EAGAN, Minn. — Rick Spielman has more than 25 years of NFL experience, but the Vikings general manager still managed to draw some envy from his fellow counterparts around the league over the weekend.
Minnesota made eight drafts picks in all, but a handful of them might have been players that other teams were targeting right around when Spielman plucked them for the Vikings.
Spielman held his annual post-draft press conference Saturday evening and revealed that he received multiple text messages from other general managers ribbing him for grabbing guys they might have chosen shortly after.
Spielman did not give away specific teams or players, but his comments revealed the close-knit nature of general managers.
“I think it’s funny because you get texts from your buddies. I won’t say teams or stuff like that, but I know three times [when] teams text you right away and say, ‘Oh, that was our guy.’ Guys that I am especially close with,” Spielman said. “But I do think you have to go off a little bit experience and instinct.
“Two of them we did the right thing for sure, I know that. Actually, three. I got three texts that were pretty interesting from some of my other buddies,” Spielman added. “It is a pretty small circle of people that you associate with, so we are pretty open and honest with each other.”
Here are four other takeaways from Spielman’s post-draft podium session Friday:
1. A handful of hardwood stars
Of the seven players selected by the Vikings in the 2018 NFL Draft, three have extensive basketball backgrounds.
Tackle Brian O’Neill was a standout athlete in high school who won the Delaware High School Defensive Player of the Year and the state’s basketball Player of the Year awards, while tight end Tyler Conklin originally went to college to play basketball before deciding to switch schools and sports.
Defensive end Ade Aruna moved from Nigeria to the United States to play basketball (and once matched up against Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins) before he eventually landed on the gridiron.
Spielman quipped that the Vikings have stockpiled athletes that could also impress on the hardwood.
“We’re going to have a hell of an intramural team coming up, so we’re taking on the media,” Spielman joked. “Conklin is a tremendous athlete, I know the defensive end, Aruna, is a great athlete.
“All these guys are long, all these guys jump out of the gym, all these guys can run, and when you have those traits to me and to this coaching staff and our philosophy is when you can get athletes in like that, it gives you a chance to hit on some guys that can be pretty special,” Spielman added. “And I think when we go that route, and we talk about this all the time in the draft meetings, this guy may be a better football player today, but this guy has such a higher ceiling.”
2. Moving up, and then up again
First, the Vikings were slated to pick at No. 167 in the fifth round. Then they traded that pick to move up to the 157th pick, only to be on the clock a short time later at No. 167 again.
Spielman’s wheeling and dealing resulted in the Vikings ending up with their eventual pick again, which Minnesota used to draft Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson.
Spielman said he couldn’t recall a situation in which a flurry of trades landed the Vikings the same pick they had traded away moments earlier.
“I wish I could tell you that I knew what all of the trades were in the last five years,” Spielman said. “I just know with [Vice President of Football Operations] Rob Brzezinski and [Assistant General Manager] George Paton working the phones, and there’s three or four deals coming at you with three minutes left on the clock. We have a system in place where I can see everything, and then you go off your gut instinct and your experience, what you think the best trades are and especially if we’re trying to trade up.
“The other part of the trade is whether you trade up and back is you’re trying to anticipate teams that you’re trying to jump,” Spielman added. “If you covet a guy, or you’re trying to go get that guy where are the potential hot spots that you can lose him, so how high do you have to go up? Or if I think we can trade back and still get the guy like we did in the third round to the fourth and we were still able to get [Jalyn] Holmes, then you move back. A lot of it has to do with the study and how we understand the other teams’ needs, understanding what they did in free agency before the draft, understanding who they lost from their team last year, and also watching in what they’re drafting.”
3. Addressing the offensive line
Perhaps the most talked about position group centering around the Vikings in the weeks before the draft was offensive line.
And while Minnesota spent its first-round pick on a cornerback, the Vikings then used two of their next four picks to bolster the offensive line by taking O’Neill and Colby Gossett.
Spielman said those two picks, plus a handful of offensive line selections in recent years, have the Vikings feeling solid about their offensive line depth as Organized Team Activities loom around the corner.
“You wish you could address a lot of things, [but] you just have to address whether it comes to you. I will never reach to fill a void if they’re not developed on our board that way, that’s when you make mistakes,” Spielman said. “Gossett, I thought, was a great value where we got him in the sixth round. I know we liked him down at the Senior Bowl. He’s a tough kid. I also know we have some guys currently on this roster.
“We’re very excited about where Danny Isidora is and how he’s coming along. We picked up a kid from Philadelphia [guard Josh Andrews] in the offseason who we feel has a chance as well,” added Spielman, who later mentioned recently signed guard Tom Compton. “I think we have a lot of guys who are going to come in and compete. Last year, we re-did the offensive line and made some tough personal decisions, but that’s what you do. I think we have enough viable bodies in there that it’s going to be a pretty good competition where we can find our best combination before we open up against the 49ers.”
4. Looking ahead to rookie minicamp
All of Minnesota’s draft picks — plus undrafted college free agents and college tryout signees — are scheduled to report to rookie minicamp next weekend at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center in Eagan.
Rookie minicamp will run from Friday through Sunday as the Vikings coaching staff gets its first look at a new crop of talent for the roster.
“I know coaches can’t wait to get their hands on them next weekend when we have our rookie minicamp,” Spielman said. “I know last year, I thought [Head Coach Mike] Zimmer and the coaching staff did a great job on keeping those guys a lot of times after practice during the OTAs to give them the extra attention they need.
“I know we’ve got a plan in place for these guys,” Spielman added. “You don’t know until they get out there, we know that we have some pretty good athletes that are coming in the building, now it’s a matter of seeing how quickly we can get them to develop.”
Spielman noted that Zimmer and his staff have shown a knack for developing young players over the past four seasons in Minnesota.
“[The] theme was, again, sticking with the athletic traits that we’re looking for and relying on this coaching staff to develop a lot of this young talent,” Spielman said. “Because a lot of the traits that they have, you can’t teach, you can’t coach, but you can sure develop them.”