Rick Spielman held his annual predraft press briefing a few days ago in which the Vikings general manager, in a moment of weakness, revealed his exact plans for his first-round pick in crystal-clear detail.
Holding the No. 14 pick, Spielman acknowledged that he might keep the pick, might trade up, might trade down and probably would consider trading sideways if that were an option. Spielman also narrowed the scope by letting it be known that he is open to taking any position in the draft, even his head coach's favorite position — kicker.
Merry Christmas, Trader Rick. Your favorite time of the year has arrived.
Dramamine should be prescribed to those who follow the Vikings' draft closely each year. Trader Rick's wheeling and dealing of draft picks can cause motion sickness for those trying to keep track.
Spielman typically runs a draft like a volume shooter in basketball. Take a bunch of shots to better the odds of hitting on a few.
Since 2014, Spielman has drafted 74 players, which far exceeds NFC North rivals Green Bay (62), Detroit (58) and Chicago (47) in volume.
One can envision Spielman psyching himself up on draft day. He stares into a mirror as he ties his Windsor knot chanting, "Trader Rick loves draft picks. Trader Rick loves draft picks."
This draft might be a departure from the norm. Without a second-round pick, the safe bet is that Spielman spends some of his middle-round draft capital to move into Round 2, knowing quality over quantity is a necessary objective for a regime that very well could be facing an ultimatum season.
Given Spielman's propensity for draft maneuvering, does anyone really believe he will be able to sit patiently between picks 14 and 78 and do nothing? Let's give that option a 1% chance of happening.
Spielman needs a strong draft to pair with an already productive offseason. Mike Zimmer got his defense repaired through free agency coupled with the return of injured and opt-out players. Now Spielman's mission is to find several impact offensive players in the draft, preferably two new starters along the offensive line.
The Wilf ownership has made no public declarations about expectations for 2021, but the temperature around the organization will turn blazing hot if the Vikings miss the playoffs for a second consecutive season and third time in four years. Even a playoff appearance without a win might not feel all that satisfying to ownership, considering how long the Spielman-Zimmer duo has been at the helm.
The unevenness of Zimmer's tenure — alternating between playoffs and non-playoffs — is symbolic of Spielman's draft record. The draft classes have been spotty since hitting a home run in 2015. Four of their first six picks that year were Trae Waynes, Eric Kendricks, Danielle Hunter and Stefon Diggs. That's an A-plus draft.
The following year, not so much. Mackensie Alexander and Stephen Weatherly stand out as the two most accomplished picks from the '16 class. Both are returning this offseason after brief stints elsewhere.
Spielman's recent draft hits have been special — Dalvin Cook, Brian O'Neill, Justin Jefferson — but his résumé also includes early-round misses.
No GM is ever perfect in the draft. Mistakes happen. Some draft picks don't pan out the way teams envisioned for any number of reasons.
This draft seems straightforward for the Vikings' brain trust. Grab the best offensive lineman with their first pick. Trade into the second round to take either another lineman or edge pass rusher. Maybe find a quarterback in the middle rounds and add another cornerback to make Zimmer happy.
Spielman prefers to finish draft weekend with 10 selections, but quantity shouldn't be a priority this time. He has holes to fill on the offensive line, and this is his chance to give quarterback Kirk Cousins more security and make a productive offense even better.
Predraft subterfuge does nothing to cloud the obvious.