General managers rarely part with multiple draft picks, but Spielman did so days before the 2008 NFL Draft in trading for the veteran pass rusher. Allen had just posted 15.5 sacks in his first All-Pro and Pro Bowl season, and the Chiefs sent he and a sixth-round pick (used to draft John Sullivan) to the Vikings for a first (involved in a trade to Detroit), two third-round picks (Jamaal Charles and DaJuan Morgan) and a sixth-round selection (Kevin Robinson). Allen went on to have three All-Pro and four Pro Bowl seasons and posted no less than 11 sacks in a Vikings uniform. He led the NFL with 22 sacks in 2011, and Sullivan has started 93 of the 109 games he's played.
Anthony Barr and Teddy Bridgewater, who were selected ninth and 32nd, respectively, in the first round of 2014 after trades. Spielman convinced Cleveland to trade up a spot for a fifth-round pick (used on David Yankey) and was still able to make Barr the second highest linebacker drafted in franchise history (Chris Doleman was fourth in 1985). He then traded back into the first round after seeing Bridgewater still on the board, sending a second (involved in a trade with Detroit) and fourth rounder (Cassius Marsh) to the Seahawks. Barr and Bridgewater made significant impacts, starting 12 games each, last season and showed potential for great returns on the investments made.
Cordarrelle Patterson became one of three first-round picks in 2013 and made an immediate impact, earning selection to the Pro Bowl as a kick returner. Patterson's debut season featured a 109-yard kickoff return that tied an NFL record for the longest play ever. He also became the first player in league history to have a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown, a 75-yard receiving TD and a 50-yard rushing score in a season. Patterson worked through offensive changes during his sophomore campaign, but is ready for his third pro season.
Double down a spot
On two occasions in a three-year span, Spielman has worked out a deal with Cleveland to move down one spot in the first round and reap extra benefits. The first was going from 3 to 4 in 2012 to draft Matt Kalil, and receive fourth (Jarius Wright), fifth (Robert Blanton) and seventh (used in another trade) round picks. The second was last season when Minnesota moved from 8 to 9, drafted Barr and received the fifth-round pick that was used to pick Yankey.
The former reserve and special teamer emerged last season in his first opportunity to start and rewarded the Vikings with a career-high 12 sacks, which tied for ninth-most in the NFL, ranked fourth in the NFC and was the second-highest tally by a defensive end in the conference. Griffen was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month for October, tallying half of his sacks in a four-game span.
In addition to Griffen, Spielman and the Vikings have had significant success in the middle round of the draft, landing Brian Robison, Jarius Wright, Rhett Ellison and Gerald Hodges since 2007.
Attention to the grading process
Spielman, the scouting department and coaches pour extensive hours of preparation into each draft. All the hours result in grades being assigned for hundreds of prospects based on factors like the players' skills and potential, system fit, how and how fast a player could contribute and their personal character.
The Vikings worked up close with Smith at the 2012 Senior Bowl and managed to use a smokescreen in the three months that followed by showing little interest. That ended when Minnesota traded back into the first round to select the safety who had impressed coaches and scouts when the Vikings coached a participating team in the annual all-star game.
Wealth of information
As mentioned in the grading process, hours of time is spent each year gathering information on prospects. It's an arduous task that starts with scouts at college campuses each fall, includes the Senior Bowl and other all-star games, a week at the NFL Combine, visits to pro days at universities and hosting prospects for visits to Winter Park. A selection isn't made without considering all available info.
The Vikings added depth at running back with use of a third-round pick obtained in a trade that sent Percy Harvin to Seattle. McKinnon rushed for 135 yards in his fourth game, making him and Bridgewater the first rookie duo to rush for at least a 100 and throw for at least 300 against an opponent.
Here's the kicker
Using a pick obtained after trading reserve defensive end Jayme Mitchell to Cleveland, Spielman tabbed Blair Walsh in the sixth round (175th overall) in 2012. Walsh responded with an all-rookie and Pro Bowl debut season. Walsh set an NFL record with 10 field goals of more than 50 yards that season, including three in one game (tied for the record). Walsh has 17 from that distance (tied for the most since he entered the league).
Less picks than normal
Spielman has said he likes to enter drafts with 10 or more selections, but this year the Vikings are slotted for seven spots (a first, second, third, fourth, fifth and two seventh round picks). In the past three years, the Vikings have had 29 picks (10, nine and 10), and 24 of the players selected are among the 75 players on Minnesota's roster. Generally the way to increase picks is done by trading down, but will that be a tactic this year?
Mock draft season is almost over
The number of predictors seems to increase every year, as does the frequency with which mock drafts are released. This year's madness is not going to last much longer, and then talks will turn from where and when to who will make the biggest impact.
Nine of the Vikings 10 draft picks in 2014 made the active or practice squad roster last season and are with the team currently.
On the clock
The Vikings and all teams have 10 minutes once they go "on the clock" in the first round. The amount of time per pick drops to seven minutes in the second round, to five minutes in rounds three through six and four minutes per selection in the seventh round. There's also a four-minute limit on compensatory picks, which begin at the end of the third round. Compensatory picks can't be traded, and the Vikings do not have one this year.
The running back, taken at 7 overall in '07, is the first pick the Vikings made after Spielman came on board in May 2006. Peterson set a single-game rushing record with 296 yards, was named Diet Pepsi Rookie of the Year and MVP of the Pro Bowl. He returned from a knee injury at the 2011 season to rush for 2,097 yards (second-most in NFL history) and earned MVP honors, joining past Vikings Alan Page (1971) and Fran Tarkenton (1975) with that distinction.
Back to quarterback
The Vikings have drafted four quarterbacks in the first round in the 54 drafts in franchise history, including two since 2011 when Christian Ponder was selected. Bridgewater emerged in 2014 as a quarterback the Vikings think they can build around for years to come. That wouldn't have happened had the Vikings not been so aggressive in trading back into the first to select Bridgewater. Tommy Kramer (1977) and Daunte Culpepper (1999) were the other two QBs drafted in first rounds.
Spielman has often talked about the draft being the best way to build a roster. This way, the Vikings are able to develop players in the system and directly observe progress. Having that knowledge helps make informed decisions when players' contracts are up for renewal and prevents the potential pitfalls that can come about in free agency. Griffen's emergence last season is an example of building from within.
"Steals" in the latter rounds
Players drafted in the sixth or seventh round since 2007 that are on the team's pre-draft roster of 75 are: Sullivan, Brandon Fusco, Walsh, Audie Cole, Michael Mauti, Antone Exum, Jr., Shamar Stephen, Brandon Watts and Jabari Price (see above: roster building)
It's a nickname that Spielman has earned from media and Vikings fans for his propensity of navigating the draft and negotiating deals to land more selections. Click here for National Football Post's extensive look at the past 10 years of league-wide draft trades.
Undrafted free agents
While so much attention is turned to the television spectacle of the three days, a whirlwind period begins immediately after the final pick when all teams try to contact players who didn't have their name called. Those players are free agents, and competition to sign them can cause fast and furious phone calls. Long snapper Cullen Loeffler (2004) and receiver Adam Thielen (2013) are among players who became Vikings after going undrafted. The Star Tribune's Mark Craig recently wrote about the frenzied post-draft moments.
The live coverage of the 2014 NFL draft's first night by ESPN averaged nearly 10 million viewers, making it the most consumed draft coverage in the network's 35 years of covering the event. The NFL Network's coverage of the opening night also drew a record 2.4 million viewers.
"War room" camera
The Vikings are scheduled to be one of 16 teams that plans to allow views inside their draft "war rooms" with a special camera on NFL Network's coverage.
One of the most promising progressions of 2014 was Rhodes, who became tough to complete a pass against. The staff was so impressed with Rhodes that they opted to have him shadow some top receiving threats (notably Brandon Marshall and Calvin Johnson in rematches with Chicago and Detroit) as the season advanced.
You never know what's going to happen with Spielman at the helm, adding to the mystique of the event.
Partnership with Zimmer
There are multiple types of unions between general managers and coaches, but in two draft preparations and one season, Spielman and Zimmer have shown they are working toward a common goal, have a high degree of respect for each other and make decisions based on what is best for the team.