EAGAN, Minn. — A year removed from the complete uncertainty of uncharted processes necessary during the 2020 NFL Draft, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman will be back in the Thomson Reuters Vikings Draft Room with a burning question.
"I'm kind of curious what the hell George Paton is going to do," Spielman quipped of his former partner in prime time who was hired to become general manager of the Broncos this offseason.
Denver is scheduled to pick ninth, and Minnesota is entering the 2021 NFL Draft with the 14th overall pick. Some mocks have projected that the men who are like brothers might partner on a trade.
Truth be told, Spielman has a better gauge on what Paton might do than virtually anyone else who will go on the clock before the Vikings when the first round begins at 7 p.m. (CT) Thursday.
Spielman and Paton first worked together in Chicago. A year after the former headed to Miami, Paton made his way from Lake Shore Drive toward South Beach. Spielman made a similar recruiting pitch to Paton a year after he arrived in Minnesota, and the men worked together for the Vikings from 2007 through the end of the 2020 season.
Legwork and guesswork
Paton is one of nine general managers across the league who will be participating in his first or second draft in that role with the current team.
The others ahead of Minnesota's draft spot are as follows: Jacksonville's Trent Baalke (No. 1 overall pick), Joe Douglas with the New York Jets (No. 2), Atlanta's Terry Fontenot (No. 4), Detroit's Brad Holmes (No. 7) and Carolina's Scott Fitterer (No. 8). NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal recently posted a "power rankings" of current GMs that provides a nice overview, noting the dynamic in Washington with Marty Hurney and Martin Mayhew joining forces with Ron Rivera (No. 19 overall), as well as Cleveland's Andrew Berry, who is scheduled to open his second draft as a GM with the No. 26 pick.
All told, roughly three-fourths of the NFL's teams have changed general managers at least once since Spielman was promoted to that role in 2012. Over the years, Spielman has paid attention to tendencies of other GMs and built relationships that help him execute trades to move up and down the draft board each spring.
With so much turnover ahead of the Vikings selection, we asked if he's adding any guesswork to figuring out what approach the newer GMs might take.
"I've been doing this a long time, and the guys that I have done business with, you have a pretty good sense of their personality, I guess I would say, or if they're guys that like to trade and move or guys that don't," Spielman said after the Paton quip. "The new GMs, I don't have a feel for yet. I think they're all quality guys and that's why they got their job, so it will be interesting to see how it all works out.
"But you don't have the same sense or feel once the new guys are calling the shots and how open they are to trading and not trading," he added. "Usually I know the teams that are willing to do deals."
Climb may be improbable in first round; possible in second
The aforementioned proposed swap with Denver may be difficult to execute because the Vikings are entering the 2021 selection meeting without a second-round pick and aren't scheduled to pick between the 14th spot and the 78th position.
That's why some other mocks have proposed the Vikings moving down a few spots to pick up a second-round selection. Spielman also noted the fact that he has an additional third-round choice (No. 90 overall) and four picks in the fourth round that would provide enough capital to move back into the second round.
Vikings Draft Virtual Happy Hour
The #VikingsDraft Virtual Happy Hour, presented by Miller Lite will kick off Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft from 5:30-6:30 p.m. CT.
The exclusive live-streamed social hour will give fans the opportunity to interact and celebrate with their favorite Vikings analysts, players and influencers across Vikings.com, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
"It gives us a lot of flexibility, hopefully, … if we want to go do that," Spielman said.
He also made clear that the yoga-like stretching doesn't have to stop when the seventh round concludes Saturday and transitions into college free agency.
"The one point of emphasis I do want to make is, even after the draft, it doesn't mean your roster's set, or it doesn't mean [you won't] continue to look at some trades on some veterans or sign veterans out there," Spielman said.
View every Vikings first round draft pick through the years.
Wait-and-see mode until board unfolds
It is likely the Vikings have a cluster of players they'd be more than happy to bring to Minnesota with the 14th overall pick, see how the rest of the first round shakes out and use that information to shape strategy for Rounds 2-3 on Friday.
When Dalvin Cook didn't go off the board on the opening night of the 2017 NFL Draft, Spielman aggressively vaulted up the board to land the running back who has garnered Pro Bowls in each of the past two seasons.
"I would say, we're at 14 right now, so I think a lot of people will see how the draft board is unfolding as the players come off," Spielman said. "Every time I've been involved in the drafts I've been involved in, most of the time the trade talks — you can talk to people this time right before the draft, but it usually doesn't mean anything.
"A lot of people are going to wait and see what players are on their draft board and if they're willing to move up or down," he continued. "We started our process of going through scenarios. We've looked at scenarios on if a specific player was falling in the top 10, do we go up and get that player?"
Vikings I.Q. Presented By Pepsi
Pepsi will partner with the Minnesota Vikings to offer fans an interactive, free-to-play social and gaming experience through the Vikings App called Vikings I.Q. Fans will have an opportunity to make real-time Draft predictions, socialize with other Vikings fans and win prizes from Pepsi! To play, simply download or open the Vikings App then click Menu > Fantasy Games > Vikings I.Q.
Spielman said Executive Vice President of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski and Director of Pro Scouting Ryan Monnens will be handling the trades this year and added that the Vikings haven't been "making any active calls on trying to trade up."
"I think a lot of that evolves as the draft process goes on Thursday and throughout the draft – depending on who's on the board and how teams covet players," Spielman said. "But I can say this, just adding to that, that we feel very confident if we do not move up or down in the draft, we're going to get a very good football player at 14."