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Monday Morning Mailbag: Trade Up, Trade Back, or Stay Put at No. 48?

Posted Apr 17, 2017

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Now that the draft is a couple weeks away, do you think the Vikings make a trade to move up into the first round or early part of the second round if a player they covet is there?
-- Terrence Varichak
Hibbing, MN

GM Rick Spielman has demonstrated in the past the willingness to go up and get a player the team loves, so I would not completely rule that out for 2017 yet. But I also wouldn’t be counting on it. According to the traditional draft trade chart, a late 1st-round pick is worth approximately 600 points. The Vikings first pick of this year’s draft is in the middle of the second round – No. 48. That pick is worth 420 points. That means the Vikings would need about 180 points to upgrade No. 48 to a 1st-rounder, or they’d need to come up with 600ish points from this year’s allotment plus next year’s allotment to move into the first round without touching No. 48 this year. In either scenario, it’s a hefty price. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, it just means it’s anything but a probability.

Overall, how would you judge the Vikings free agency? We have lost a few key players, but do you believe that the young roster the Vikings have will be able to bring a championship to Minnesota?
-- Tyler Deel
Osakis, MN

An area of the team coach Zimmer identified as one needing significant improvement was the running game. The Vikings went out in free agency and signed two starting OTs who are both very good run blockers. They will help improve the pass protection, too, but there’s no doubt the run game is where they excel. Also, the Vikings signed RB Latavius Murray, who had 12 rushing touchdowns a season ago. With those three signings alone, the Vikings have vastly improved their prospects to produce a solid running game in 2017. Ultimately, yes, I do believe the Vikings will have a roster in 2017 that can bring a championship to Minnesota. But simply having the players capable to do it is only one step.

As we all know and understand, GM Rick Spielman believes in the draft process in regards to building his team. With that thought in mind, if Spielman decides to trade down from No. 48 to No. 58, what could he or what do you think we could get in return regarding another pick? Would that justify maybe another 4th-round pick?
-- David Estum
Cedar City, UT

According to that same draft trade chart referenced above, there is a 100-point difference from No. 48 to No. 58. Early compensatory picks in the 3rd round are valued at around 100 points, so if you look at the teams right around No. 58 who also have early 3rd-round compensatory picks, you’re looking at Seattle, who actually has No. 58 and then two early 3rd-round compensatory selections (Nos. 102 and 106), or Kansas City, who has No. 59 and then an early 3rd-round compensatory pick that would be No. 104 overall. In both cases, the other team would be a little light and may have to throw in a late-round pick to sweeten the deal for the Vikings. Again, this is just conjecture and is using data (traditional draft trade chart) that we don’t even know is relevant to teams anymore. But it’s fun to throw a few ideas around.

I know there is still a lot of time to go before football, but at this point who would you see as the most likely to step up at starting OLB to replace Greenway? I know we have some good young guys like Edmond Robinson and Kentrell Brothers, or do you see it as a spot we will likely address in the draft?
-- Andrew
QLD, Australia

I don’t want to dodge the question, but it’s just way too early to have a sense on this one. Andrew is right that a couple young guys on the roster – Kentrell Brothers and Edmond Robinson – will have a crack at it. Brothers could step into the Mike LB role and Kendricks could slide to the outside, or the Vikings could put either Brothers or Robinson in the OLB spot. Veteran Emmanuel Lamur is in a position to compete for the OLB spot, too. It also won’t surprise me to see the Vikings draft a linebacker this year to add to the competition and give the Vikings another young, talented player at the position. At the end of the day, you’re looking at roughly 400 snaps over the course of 16 games (25 snaps/game) based on Greenway’s totals last year. That can be divided up a number of different ways, or it could be one guy who steps up and earns all of those snaps.

With Danielle Hunter showing great promise, how are we going to get him more involved this year? What does this mean for Brian Robison?
-- Brady Doran

The easiest way to get him more involved is to make him the starter at LDE. If the team does that, it means Robison’s snap count will be reduced. It doesn’t mean that Robison’s role is reduced, though, because he is a guy who can rotate in at LDE on occasion and he can still kick inside to DT in some of the sub packages in head coach Mike Zimmer’s defense. I’d estimate that Robison averaged roughly 10-15 more snaps per game in 2016, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see that number flipped for 2017. Regardless, Hunter (12.5) and Robison (7.5) combined for 20.0 sacks last year, so it’s a productive tandem and the team benefits by having both guys on the field, sometimes simultaneously. 

I wonder why it is when a team has definite needs they could address in the draft and don't because they follow the board for best players instead of addressing needs. As an example, our Vikings could without a doubt use more quality offensive linemen. I know we added two tackles in free agency, but as last year proved, you can never have enough. But what if we lose those guys to injury? We are back to last year all over again. When the draft comes around, wouldn't it be more prudent to get some younger linemen early instead of following the board? What are the pros and cons of doing something like that?
-- John Teach

John is correct in suggesting the draft can be a good place to address needs, but it’s more important to focus on select good players regardless of position. Not taking a higher-graded player in favor of a player who plays a position of need can be a double whammy. First, your pick may not perform to the level of expectation associated with where he was drafted (because you reached for him). Secondly, the player with a higher grade whom you passed on could turn out to be a great player.

Teams invest too much into building their board to just disregard the board on draft day. Coaches and scouts spend countless hours evaluating players. Teams spend significant money in the pre-draft process, from paying scouts to traveling to the Combine to hosting pre-draft visits. To then disregard the board and draft for need is a slap in the face to your scouts who’ve spent months and years grading players. Free agency is where you focus on need, and the draft is where you focus on just getting the best player available.