EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —The paramount rule that the Vikings have implemented under General Manager Rick Spielman is to follow the draft board.
That again will be the case this year for the three-day event that kicks off in Philadelphia today.
Minnesota is scheduled to make eight selections across seven rounds. The Vikings are scheduled to have one pick in the second, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds and two selections apiece in the third and fourth rounds.
"We've always had the philosophy of just following our board," Spielman said Tuesday during a pre-draft press conference. "Where we are picking in the second round, we've already pounded it and we're going to do it again [before the draft]."
Spielman, the personnel department and coaching staff have worked together this offseason, developing detailed plans and deeply diving into prospects' physical abilities and approach to the game in order to build the board with the most information possible.
Anything can happen in a draft, and despite the plethora of evaluations by staff and mock drafts by media, unexpected elements rise and impact decisions.
The Vikings have discussed what to do if projected first-rounders slide, unexpectedly offering a highly graded player who might not fill the most immediate need.
"Is that talent too great to pass up, because he's going to eventually be on a field and would hopefully be able to come on a field early his rookie year, if you're picking that high," Spielman said.
In addition to the number one rule of following the board, here's a look at three other guiding principles for the Vikings in 2017.
1) Understand the depth of the draft
Certain positions in each draft class stand above others from a talent and depth perspective. Experts that Vikings.com have interviewed since January have largely liked this year's group of running backs, defensive backs and defensive linemen and been less keen on offensive linemen.
Proceeding from pick to pick through the draft requires an assessment of supply and demand and deciding whether there is a similar alternative player who will be available later.
"If you know you can potentially get a position in the fourth round that may equate to that same value in a third round, then you may wait and take that position in the fourth round," Spielman said. "Where if you look at your draft board and you see the depth after the first seven or eight players, is not there … then you are going to address a need that way."
2) Avoid red dots and "U's"; be cautious with players "in the box"
Each year, the Vikings place red dots beside a few players. The dots indicate "do not draft" for a reason that outweighs any potential benefits the player could bring to the organization. Spielman said he expects information to continue to roll in this week.
"I know we still are waiting on some things to come up until Thursday, and the people that are involved in that part of it," Spielman said. "I just need to know and have an answer on where these situations stand by Thursday before the draft starts."
The general manager also noted that some talented players will receive a "U" on their draft cards, standing for "underachiever" caused by a lack of passion for the game in spite of visible talent.
"In every player that I've probably missed on, and I've learned, is that you can have height, weight, speed, all the athletic ability," Spielman said, "but if you truly don't have passion for playing this game … we've learned not to take those guys regardless of how talented they are from a physical standpoint.
"Because unless you love what you do when you get up every morning, I don't think you're going to have a chance to have success," Spielman continued.
Aside from red dots and underachievers, there are some players who fit into another category. They have been placed in an imaginary glass case, still visible for evaluation but to remain unselected until the potential cost/risk of a player is exceeded by potential positive impact.
"If you have a first-second-third round talent on a guy, you may hold and not take him where his talent is, but when you get into fourth, fifth round, is it worth the risk, because financially, it's not as big of a risk, either, where it can hurt your club competitively," Spielman explained. "And if he does, you know, mess up or has to go, then you didn't financially hurt your football team."
3) Keep working through the weekend
With 69 players on the roster and eight selections awaiting, the Vikings have plenty of space before reaching the offseason roster limit of 90 players.
Once the draft ends, team officials will reach out to contact undrafted players and recruit them to sign in Minnesota.
The Vikings will hold a rookie minicamp next weekend, an event that in past years yielded Adam Thielen and Marcus Sherels.
"I know I have to do a better job of college free agency," Spielman said. "We will be much more aggressive in that area, something we haven't been in the past. I know, with how we planned our roster going into 2017 and losing a lot of our backup-type depth players, that players from last year's draft class and this year's draft class coming in are going to have to play a significant role on this roster."
Celebrate the draft with the Vikings
Stefon Diggs and Everson Griffen will join Kentrell Brothers, Isaac Fruechte and David Morgan at U.S. Bank Stadium for Vikings DraftFest on Day 3 of the draft. The event runs from 10:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Tickets are still available for purchase by clicking *here.*
Vikings Legends Tyrone Carter, Chuck Foreman, Paul Krause and Randall McDaniel are also expected to appear at Saturday's family-friendly event.