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Mayock: 'Old-School' Spielman and Zimmer Effective Draft Partners

NFL analysts may not all be on the same page with their Vikings draft predictions, but there's one thing they will agree on: the Vikings have an NFL Draft process that works.

NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock said Wednesday the key to Minnesota's success is the tandem of Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and Head Coach Mike Zimmer.

"They're tied at the hip," Mayock told Vikings.com in a pre-draft interview in Chicago. "They're old-school football guys, and I think that's why the Minnesota Vikings are so good right now."

Spielman has a reputation for doing well in the draft, and it's demonstrated by Minnesota having the No. 1 draft retention rate in the league since 2007, Spielman's first draft in Minnesota. When Zimmer joined the Vikings ship in 2014, that process became even stronger.

"What Rick has, in addition to being really good [with] football and the draft, is that he has a partner in Mike Zimmer, who gets the most out of players," Mayock said.

Mayock used the Vikings 2015 third-round pick, Danielle Hunter, as a prime example of the way Zimmer and Spielman work together.

"I'm sure there was a lively conversation in that draft room because [Hunter's game] tape was average, but Zim' got the best out of him [in 2015]," Mayock said.

Having been in the business a long time, Mayock said the biggest problem he sees with clubs is disconnect between general managers and head coaches. According to Mayock, it's huge that Zimmer and Spielman share a mutual trust, philosophy and vision for this team.

"[Zimmer] knows what he likes in a football player, and he's able to translate that to Rick," Mayock said. "And then Rick's able to go out and get that guy for him."

Fellow NFL Media analyst Charles Davis echoed Mayock's sentiments.

"I think Rick does a really nice job," Davis told Vikings.com. "They do their evaluations, they stick to their board because they have conviction about what they do. They have confidence in what they do."

Part of that confidence comes from the Vikings use of analytics in prepping their draft board. Spielman talked to Twin Cities media Tuesday in a pre-draft press conference and said he uses the analytics as a tool in their overall process.

The Vikings have also created a system of looking at each player and analyzing him based on position and specific traits and qualities Spielman and Zimmer are seeking for Minnesota's roster. Zimmer has consistently stated he wants smart, tough, passionate players who love the game of football. Aside from those core principles, the Vikings have listed 32 traits to evaluate different position groups. They are rated from 1 to 32 in order of importance, and each position group has its own five most-important traits.

The process leading up to the NFL Draft is a complex one, and Spielman said close to 100 people contribute to the work in some fashion. The Vikings methodology, headed by Spielman and Zimmer, has been effective.

NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks said the Vikings have "killed it" in the draft as of late, specifically in building the type of defensive core that Zimmer is looking for. Brook said the draft offers teams the most cost-effective way to develop their roster, since it allows them to build with young players who start out with smaller contracts than established veterans.

"If you want to be a team that's a perennial contender, you have to be able to do it through the draft," Brooks said.

That's just what the Vikings are aiming to do to defend the NFC North title they claimed in 2015.

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