FanPost

Is the Force Truly Strong with Rick Spielman?

If you're like me, then the steaming pile that is the Vikings 2013 Season hit you in the face and totally caught you off guard. That's what I wrote last week when I wanted to post this. But I held onto it, and now that we've watched Jash Freeman flail away for four quarters, it's clear that heads need to roll. It was mere months ago that we were proclaiming Rick Spielman as a draft genius after he chose several impact rookies in 2012 that helped push the Vikings into the playoffs, and we saw him wheel and deal his way to three 1st round draft picks in 2013. After taking over as the sole General Manager in January of 2012, his stock as a GM had never been higher than it was in July of 2013. And my how things have changed after the Vikings have tripped and stumbled their way to a 1-4 1-5 record to open the 2013 NFL season. We are all looking for blame, and reasons to explain why the Vikings have fallen to the basement of the NFC North. Is it the defense? Is it the QB position? Maybe the coordinators are to blame? Hell, we should just fire Leslie Frazier, right? There are a myriad of reasons as to why the Vikings find themselves in the funk they are in, and no simple explanation will suffice. But if you want to point the finger at one man, there is only one that is ultimately responsible for the team, and that is the General Manager, Rick Spielman.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with "Slick Rick's" resume, let me fill in the gaps. After playing college ball at Southern Illinois in the early 80s and failing to stick in the NFL after a few training camp invites, Spielman became a college scout with the Detroit Lions from 1990-1994, and eventually moving up as a Pro level scout for 2 years in 1995 and 1996. Whether or not Spielman had anything to do with it, the Lions happened to make the playoffs in '91, and 93-95, garnering a 1-4 playoff record while he was there. After his stint in Detroit he climbed the ranks further becoming the Director of Player Personnel for the Chicago Bears from 1997-1999. As a side note, the Bears did not make the playoffs during that time-frame. He continued to climb the ladder after his stint in Chicago, becoming the Vice President of Player Personnel for the Miami Dolphins in 2000 and continued to climb the ladder in Miami until he became their General Manager in 2004. The Dolphins went 4-12 that year, despite having winning records the previous 2 seasons. Spielman's personnel moves weren't without controversy during his one year as General Manager, as he traded a second-round draft pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for quarterback A.J. Feeley, who never panned out. When Nick Saban took over as Miami's head coach in 2005, Spielman didn't stick. He took 2005 off to become an "analyst" with ESPN (the Dolphins went 9-7 in 2005 after Spielman left). During his entire 5 years in Miami, the team made the playoffs twice (2000 and 2001) and had a 1-2 playoff record.

Spielman joined the Vikings staff in 2006 as Vice President of Player Personnel, where he "directed scouting, free agency and draft preparations for the club" until his promotion to General Manger in January of 2012. Before being promoted to General Manager, the Vikings did not have one person in charge, and instead relied on a "Triangle of Authority" between Rick Spielman, the Head Coach (Childress, and then Frazier) and Rob Bryzezinski, Vice President of Football Operations (aka, the salary cap wizard). So, during 2006-2011 the Triangle of Authority was in full effect. Therefore, it is impossible to know how much influence Rick Spielman had on the drafts from 2006-2011. That said, his responsibility as Vice President of Player Personnel was to "direct draft preparations for the club", which presumably means he had a LOT to do with the draft selections. While I don't think it's fair to pin the entire responsibility of the drafts during that time on Spielman, I think it's fair to give him at least partial responsibility (if not majority) for them, and this ultimately leads me to the conclusion that he hasn't been doing as good a job building the Vikings roster as we think.

Since the average NFL career lasts 3.5 years, it is impossible to know if a player's career is above or below average until after that time frame. Therefore, it is not fair to judge the entirety of a draft until at least 3 years after the fact (and preferably 4 years). So, we can give a truthful assessment of the first five drafts under Spielman and the Triangle of Authority (2006-2010), and an approximation of the remaining three (2011-2013), assigning total blame to Spielman for the last two. According to the statistics compiled by Draft Metrics the probability of success for all draft picks between 1993-2012 are shown in the table below:

Draft Selection Number

Playing 3+ Years

Starting 3+ Years

Making 1 Pro Bowl

Picks 1-13 (Round 1)

89.6%

73.8%

44.2%

Picks 14-40 (Rounds 1/2)

83.9%

60.9%

18.9%

Picks 41-66 (Rounds 2/3)

78.1%

44.4%

12.5%

Picks 67-86 (Rounds 3/4)

74.8%

29.8%

5.8%

Picks 87-149 (Rounds 4/5)

61.4%

18.9%

4.0%

Picks 150-189 (Rounds 5/6)

47.1%

11.6%

3.3%

Picks 190+ (Rounds 6/7)

38.6%

8.2%

2.0%

As the tables show, it was very easy to find players that should have stuck on a roster in rounds 1-5, with odds better than 50%. In other words, you could have flipped a coin on any player in the first 149 picks and done just as well finding a player that will stick in the NFL for an above average amount of time. What's notable about this is that good players and quality, impact players can be found in every round of the draft. But as this other Draft Metric article points out, players taken in the first 13 picks are 10 times more likely to become a 5-year starter than players taken in the last 60 picks. This is kind of obvious, but the next table also shows how likely a player is to become a 5-year starter (as opposed to a 3-year starter as above) based on their position group.

Position

Picks 1-13

Picks 14-40

Picks 41-66

Picks 67-86

Picks 87-149

Picks 150-189

Picks 190+

QB

68%

33.3%

25%

0%

19.4%

9.5%

9.4%

RB

68.4%

24.2%

15.2%

10.7%

6.8%

3.2%

1.9%

FB

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

20%

17.6%

4.3%

WR

64%

46.9%

26.1%

18.8%

7%

1.4%

4.3%

TE

n/a

71.1%

35.4%

33.3%

15.9%

11.4%

5.8%

C

n/a

n/a

61.5%

28.6%

28%

28.6%

24.1%

G

n/a

68.2%

44%

50%

23.4%

15.6%

7%

OT

94.1%

61%

72.7%

31.8%

21%

8.3%

12.7%

DE

77.8%

52.2%

32.1%

50%

26.7%

9.3%

5.5%

DT

62.5%

60.7%

57.1%

30%

10.3%

14%

7.5%

LB

90%

67.4%

32.6%

25.9%

21.4%

9.4%

5.4%

CB

70%

52.1%

47.9%

8.6%

15.1%

5.8%

3.3%

S

n/a

62.5%

52.6%

25%

10.8%

7.7%

10.8%

Based on the probabilities above, Spielman (or any GM for that matter) should be able to correctly choose a starting caliber player in the first 2 rounds of the draft, and an NFL quality (or backup material) player in rounds 3-5. Anything in rounds 6-7 are a crapshoot, and we have to give a GM massive credit for snagging long-term starters out of those rounds, atlhough they should be at least expected to make the roster. But as you can see above, some positions are a lot easier to draft in the mid-rounds like lineman and defensive backs than the skill positions like quarterback and wide receiver, so the probabilities will need to be weighted somewhat with regards to specific position groups.

That's a lot of preamble, but necessary to buy-in for the following grading process. I'm going to assign an expectation label of "Exceeds", "Meets", or "Fails" for every draft choice since 2006 based on the probabilities provided by Draft Metrics, with an "Incomplete" added to the 2011, 2012 and 2013 drafts just to be fair. An "exceeds" label will be one for a player that does better than expected (for example, a starter out of rounds 3-7, or a Pro Bowler in round 2). A "meets" label will be for a player that met their draft position expectation (for example, a starter out of round 1, a 5-year backup out of round 5, etc). A label of "Fails" would be for a player that did not meet their draft position expectation (for example, a 1st round pick that didn't last as a starter, or a 5th rounder that didn't make the team). Spielman will then get a point score where an Exceed label gets him 1 point, a Meet is 0 and a Fail gets him -1. Therefore an overall score of 0 would be average in that all picks would have met expectations, and anything greater or less than 1 would be significantly good or bad. Lastly, this analysis will not take into account any trades, because this analysis is looking solely at Spielman's ability to identify and choose talent out of the draft. Any general manager's ability to negotiate trades and improve the roster via free agency is certainly valuable, but is outside the scope of this project. So, let's get to it, shall we?

2006 Draft

Player

Expectation

Result

Round 1 (#17)

LB Chad Greenway

5-year Starter

Meet

Round 2 (#48)

CB Cedric Griffin

3+ Years in League

Exceed

Round 2 (#51)

C Ryan Cook

5-year Starter

Fail

Round 2 (#64)

QB Tarvaris Jackson

3+ Years in League

Meet

Round 4 (#127)

DE Ray Edwards

3+ Years in League

Exceed

Round 5 (#143)

S Greg Blue

3+ Years in League

Fail

Overall Score

0 out of 6

2007 Draft

Player

Expectation

Result

Round 1 (#7)

RB Adrian Peterson

Pro-Bowl Talent

Meet

Round 2 (#44)

WR Sidney Rice

3+ Years in League

Exceed

Round 3 (#72)

CB Marcus McCauley

3+ Years in League

Fail

Round 4 (#102)

DE Brian Robison

3+ Years in League

Exceed

Round 5 (#146)

WR Aundrae Allison

3+ Years in League

Fail

Round 6 (#176)

LB Rufus Alexander

Make the Roster

Fail

Round 7 (#217)

QB Tyler Thigpen

Make the Roster

Exceed

Round 7 (#233)

WR Chandler Williams

Make the Roster

Fail

Overall Score

-1 out of 8

2008 Draft

Player

Expectation

Result

Round 2 (#43)

S Tyrell Johnson

3+ year Starter

Fail

Round 5 (#137)

QB John David Booty

3+ Years in League

Fail

Round 5 (#152)

DT Letroy Guion

Make the Roster

Exceed

Round 6 (#187)

C John Sullivan

Make the Roster

Exceed

Round 6 (#193)

WR Jaymar Johnson

Make the Roster

Meet

Overall Score

0 out of 5

2009 Draft

Player

Expectation

Result

Round 1 (#22)

WR Percy Harvin

3-5 Year Starter

Meet

Round 2 (#54)

OT Phil Loadholt

5-Year Starter

Meet

Round 3 (#86)

CB Asher Allen

3+ Years in League

Meet

Round 5 (#150)

LB Jasper Brinkley

Make the Roster

Exceed

Round 7 (#231)

S Jamarca Sanford

Make the Roster

Exceed

Overall Score

+2 out of 5

2010 Draft

Player

Expectation

Result

Round 2 (#34)

CB Chris Cook

5-year Starter

Meet?

Round 2 (#51)

RB Toby Gerhart

3+ Years in League

Meet

Round 4 (#100)

DE Everson Griffen

3+ Years in League

Meet

Round 5 (#161)

OG Chris DeGeare

Make the Roster

Meet

Round 5 (#167)

LB Nate Triplett

Make the Roster

Fail

Round 6 (#199)

QB/WR Joe Webb

Make the Roster

Meet

Round 7 (#214)

TE Mickey Shuler

Make the Roster

Fail

Round 7 (#237)

LB/FB Ryan D'Imperio

Make the Roster

Meet

Overall Score

-2 out of 8

2011 Draft - Incomplete

Player

Expectation

Result

Round 1 (#12)

QB Christian Ponder

5-year Starter

Fail

Round 2 (#43)

TE Kyle Rudolph

3+ Years in League

Exceed

Round 4 (#106)

DT Christian Ballard

3+ Years in League

Fail

Round 5 (#139)

CB Brandon Burton

3+ Years in League

Fail

Round 6 (#168)

OT DeMarcus Love

Make the Roster

Meet

Round 6 (#170)

S Mistral Raymond

Make the Roster

Meet

Round 6 (#200)

LB Ross Homan

Make the Roster

Fail

Round 7 (#215)

DE D'Aundre Reed

Make the Roster

Meet

Round 7 (#236)

WR Stephen Burton

Make the Roster

Meet

Overall Score

-3 out of 9

2012 Draft - Incomplete

Player

Expectation

Result

Round 1 (#4)

OT Matt Kalil

Pro Bowl Talent

Unknown - looks good

Round 1 (#29)

S Harrison Smith

5-Year Starter

Unknown - looks good

Round 3 (#66)

CB Josh Robinson

3+ Years in League

Unknown

Round 4 (#118)

WR Jarius Wright

3+ Years in League

Unknown

Round 4 (#128)

TE Rhett Ellison

3+ Years in League

Unknown

Round 4 (#134)

WR Greg Childs

3+ Years in League

Unknown

Round 5 (#139)

CB/S Robert Blanton

3+ Years in League

Unknown

Round 6 (#175)

K Blair Walsh

n/a

n/a

Round 7 (#210)

LB Audie Cole

Make the Roster

Meet

Round 7 (#219)

DT Trevor Guyton

Make the Roster

Fail

Overall Score

-1 out of 10

2013 Draft - Incomplete

Player

Expectation

Result

Round 1 (#23)

DT Sharrif Floyd

5-year Starter

Unknown

Round 1 (#25)

CB Xavier Rhodes

5-year Starter

Unknown

Round 1 (#29)

WR Cordarrelle Patterson

3-Year Starter

Unknown

Round 4 (#120)

LB Gerald Hodges

3+ Years in League

Unknown

Round 5 (#155)

P Jeff Locke

n/a

n/a

Round 6 (#196)

OG Jeff Baca

Make the Roster

Meet

Round 7 (#213)

LB Michael Mauti

Make the Roster

Meet

Round 7 (#214)

OG Travis Bond

Make the Roster

Fail

Round 7 (#229)

DT Everett Dawkins

Make the Roster

Fail

Overall Score

-2 out of 9

Draft Year

Overall Score

2006

0 out of 6

2007

-1 out of 8

2008

0 out of 5

2009

+2 out of 5

2010

-2 out of 8

2011 - Incomplete

-3 out of 9

2012 - Incomplete

-1 out of 10

2013 - Incomplete

-2 out of 9

Combined Average

-0.9 out of 7.5

Conclusion

As you can see by the last table, the Vikings have had only 1 draft that would truly qualify as being above expectations, with 2 definitely failing to meet expectations. 2 others were merely average. The most recent 3 drafts are showing pretty meager returns in the early going with the 2011 draft perhaps being the worst draft in the last 8 years. Overall, since Rick Spielman came aboard as Vice President of Player Personnel and then eventually as General Manager, the Vikings have fallen short of basic draft expectations. And it should come as no surprise that the team has a losing record of 56-62 during that same time frame.

Unfortunately, Draft Metrics doesn't give us a general manager comparison, or even the success rates of various teams. What they do tell us is the number of 5-year starters resulting from draft choices for all NFL teams during the time frame of 1993-2006 (which doesn't help us much as it only includes Spielman's first year with the Vikings). But it is useful to see what teams were doing immediately prior to Spielman's arrival. The best teams were able to draft a total of 35 five-year starters over that time frame, while the worst were only able to find 17. The average number of starters an NFL team was able to find was 26 (or roughly two 5-year starters per draft). Interestingly enough, the Vikings were able to find the average amount, 26, during that same time frame. Some of that can be attributed to the sheer number of picks available to each team, so draft metrics created an efficiency rating determining the number of expected 5-year starters based on available picks, and the Vikings were the 5th worst efficient team during that time-frame (again, pre-Spielman of course). In an ideal scenario, every team would net a 5-year starter on offense and defense every single draft, with a handful of other starters and NFL caliber players as well. Assuming that teams would augment this draft strategy with 1 major free agent signing every year, an NFL team should be able to stock and maintain a roster with at least 15 elite, start-able players after a 5-year time frame.

So, going back and looking at the 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 drafts for 5-year starters suggests the overall success rate for drafts in which Rick Spielman was involved were average at best. If we were drafting at an average rate, we should have drafted a total of 8 five-year starters from those four drafts (and the jury is still out on 2010-2013 as it hasn't been 5 years yet). By my count, we netted exactly 8 five-year starters out of that earlier time frame (Greenway, Griffin, Edwards, Peterson, Rice, Robison, Harvin, and Loadholt, although technically Robison and Rice haven't been a starter for 5 years yet). This may not be the best measure either though. Draft Metrics sees it a different way based on their article posted in January of 2013. In their "Who's Doing the Best Job of Drafting" article they looked at the total number of games started by players that were drafted and determined that the Vikings ranked 20th the past 5 years and 25th over the past 10 years. But also consider that, of those 8 five-year starters, only four of them are still on the team, and 2 of them are no longer in the NFL. This combined with the information in the tables above leads me to believe that the Vikings haven't really been very good drafting talent.

Ultimately, Rick Spielman's track record finding talent in the draft has been roughly average or worse. And the jury is still definitely out on the past three drafts, especially the last two that Spielman has resided over as General Manager. The following players are expected to be 3 or 5-year starters, but for whatever reason, are not currently starting for the Minnesota Vikings:

-Christian Ponder

-Shariff Floyd

-Xavier Rhodes

-Cordarrelle Patterson

And the following players are expected to be in the league for at least 3 years, but are either not seeing the playing field, or are not doing well as a starter:

-Josh Robinson

-Jarius Wright

-Rhett Ellison

-Greg Childs

-Robert Blanton

-Gerald Hodges

Again, it's too early to tell with many of these players, but if they were destined for greatness, shouldn't they be showing it on the field relatively soon? After the 2012 draft, and the subsequent 10-6 Playoff season I was cautiously optimistic about Rick Spielman's ability to build a championship caliber roster. But after the first 6 games of 2013, I am no longer optimistic, especially after dissecting the previous drafts and looking at probabilities and success rates of draft numbers and NFL position groups. We have to assume that Rick Spielman had a major hand in the drafting of the Vikings since 2006, and the returns thus far are pretty much below average. Spielman has a history of questionable moves dating back to the trade of a 2nd round pick for quarterback AJ Feely with the Dolphins, and continuing with the selection of Christian Ponder and punter Jeff Locke in the 5th round of the 2013 draft (a stinkin' punter???). And after the truly atrocious level of football played by the Vikings the past 2 weeks, it's time to start questioning who is truly guiding this Viking longboat. And that my friends, is Rick Spielman.


This FanPost was created by a registered user of The Daily Norseman, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the staff of the site. However, since this is a community, that view is no less important.

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