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 …