When the Minnesota Vikings gave the title of General Manager over to Rick Spielman. . .after they may or may not have flirted with the idea of bringing in Bill Parcells (depending on what source you believe). . .the former Miami Dolphins' GM knew that he was starting a rebuilding project. A team that went to the NFC Championship Game in 2009 was making a transition from being one of the NFL's oldest teams to one of its youngest, and Spielman was selected to facilitate the process.
For the past two weeks, Spielman had been trying to drum up a trade market for the Vikings' first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the third overall selection. Outwardly, Spielman was attempting to make it appear that he was interested in LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, who was thought to be highly coveted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In the end, however, it was Alabama running back Trent Richardson that held the key. Spielman knew that both the Cleveland Browns, who were selecting at #4 overall, and the Buccaneers at #5 were interested in Richardson. Obviously, there was no way that the Vikings were taking Richardson because they're already pretty solid at the running back position, so he managed to pit the Browns and the Buccaneers in a staredown to see who wanted the talented Crimson Tide runner the most.
About an hour before the draft, the Browns finally blinked. They sent the Vikings a fourth-round pick, a fifth-round pick, and a seventh-round pick for the right to move up from #4 to #3 and secure Richardson's services. After trying unsuccessfully to get Tampa Bay to move up from #5 to #4 to secure Claiborne, the Vikings went ahead and took the player they should have been focusing on all along anyway, that being USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil. Kalil was immediately penciled in at left tackle for the Vikings, and Charlie Johnson will get moved inside to left guard. . .a move that had, apparently, been discussed since Week 3 of last season.
The trade gave the Vikings a total of 13 picks, more than anybody in this year's selection process, and Spielman told reporters not to be surprised if the team traded back up into the first round. They did just that, sending their second-round pick and one of their four fourth-round picks to the Baltimore Ravens to jump back into Thursday's action at #29 and select Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith. The Vikings needed a safety, and the drop-off in talent at the position from Smith and Alabama safety Mark Barron (who went at #7 overall) was significant. Spielman had the ammunition to get what he wanted, and he showed the willingness to use it.
Throughout the course of the draft, the Vikings focused on their many needs. They continued to add to their woeful secondary by selecting Central Florida speedster Josh Robinson and Notre Dame safety/corner hybrid Robert Blanton. The team added to their talent at wide receiver by selecting Arkansas Razorback teammates Jarius Wright and Greg Childs. They may have even found a replacement for the retired Jim Kleinsasser in USC tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison. Minnesota managed to get a couple of steals in the seventh round in thumping linebacker Audie Cole and California defensive lineman Trevor Guyton. They even found a potential replacement for incumbent kicker Ryan Longwell in Georgia standout Blair Walsh.
Spielman did well enough for himself that he even managed to scoop up two draft picks for 2013. He got a fourth-round selection from the Vikings' division rivals, the Detroit Lions, and snagged a sixth-round selection from the Tennessee Titans in a couple of Saturday trades. That means that the Vikings already have nine picks for the 2013 draft, and if the rebuilding goes as planned, the Vikings could use those extra picks to really start turning a corner.
Many people, yours truly included, were skeptical of the Vikings handing the General Manager position over to Rick Spielman. However, if this weekend's draft was any indication, it looks like all of our worrying was for nothing.