Vikings have trade possibilities in NFL draft
Trader Rick will have every opportunity to move around in this year's draft and find the treasure he seeks.
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, in his first draft with full decision-making authority, enters the April 26-28 offseason extravaganza with an overflowing complement of picks with which to maneuver as he sees fit. And Spielman is a man who admittedly likes to trade.
With 10 picks in his arsenal – only the two fourth-round compensatory choices cannot be traded – Spielman also has the benefit of a draft class that is respected for its depth at wide receiver and cornerback, still two obvious positions of need for the Vikings as the dust has settled on the first few weeks of free agency. Adding to the overall depth of the class is a record 65 underclassmen who declared themselves eligible for the draft, and many juniors typically don't declare for the draft if they receive feedback from the NFL that they aren't expected to be drafted in the first two days (first three rounds).
"It's a pretty deep class. With these juniors coming in, there are some very talented juniors," Spielman said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "… The thing you have to be careful of is if you do trade back, how far do you trade back before you get a very good player compared to a difference-maker? So as this process continues, we'll definitely hone in on that. But that won't be determined until our final meetings in April."
But it also takes two willing parties to trade – and what is considered a fair deal by both sides – in order to consummate the draft deal. In most situations, the long-held NFL draft value chart helps lead the way toward two teams reaching an agreement, Spielman admitted. Many draft-day trades end up mirroring the point system used in the value chart, which assesses a number value to each one of the positions in the draft, with values dropping off sharply.
The first overall pick is worth 3000 points, but by the end of the first round the 32nd pick is worth only 590 points. A pick at the top of the seventh round is worth less than three points, and picks at the end of the draft are worth less than a half point.
So where does that leave Spielman and the Vikings, and which players and teams will be potential trade partners early in the draft?
The Vikings hold the third pick. The Colts appear set on sticking with the first overall pick and taking the top quarterback, likely Andrew Luck. The Redskins already traded up to the second spot and are expected to take Robert Griffin III. While the Vikings are expected to draft USC left tackle Matt Kalil and are trying to sell the notion that LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne is also a legitimate consideration, both of those two, along with Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Oklahoma running back Trent Richardson, could be potential targets of teams looking to make a deal with the Vikings for the No. 3 spot.
Although some draft analysts believe Tannehill is a second-round talent, nothing showed the willingness of NFL teams to increase the value of quarterbacks like last year's draft, when four of them were selected in the top 12 picks. Some viewed Christian Ponder, the Vikings' pick, as a second-round value while others felt two of the other top-12 quarterbacks, Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert, were drafted too early, as well. After Tannehill, there isn't a quarterback considered worthy of a first-round selection, so the Vikings can hope teams like the Miami Dolphins (at No. 8) and the Cleveland Browns (at No. 4) become enamored of Tannehill and worry that another team is talking with the Vikings about moving up.
The Browns would need an additional 400 points on the value chart to move up only one spot to No. 3, which would cost them two third-round picks or maybe even a second-rounder next year (Spielman estimates that delaying an exchange of picks to the following year costs about one extra round).
The Dolphins would have to give up about 800 points on the value chart – or basically the equivalent of their second-, third- and fourth-round picks this year – to move up five spots and jump in front of the Browns to get the Vikings' No. 3 pick.
Richardson, who is said to be the best running back to enter the draft since the Vikings' Adrian Peterson in 2007, might also be the apple of the Browns' eye at No. 4, but, once again, there could be other teams looking to leapfrog in front of them. After Claiborne, Richardson is one of the most popular options for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who pick fifth, in mock drafts.
Given Miami's need for a quarterback, the Dolphins could be a popular target for the Vikings if Spielman is looking to gauge interest in their pick. The further down in the round the Vikings trade, the more and better picks they will receive in return, but such a move would also lessen the quality of their own selection. Realistically, they might not be willing to trade past No. 6, given their needs and the diminishing quality of players after that spot.
With Luck and Griffin expected to go first and second and Richardson expected to be a top-six value, there is a threesome of players considered blue-chip prospects by most who also fill a Vikings need – Kalil, Claiborne and Blackmon. After that, the prospects either get riskier or don't fall in one of Minnesota's positions of need.
Spielman has other teams' needs mapped out and uses that "scouting" to determine just how far back he can trade without feeling like he will be cheated out of a desired prospect.
"Last year, when Washington traded back, we didn't want to lose Christian Ponder. So if we were going to trade back, we didn't want to go behind Washington, who we felt was a quarterback threat," Spielman said. "So when we didn't trade back, there was no way we were not going to take Ponder at that time. But that's an example of kind of knowing the team needs and knowing where potential guys – you can lose them if you go too far back."
But even if the Vikings don't trade their first-round pick, their additional picks via previous trades and their two fourth-round compensatory selections will allow Spielman more freedom to move around in the ensuing rounds.
Compensatory picks can't be traded, but with those two compensatories in the fourth round, he might feel more comfortable trading his original fourth-rounder, worth 108 points, and his original fifth-round pick, worth 37 points, and that could garner him a third-round pick somewhere around No. 90, giving the Vikings four picks in the first 90 selections. Coming away with Kalil, one of the top 10 cornerbacks and receivers, and a contributing safety after two days of drafting would be a good start to having fans who were disgruntled with the team's approach to free agency feeling better. And that approach would still leave the team with two compensatory picks in the fourth round, a sixth-rounder and two seventh-rounders.
It's impossible to know how it will all shake out at the end of the month – even Spielman won't know until teams are on the phone, typically when they are on the clock – but with 10 picks and several in the middle rounds, the new general manager has plenty of draft ammunition.
Read more coverage at the Vikings Update website.