5 Creative Moves the Minnesota Vikings Can Pull on Draft Day
Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman can be called a lot of things, but he's nothing if not creative. He started his tenure as a general manager (with full authority) by trading down one spot with the Cleveland Browns and selecting the player he wanted all along while grabbing a fourth-, fifth- and sixth-round pick in the process.
Those picks turned into Jarius Wright, Robert Blanton and A.J. Jefferson (via trade), a very good return for essentially nothing, even if Jefferson didn't quite turn out.
In that same draft, he traded back up into the first round to grab Harrison Smith.
Since then, he's moved around in the draft, doing what he can to acquire more picks and often better picks, with successive trades into the first round and a splash trade to move troubled receiver Percy Harvin for a first-round pick and a seventh-round pick in 2013, as well as a third-round pick in 2014.
That kind of movement has become well known to Vikings fans, so it will be difficult to find scenarios that will be too crazy for Spielman.
But why not try?
"Red Paperclip" out of the First Round
A simple office tool captured headlines in 2005 when Kyle MacDonald traded a small red paperclip for a fish-shaped pen, and set off a series of trades that ended up with MacDonald landing a house.
While not the best guide for how to handle loose office supplies, it can provide an apocryphal story for how the Vikings may want to handle the first round. If Peter King's report is correct that NFL evaluators see a steep drop-off from the top nine picks and a flat talent distribution after that, it could help the Vikings to grab extra assets while grabbing a player of equal value later on.
Starting with the Cleveland Browns, the Vikings could revive their old trade partnership and trade down one spot with the Browns again (Danny Shelton may be well-admired by a few NFL teams), netting a fourth-round pick in the process—equal value, per the trade value chart.
From there, the Vikings could exploit an edge-rusher market that has a lot of very talented players, but without many projected to fall, by trading down to a team that needs one—like the Pittsburgh Steelers at 22. The chart would argue the Vikings should be able to grab a second-round pick with that sort of trade, though the Vikings may have to give up a late-round pick in order to complete the process.
Getting out of 22 may require some interesting draft scenarios, but don't be surprised if a team that needs an offensive tackle wants to get a head start on the rush that may begin in round two, with high-level prospects like La'el Collins, T.J. Clemmings, Andrus Peat and Ereck Flowers that could end up as gems to other teams.
Denver could use that kind of improvement on their offensive line, and if the Vikings play teams off of each other, they could trade with Denver for their 28th and 92nd overall pick in the third round.
At the bottom of the first round, the Vikings will have picked up a second-round pick, a third-round pick and a fourth-round pick. If they wanted to completely forgo the fifth-year option on the contract, they could trade once more with a team like the Tennessee Titans, who may want to get in on that run on offensive tackles or begin replacing the mediocre production from Justin Hunter by selecting a receiver.
For that right, the Titans may have to give up a fifth- and sixth-round pick, giving the Vikings the improbable ability to earn a second-, third-, fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-round pick by trading down and selecting the player they'd rather have anyway, like cornerbacks Jalen Collins and Byron Jones or linebackers Stephone Anthony and Eric Kendricks.
It won't happen, but that would be one of the most interesting stories of draft day—and the Vikings could move around in the draft's second day in order to maximize the value of their picks and stay true to the goal of picking with 10 selections.
Trade into a Top Five Pick
One thing the Vikings haven't done under Spielman's tenure is trade up in the top half of the first round, preferring instead to make small trades down at the top and small trades up at the bottom.
But as the trade for Cordarrelle Patterson shows, there are occasionally players the front office really doesn't want to let go. In this case, they could really like the idea of converting Vic Beasley to an off-ball linebacker or more fully commit to the development of Dante Fowler by giving him one position in the Zimmer defense.
Should Tennessee and Tampa Bay both select quarterbacks, the cost of moving up may be a little lower, and they could covet the player Jacksonville does not, allowing them to trade into the fourth pick with the Oakland Raiders, in order to get a jump on Washington, who may also have a need for the same kind of player.
To move up from 11 to four, a second-round pick would be a decent start, but with 100 points left to go on the trade chart, throwing in the third-round pick and grabbing Oakland's fourth-round pick to even out the points will be more likely.
It would prevent the Vikings from trying their consistent strategy of trading up into the first, but it's honestly not a terrible price to pay for the kind of star talent that comes with being the first non-quarterback off the board.
The Vikings have a lot of needs, but the team is young—maybe they don't!
Regardless, this is less likely than the idea of moving out of the first round.
Draft a Quarterback Early
Seemingly the consensus third quarterback in the draft, Brett Hundley could be an intriguing option for Minnesota if they really want to go sideways.
That's not to say Teddy Bridgewater is at any risk of failing. Far from it; Bridgewater showed the kind of advanced skills as well as statistical output to indicate a lot of good things about his development and who he will be with the Vikings. The chances are good he'll produce at a high level in the NFL.
But it's the most important position on the team, and saying the "chances are good" with such a critical position is not saying the same as "our team is set." With what seems to be a 50 percent bust rate for first-round quarterbacks, any team would be smart to create the best possible situation for themselves at this position.
Bridgewater is not near that 50 percent rate at the moment, but by no means is he a lock. Warnings about Robert Griffin III's rookie year aside (and there are a lot of reasons to discount it as any comparison for analysis), you can't guarantee a player who finished 27th in adjusted net yards per attempt and 24th in ESPN's total QBR.
Vikings fans should be optimistic and excited about Bridgewater. He had the second-lowest number of pass attempts that "should have" led to an interception, per Bleacher Report's Cian Fahey, and his yards-per-attempt (a much more stable predictor of quarterback success) ranked 15th in the NFL as a rookie, despite a shaky start.
All the signs are that he'll be a franchise quarterback for the Vikings.
But it's good to have insurance, and if he somehow regresses or gets injured (or even if he simply doesn't continue to develop), it may be good to have a high-level developmental quarterback to turn the offense over to.
Hundley could be that person, and he's underrated as a player. That doesn't mean any team in need of a quarterback should look to him for relief at the position, or even that he's as good of an answer to the position as a random quarterback selected in the top 10 over the past few years, but that he can develop into a quality player.
There are few late-round quarterbacks that develop into successes. For every Tom Brady or...well, Tom Brady, there are countless others who don't make it. Of the 87 quarterbacks drafted in the sixth or seventh rounds in the past 20 years, five have made Pro Bowls.
Two of them are Matt Cassel and Derek Anderson. The other two are Marc Bulger and Matt Hasselbeck, hardly paragons of NFL success.
A developmental project may make more sense in the second round than the sixth round, if turning to a somewhat reliable passer is the goal.
Hundley will need seasoning. Sitting behind an established starter is best for Hundley, whose offense was much more about short and friendly passes, throwing screens almost twice as often as Marcus Mariota did at Oregon and the same amount Derek Carr did in 2014 with Fresno State—an astounding 33 percent of passes.
Often maligned by analysts, Hundley remains the third quarterback in most draft circles, and the second-favorite quarterback for expert analyst Matt Waldman, who broke down Hundley's film exhaustively with Eric Stoner over the course of two one-hour videos.
Hundley has some interesting issues; he displays excellent arm strength in some situations that may not call for it and poor arm strength in others, and he had his decisions predetermined for him at UCLA but showed excellent improvisational ability.
Regardless, his ball placement to perimeter targets and in the middle of the field has been good, and he has excellent delivery mechanics, aside from some easy-to-fix issues with how compressed the motion is on deep throws.
Knocked for his pocket presence, Hundley did have issues scrambling too early and often, but also shows a lot of instances of stepping up in the pocket and delivering tough throws, altering his delivery to do it. His ability to reset needs work, but his poise is there—and that's harder to teach. Over time, he's been better about pocket management and has been more used to making subtle moves in the pocket to create space.
When he's scrambling, he's perhaps the best in the class, as the only quarterback to consistently run like a running back by setting up blocks, pressing lanes and running with authority. He has the maturity to look off defensive backs and create space for his receivers and has learned to stop relying on his legs.
His ability to pick up an NFL offense as well as the questions that always come with inconsistency will be what keep him out of the top of the draft, but the Vikings could sit a player ready to learn from Shaun Hill and provide a more-than-capable backup to Teddy Bridgewater.
If everything works out, they can trade him to a quarterback-needy team for a hefty price in the future.
Not that they should. It just so happens that it's somewhat defensible if they do.
Don't Trade at All
The Vikings could keep Adrian Peterson and pick with the selections they have allotted at picks 11, 45, 76, 110, 137, 228 and 232.
It's not necessarily efficient, either. How likely is it the draft capital a team acquires with their record in the regular season is best distributed by how it's assigned?
Maybe Minnesota, who have 2,026 points of draft capital without a player trade, are better off with the 17th, 32nd, 68th, 108th, 129th, 136th, 140th, 176th, 196th and 211th picks.
But it allows for relatively easier planning, fewer panic moves and a clear view of the draft landscape. Should the Vikings like the young players they have at one of the linebacker positions identified as need areas, one of either Captain Munnerlyn or Josh Robinson and David Yankey, their need profile shrinks—needing one linebacker, a slot cornerback and a safety is a far easier situation to be in.
The most boring move of the draft—no move at all—is one replicated by some successful organizations, like the Pittsburgh Steelers. Maybe the Vikings do the same.
Finish the Story
It may seem too perfect, but with reports the Minnesota Vikings want a first-round pick, plus a starting cornerback, in a trade for Adrian Peterson to the Dallas Cowboys, the storybook ending to the Adrian Peterson saga may finally play out like people expect it to for perhaps the first time in recent memory.
With reports that Orlando Scandrick has chosen to miss voluntary workouts because his contract is too low, the situation seems perfectly set up to finish the drama (or let us down).
In the imaginary world where we get to make the trades instead of pesky general managers and the concept of reality, the Vikings could invest in a younger player at a position of need while grabbing another first-round pick for the fourth year in a row.
Scandrick has the ability to play both on the inside and outside and remains the most consistent player in the otherwise porous Dallas secondary. Often shadowing the best receiver on the field, it's surprising he ranked 14th of 73 cornerbacks in cover targets per snap and 19th in yards per coverage snap, per Pro Football Focus.
PFF graded him out as their 10th-best cornerback, too.
This would free up the Vikings from selecting a corner early, and with their two first-round picks they could select a running back like Todd Gurley of Georgia and a linebacker.
The team gets younger, and by filling two positions with a trade (the linebacker with the Dallas pick and Orlando Scandrick) they could be more balanced.
Maybe this story does have a happy ending.