at next year considering some of the contracts and what they’re looking at.