Whenever the Vikings bye week has fallen, General Manager Rick Spielman has made it a point to field questions from Twin Cities media members during a special session.
He did so again Thursday, about a half hour after trading Yannick Ngakoue to Baltimore for draft picks that were not disclosed by the Vikings.
The Ngakoue era in Minnesota lasted six games after he was acquired in an Aug. 31 trade with Jacksonville for picks. He recorded a team-leading 5.0 sacks and forced two fumbles, but opponents recovered the ball both times.
Spielman said the hope was to pair Ngakoue opposite Danielle Hunter, but the homegrown star hasn't practiced since Aug. 14. Spielman declined to elaborate on Hunter's status during the call.
The acquisition of Ngakoue is almost akin to the Vikings test-driving a convertible, but a 1-5 mark to open the season (how different would things be with one or two wins in Minnesota's one-point losses to Tennessee and at Seattle?) has changed the family transportation plan from the allure of a Mustang to the practicality of a minivan.
That's not intended to be a slight on younger, less-established players, or minivans for that matter. It reveals that the Vikings will enable fourth-round draft pick D.J. Wonnum and others to hop in for a developmental ride that includes expanded game experience.
Matthew Coller of Purple Insider weighed in on the Ngakoue trade, writing:
But in the case of Ngakoue, it was a far better move to cut losses and acquire a draft pick back than to double down and franchise tag or extend him in the offseason. Losing draft position is less harmful long term than a big, bad contract.
Spielman mentioned the "short and long term" benefits of moving Ngakoue. Translation: They want to see younger players at defensive end like fourth-round pick D.J. Wonnum. Last week was easily Wonnum's best-graded game by PFF. He played 33 snaps and made several key plays against the run and had one QB pressure. We can expect to see a lot more of him now.
Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune noted Spielman saying the trade doesn't mean the Vikings are entirely punting on 2020. Goessling pointed out only two teams that opened 1-5 from 1990-2019 recovered to earn playoff berths.
"I know the situation that came up today — the trade — gave us an opportunity to look long-term and to add more draft picks as we continue to build this roster," he said. "But also from the short-term standpoint, I'm excited to see where this team continues to grow and to see these young guys we're playing, especially on the defensive side, continue to get better."
The Athletic Assesses Rookies in NFC North
The Athletic's beat writers have been taking stock of the early starts by members of each NFL team's rookie class.
The assessments have been structured with three categories that include "standout," "wait and see" and "what's next?"
Give you 15 guesses — and the first 14 don't count — to name the player tabbed by Chad Graff as the "standout" for the Vikings.
Yep, receiver Justin Jefferson, whom Graff wrote is "the early favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year."
The first-round pick out of LSU is ranked fifth in the NFL with 537 receiving yards and has already turned in three 100-yard performances in six games.
The guy the Vikings drafted to replace Stefon Diggs has done it with ease, showing he's more than just the slot receiver he was at LSU. Little is certain about the Vikings, but it's clear they've got a stud in Jefferson. He's flirting with territory unseen by a Vikings rookie since Randy Moss.
As for "wait and see," Graff pointed to the development of cornerbacks.
The Vikings are starting two rookie cornerbacks, partly an indication of how dire things are in their secondary, but also a nod to the fact Mike Zimmer thinks first-round pick Jeff Gladney and third-round pick Cameron Dantzler will become good players.
And Graff postulated that Minnesota's 1-5 start may prompt the team to look to 2021 and further see what they have in second-round pick Ezra Cleveland, who made his first start at right guard Sunday.
The Vikings will have three consecutive division games after their bye (Nov. 1 at Green Bay, Nov. 8 vs. Detroit and Nov. 16 at Chicago), so check out the full report to get a scouting report on how those teams' draft picks are doing.
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