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Pre-Draft Presser Points: Spielman Evaluates Position Depth

EAGAN, Minn. – The word on the street is that this year’s draft class features a load of talent on the offensive and defensive lines, and Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman doesn’t disagree.

In advance of the 2019 NFL Draft, which will kick off Thursday in Nashville, Spielman held a press conference with Twin Cities media members.

“I know from our board this year and the way it’s developed, the depth of talent, especially on the offensive and defensive lines, is one of the strongest that I’ve seen in a while,” Spielman said. “I know on Thursday, Friday, those two picks Friday as of today, you should be able to land some players who can come in and make an impact on your roster.”

The Vikings are currently slated to have the following selections:

Round 1: No. 18 overall

Round 2: No. 50 overall

Round 3: No. 81 overall

Round 4: No. 114 overall

Round 6: No. 178 overall

Round 6: No. 209 overall

Round 7: No. 247 overall

Round 7: No. 250 overall

Spielman emphasized that while depth at specific positions is taken into consideration, the Vikings approach during the draft has not changed.

“We understand if we can fill with the way the draft board has developed, if there’s a player that we have a lot of depth at [that player’s position group] and there’s a player that we don’t have a lot of depth at, that now we can go ahead and fill a need,” Spielman said. “But the player to fill that need has to be the same value of where he is developed on the draft board.

“We will never, ever take a [lower-developed] player just to fill a need, because that’s where you truly make mistakes,” he added.

Here are four other topics covered by Spielman during his podium session:

1. Hughes’ recovery ‘a little ahead of schedule’

The Vikings are approaching the one-year anniversary of drafting cornerback Mike Hughes with the 30th overall pick.

Hughes became an early contributor for Minnesota, playing six games and starting two before a torn ACL abruptly ended his rookie campaign.

A video of Hughes running at TCO Performance Center was referenced during Spielman’s media session, and he confirmed that the second-year cornerback is coming along well with his recovery.

“He’s running,” Spielman said. “It’s a process. In fact, he’s a little ahead of schedule, [but] we’ve got a long way to go. But I know he’s been here all offseason working extremely hard at it. I know he’s anxious to get back on that field.

“And I know [Vikings Vice President of Sports Medicine and Head Athletic Trainer] Eric Sugarman and our medical staff and the success they’ve had with ACLs and knee injuries and how quickly they get those guys back playing on the field and playing at the same level or higher,” Spielman added. “We’re excited about [Hughes’ status at] this point in his rehab right now.”

2. Sticking to the plan

The Vikings have been able to retain key pieces of their roster without, it seems, much wiggle room as far as cap space is concerned.

Asked whether he views creating space for this year’s draft class as “a big deal” or if it there’s a plan in place, Spielman reminded that everything has been considered.

“Once [Executive Vice President of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski] gets out of [salary] cap jail, he’ll come out and figure it out,” Spielman quipped. “No, we have a plan. Like I said, we’ve planned this process all the way out. This is not something that we’re just shooting at the hip. There’s a method, and there’s a plan in place from a budgetary standpoint from what we need to do and how we need to get there.”

3. Not ruling anything out

In sticking with the salary cap theme, Spielman responded to whether or not the Vikings would consider trading a current player this week.

“I don’t know,” Spielman said. “No one has really approached us on any of our players … if they do, it’d have to be of value to get rid of a player, because I do think we have a pretty good roster. I know this is the last chance of this whole process to make a significant improvement to your roster during the draft.

Added Spielman: “I can’t predict anything. I have no idea. I could say ‘No’ right now, and I could go up and get a phone call an hour later. As of right now, I don’t anticipate anything.”

4. Don’t believe everything you hear

Spielman was asked specifically about the concept of “smoke screens” and if he keeps a close eye on what other teams’ general managers are saying leading up to the draft.

“We’re usually locked into draft meetings while everybody else is up at the podium like I am today,” Spielman said. “There’s always the [media clips] and things, and you take it with a grain of salt on what’s being said and what other GMs are saying.

“You don’t know until … the clock goes off and you get in the game,” he continued. “Then you can actually get a sense and feel for what’s really true and not true.”

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