Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.


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Spielman's not an honor student so far in draft

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: October 10, 2013 - 8:18 PM

There's a chance that we might have reacted hastily in declaring the Vikings' Rick Spielman to be a genius at maneuvering the draft. One problem with trying to look at Spielman's track record in Minnesota is figuring out when he was the man in charge.

The Wilfs' first real act as owners was to make a quick hire of Brad Childress as coach in January 2006. They were convinced that Childress had options and gave him considerable power with personnel decisions -- as Dennis Green had in the decade from 1992 through 2001, and as Mike Tice had to a lesser degree from 2002 through 2005.

Fran Foley lasted only a few months after being hired as player personnel director. He was replaced by Spielman, who the Wilfs had come to admire by watching him on television.

Scouting director Scott Studwell remained a respected presence in draft decisions. The breakdown in power between Childress and Spielman over the next few years was difficult to assess.

You look at 2009, with five picks, and that has the appearance of a draft heavily influenced by a head coach worried about the season ahead, period. You look at 2010 and it seems more like a draft run by a player personnel guy wanting to work on longer-term success.

So, we'll go with 2010 as the starting point for the Spielman Era.

The Vikings had the 30th pick in the first round. They traded that selection (the failed running back, Jahvid Best) and a late fourth-rounder to Detroit for the 34th (cornerback Chris Cook), an early fourth-rounder (defensive end Everson Griffen) and a seventh-rounder.

Spielman kept maneuvering and wound up with running back Toby Gerhart (51 overall) between Cook and Griffen, as well as guard Chris DeGeare (161), linebacker Nate Triplett (167), quarterback Joe Webb (199), tight end Mickey Shuler (214) and fullback Ryan D'Imperio (237).

In retrospect, with Cook's injury problems, and Gerhart soon to leave as a free agent without getting much work here, and with Griffen wanting more money than the Vikings have been willing to offer, and Joe Webb not finding a real role ...

You have to give Spielman and the Vikings a "D'' for the 2010 draft.

Spielman did not yet have the general manager title in 2011, but that draft was all him ... starting with the stretch to select Christian Ponder, an up-and-down quarterback at Florida State, with the 12th overall pick.

In Green Bay style, Spielman compiled nine more picks after that: tight end Kyle Rudolph (43 overall), defensive tackle Christian Ballard (106), cornerback Brandon Burton (139), offensive lineman DeMarcus Love (168), safety Mistral Raymond (170), guard Brandon Fusco (172), linebacker Ross Homan (200), defensive end D'Aundre Reed (215) and receiver Stephen Burton (236).

Are Rudolph, a major threat, and Fusco, a starter from the sixth round, enough to give a respectable grade to a draft that includes both a failed quarterback of the future in Ponder, and a fourth-rounder who decided he didn't like football in Ballard?

Nope. That's another "D'' for the 2011 draft.

The 3-13 record in 2011 put the Vikings in a can't lose situation, with the third overall pick, in the 2012 draft. Spielman maximized his return by convincing Cleveland that he was willing to move down and let another team jump to No. 3 to draft Alabama running back Trent Richardson.

Spielman wound up with the player he wanted, left tackle Matt Kalil, at No. 4, and some extra ammunition that made him comfortable in trading up to get safety Harrison Smith at No. 29 overall. Spielman made another exceptional move in taking placekicker Blair Walsh.

The rest of that draft was cornerback Josh Robinson (66 overall), receiver Jarius Wright (118), fullback Rhett Ellison (128), receiver Greg Childs (134), safety Robert Blanton (139), linebacker Audie Cole (210) and defensive end Trevor Guyton (219).

Ahhh ... the way Robinson has played and the impact between modest and none among the rest of that group, combined with the very favorable starting point at third overall, the A+ that we were all giving Spielman a year ago looks more like a "B'' for the 2012 draft.

We were also quick to throw an A+ at Spielman for his work this April, when he manipulated his resources to get the Vikings three selections in the first round for only the second time in franchise history (the other being Clint Jones, Gene Washington and Alan Page in 1967).

The Vikings took defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd at 23, cornerback Xavier Rhodes at 25 and receiver/returner Cordarrelle Patterson at 29. Everyone likes Rhodes' future, and Patterson's explosiveness, and remains hopeful for Floyd to become Kevin Williams' replacement inside.

There were six other draftees. Four are on the roster: linebackers Gerald Hodges (120 overall) and Michael Mauti (213), punter Jeff Locke (155) and guard Jeff Baca (196). Two are on the practice squad: guard Travis Bond (214) and defensive tackle Everett Dawkins (229).

Right now, we'll give Spielman a quarter grade of "B'' for the 2013 draft. Two Bs and two Ds add up to a grade point of 2.0, enough for eligibity but not much more.

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