Spielman’s phone ringing frequently as draft approaches

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — With many draft experts expecting heavy trading in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday, Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman is doing nothing to dispel the speculation.

Spielman, meeting Tuesday with members of the local media for his annual predraft press conference said he believes Thursday’s first round will be very active. Spielman, always a willing wheeler and dealer, said there’s a good chance Minnesota will be involved.

The Vikings currently have two picks in the first round, Nos. 23 and 25, and Spielman’s phone has been ringing.

“The phone has been, whether you believe me or not, but I’m telling you, it’s been the most active it’s been in a while because of where we’re picking,” Spielman said, acknowledging the annual smokescreens many teams send out. “And I don’t know the reason why, but there are a lot of teams that potentially are jockeying from the top of that second round. There are some teams jockeying potentially in the bottom of the first round to come up to one of our picks at 23 or 25, and that’s something we’re going to be very open to.

“I think if we decide to go ahead and trade back in this draft, because of the depth at the positions of need that we have, we can still get a very similar player and potentially pick up some things, either this year or next year.”

Minnesota has two first-round picks, one in each of the second and third rounds and two in the fourth and could be looking for possible starters at as many as four positions: middle linebacker, cornerback, wide receiver and defensive tackle.

Though this year’s draft may lack top-end talent, many consider it very deep, which could lead to impact players likely falling into the draft’s second day in the second and third rounds. There’s also as many unknowns at the top of the draft this year as in any in recent memory, leading to many scenarios of what might unfold later in the first round for the Vikings.

“I think this is going to be one of the most intriguing drafts that I’ve been associated with because of the depth of the draft,” Spielman said. “And to be honest with you, where we’re picking at 23 and 25, we’re looking at all our needs, from the whole defensive side of the ball to needs on the offensive side of the ball, trying to distinguish what makes this potential receiver better than this corner, better than this linebacker, better than this defensive end, better than this defensive tackle.

“And a lot of it will be predicated on who comes down to us, I think, on what happens with the quarterbacks. We’ve prepared ourselves, what if there are no quarterbacks taken before we pick, and what kind of scenario could we be facing?”

Though the possibility of trading back from No. 23 or 25 is a real possibility for Minnesota, Spielman said, “I don’t see us right now looking to move up in the first round, but that could change.”

Many top players have had off-field issues, with the most high-profile examples being Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu and Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree. But Spielman said there aren’t more players with red flags than in any other year. All three of those players have been  named as possibilities for the Vikings, and Spielman has reportedly met with Te’o several times.

Minnesota seemingly needs a starter at middle linebacker after Jasper Brinkley signed with the Arizona Cardinals in free agency. That leaves Tyrone McKenzie, Marvin Mitchell, Audie Cole and Larry Dean as the possible replacements on the roster. Spielman said it’s also possible Erin Henderson, the starter on the weak side, could move inside depending on who is drafted.

“No, that’s flexible,” Spielman said of Henderson. “That depends on what happens in the draft. If we go outside and Erin can slide inside or if we go outside Erin can play inside. That’s what is great about this linebacker thing. We have the flexibility to go either way.”

With 11 picks going in, Spielman has the flexibility he desires and said he could see acquiring even more picks during the draft. The depth of the draft, and the Vikings position in it, leave open many scenarios.

“That’s why I feel very comfortable saying let’s just take the best player available because I know we’re going to get a swing at a potentially significant player in the second round, in the third round, and I think there’s going to be some significant players with both our fourth-round picks as well,” Spielman said.

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