There are few certainties in the NFL draft, but one you can count on from the Minnesota Vikings this week: Rick Spielman will make a trade.
Since Spielman became general manager in 2012, Minnesota has made multiple trades in every draft. So he likely will be up to his usual tricks during the three-day event that runs Thursday through Saturday in Cleveland.
Of most interest is whether Spielman will make a trade with the Vikings’ first-round pick, No. 14 overall, or any kind of deal to get a second-round pick, which Minnesota does not have.
“(Team executives) Rob Brzezinski and Ryan Monnens will be handling the trades this year, so we’re going through what the potential cost of that would be,” Spielman said in a Zoom call with reporters Tuesday. “We’re also looking at, if we are at 14 and (we look at the draft) board (and there are) two or three players that we still think we can get, like we’ve done in the past, trading back, picking up some more draft capital.”
In previous first rounds, the Vikings have not traded up to get a higher pick than what they had entering the draft since Spielman took over as general manager. They have traded back in the first round with their highest pick twice, moving back one spot to take tackle Matt Kalil at No. 4 in 2012 and moving back one spot for linebacker Anthony Barr at No. 9 in 2014.
If the Vikings want one of the top two tackles in the draft, they likely would need to trade up to get Penei Sewell of Oregon or Rashawn Slater of Northwestern. Overall, though, draft analyst and former Vikings safety Corey Chavous likes where they are positioned.
“I think the draft is pretty deep, and I think the Vikings are in a really, really good spot because those quarterbacks are going to probably push down a very good player,” Chavous said Tuesday.
Five quarterbacks — Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields and Mac Jones — could go in the first 13 picks. That would enhance the chances of an intriguing player at a position of need being available to Minnesota.
The Vikings are most likely to take an offensive lineman or a defensive end in the first round. Assuming Sewell and Slater are gone, candidates include tackle Christian Darrisaw and guard Alijah Vera-Tucker on the line and Kwity Paye and Jaelan Phillips at end. The Vikings could get one of those players by trading down.
“We feel very confident, if we do not move up or down in the draft, we’re going to get a very good football player at 14,” said Spielman, who said the Vikings are not committed to taking a player at any position in the first round.
After their No. 14 pick, the Vikings are not scheduled to select again until the third round, when they have picks No. 78 and 90. With there being such a gap between their first two picks, Spielman believes Minnesota has enough ammunition to move up to the second round.
“Right now, we have four fourth-round picks, which does give you the ability to move back into the second round,” he said. “(If) I see most of the guys we’re going to be targeting are going to be gone by the end of the second round, then we are probably going to have to be aggressive to move up in the second.”
The Vikings will enter the draft with 10 total picks. They also have two picks in the fifth round and one in the sixth round.
Last year, Minnesota drafted 15 players, the most by any team since the NFL went to a seven-round format in 1994. Spielman said one of the reasons to accumulate so many picks in 2020 was to make up for the difficulty of signing undrafted free agents because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The draft is now more business as usual a year after it was conducted as a virtual event, when Spielman worked out of at his Eden Prairie home. Spielman said those working on the Vikings’ draft are now fully vaccinated and won’t have to wear masks in the TCO Performance Center draft room.
“My wife is extremely happy they didn’t move all the stuff into our house again this year,” Spielman said. “It’ll be pretty much as close to normal as we’ve been in the past except with all the COVID protocols in place. There will be 10 people in the room that we’re allowed to have that will be unmasked in our main draft room.”