Since Rick Spielman joined the Vikings in May of 2006 and leading into Thursday’s first round of the NFL draft, the team had selected 11 players in the first round: Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Christian Ponder, Matt Kalil, Harrison Smith, Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes, Cordarrelle Patterson, Anthony Barr, Teddy Bridgewater and Trae Waynes.
Remarkably only Harvin, who was named Rookie of the Year in 2009, and Ponder, who started 36 games at quarterback over four seasons and was the starter on the 2012 team that advanced to the playoffs, are no longer with the team, and both have left the NFL.
So now the question becomes did Spielman make another great pick on Thursday with the selection of Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell with the 23rd pick in the first round?
There’s a good chance he did, as Vikings coach Mike Zimmer described Treadwell as the best blocking wide receiver he’d ever seen coming out of college and added that the first-round draft choice was billed as the big wide receiver that the team needs. If Treadwill can live up to those two criteria, he will help maintain the great track record of first-round draft choices the Vikings have taken recently.
Meanwhile right after the pick was made ESPN analyst Jon Gruden said, “For Teddy Bridgewater, Laquon Treadwell should be a go-to guy,”
I’ve long said that Spielman is the best general manager in the NFL, and looking at his first-round track record you see a tremendous group of players. Peterson will go down as the best at his position in Vikings history.
Harvin was a tremendously gifted player — his ceiling was so high that he easily won the rookie of the year award — but he also had difficulties with migraines and other injuries from his physical play.
Ponder, I believe, was a better quarterback than given credit, but even though he never became a star he did pass for 6,658 yards and 38 touchdowns with 36 interceptions in 38 games for the Vikings, and helped lead the team to the playoffs in the middle of a bad stretch of seasons.
So while Spielman had success from 2007 to ’11 when he worked alongside two other Vikings executives at the draft, he really started shaping the franchise in 2012 when he was given full control over personnel decisions.
It was that draft where he grabbed Kalil, who will start at left tackle this season, and Smith, the team’s best defensive back. Both players have made the Pro Bowl, with Kalil playing 64 games over five seasons and Smith playing 53.
The next season Spielman went even further, working trades to grab three first-round picks, Floyd, Rhodes and Patterson.
Floyd and Rhodes figure to be defensive stalwarts under Zimmer for years, and both had their best seasons last year in helping the team win the NFC North. But the best part of their selections was that they weren’t high draft picks, with Floyd coming at No. 23 and Rhodes at No. 25.
Patterson, whom Spielman traded up to get at No. 29, has had an up-and-down career as a receiver with the Vikings, but he is the best kick returner in the NFL.
In 2014 Spielman grabbed Barr and Bridgewater, who both already have made the Pro Bowl, and are going to be the faces of the franchise going forward. Barr, selected ninth overall, has shown that he can be the kind of linebacker to lead a defense, and Bridgewater remains the team’s answer for a franchise quarterback.
The jury still is out on last year’s first-round pick in Waynes, who saw limited action last season as a rookie, but it sounds as if Waynes easily could be a starter this season and begin making his mark defensively.
It’s an amazing collection of talent that Spielman has found in the first round, seven All-Rookie players, four Pro Bowl selections as rookies and two NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year winners in Peterson and Harvin.
What has to feel great for the general manager now though is that he’s paired with a coaching staff that he feels is the best at developing players in the NFL. There’s no doubt that selecting the right player is key, but with Zimmer and his assistant coaches leading this team, they only seem to get better with each passing year.
And if the past is any indication, now that they’ve added Treadwell, Vikings fans can expect great things out of him going forward.
• On Thursday night a group of Vikings, including Kyle Rudolph, Chad Greenway, John Sullivan, Brandon Fusco and Captain Munnerlyn, held a charity event at 4 Bells restaurant in Minneapolis to benefit the Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. It was a draft viewing party as the players saw who their newest teammate would be.
Rudolph talked about the event.
“It’s a project we’re doing over there to build a zone for these kids to kind of escape their everyday troubles, get out of the room, and kind of become kids, just relax and have fun and forget why they’re there,” he said. “All of the proceeds will go toward that and we’re going to have a good time, hang out, watch the draft, and welcome the newest member to our Vikings team.”
• Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau was asked if Kevin Garnett could be an assistant coach?
“You leave all options open,” he said. “I don’t know what he wants to do, and it’s funny you never know. I think he has a great mind for the game. He’s an excellent teacher. There’s so many things. But I want to have a chance to see what he wants to do, and he can do a lot of different things. Sometimes guys you don’t think are interested in coaching end up being interested in coaching. He’ll have a lot of options available for him to do, and we’ll see. But again I don’t want to jump ahead of myself until I have a chance to sit down and talk to him.”
• Since being sent down to Class AAA Rochester, outfielder Byron Buxton has hit 5-for-17 (.296) over three games, with one double, while Max Kepler was 1-for-11 (.097) over four games.
• Gophers football recruiting coordinator Billy Glasscock described what the teams coaches are doing.
“What’s going on right now is this is the spring recruiting time. It’s called the spring evaluation time, and that starts April 15 and goes to May 31. It gives you time to go on the road, and your assistant coaches are allowed to be on the road and watch practices, talk to high school coaches, get more background information on the kids.”
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org