With a name like "Spielman" the general manager of the Minnesota Vikings sure does know how to whip the media into frenzy. If you look up the word "Spiel" in the dictionary you'll find the german translation is literally, "A lengthy or extravagant speech or argument usually intended to persuade." I can't think of a more perfect last name for an NFL general manager than Spielman. While we all miss Ted Glover and the "Rickspeak" series that he so lovingly created, I'm going to attempt to fill the void, in some small way. I will never be able to recreate the magic of Rickspeak, so instead I present to you a blatant rip-off which I'll call: Man of Spiel (I call dibs on the fantasy football name). Is the title a play on a Superman trope, or a play on his last name? I'll let you, dear reader, decide for yourself. But I will be picking out some of the most interesting quotes from the press conference and trying my best to cull down the "extravagant speech or argument" into something intelligible and without all the persuasion. Don't think of it so much as me translating Spielman so much as it is me offering my take on the Man of Spiel.
If you want to watch all of Rick Spielman's 30-minute press conference you can do so directly at Vikings.com. Or you can read the entire transcript here. Spielman spent the first 10 minutes or so talking about their pre-draft process and dropped the first major bombshell that they are actively pursuing options to trade down from pick #11. But he also mentioned that the Vikings have increased their usage of "analytics". In other words, they have been using advanced player statistics to break ties in draft rankings of their Big Board.
Question: What kind of analytics are you looking into?
Man of Spiel: We just took the next step.
Question: Is that working with an outside group?
Man of Spiel: It's something that we just finished up, they've done a great job, we've looked at the drafts over the last five or six years. It entailed all of the players that are currently in the NFL and it entailed a lot of the data that we have collected in numerous areas and kind of came up with just different things on, make sure this guy is from an analytic standpoint. It's more used for breaking ties, okay? We've had multiple discussions on three or four guys at a position that are clumped in and I've got eight different opinions on those guys, the analytics will kind of tie in and kind of help break those ties a little bit on potentially from an analytical side, you're always going to go back and go what you know on the tape, and you're going to always make the decisions based on your experience and your gut, but the analytics really came in and it played a part in drafting (Jerick) McKinnon last year. It does have some value, it's not the be all end all, but it's another tool that I think, the more and more we use it and the more it evolves each year, it's becoming a pretty good tool for us.
Well, well, well...maybe analytics do have a place in the NFL. I find it interesting that the Man of Spiel mentions Jerick Mckinnon as an example of someone they decided to draft using analytics. Mckinnon was a surprise draft choice to most fans in the 3rd round, but for draftniks Mckinnon had one of the strongest overall combine performances for a running back in recent memory. If they were to continue the trend of drafting guys with incredible measurables and good college production, here are some names that should be at the top of their list: Byron Jones, Vic Beasley and David Johnson.
Question: You talked about having eight needs heading into free agency. Has that been whittled down or changed at all?
Man of Spiel: No, we're probably still looking. We're just looking to add the best football players we can and at what points in the draft can we add those. You guys wrote all about our needs. I think the one thing that we really do is we're not really big in the free agency and going out and doing the spending spree. I'd rather sign a bunch of guys who are maybe 1-year prove-it deals and we've had some success with the Jerome Felton's of the world and the Tom Johnson's of the world to fill needs that way. Again, if you can sign a lot more of those guys, you've just got a better chance of potentially hitting on one or two. Plus I know in free agency - and I know this isn't a free agency thing - we're looking for down the road because I know we have some pretty decent young players that are going to be eventually coming up in free agency and the theme has been to draft well and to pay those guys because those are the guys you know the best.
Not real big in free agency huh? How about throwing a huge wad of cash at Greg Jennings two years ago? Or going out and signing Linval Joseph and Captain Munnerlyn last year? What about making a trade for a big contract guy like Mike Wallace? While I think his general philosophy is sound, he really hasn't been executing it. Since he took over in 2012, only Harrison Smith and Blair Walsh will be big in-house signings going forward...and maybe Matt Kalil if he can get it turned around. While the Man of Spiel spins things the right way there, the reality is that they have been pretty active in each of the past three free agency periods in an attempt to fulfil roster needs. Yes, they've been building through the draft, but most of those young guys still have a few more years before they will need new contracts.
Question: What kind of offer would it take to consider trading Adrian Peterson?
Man of Spiel: Is this our first Adrian Peterson question? Are we getting off the draft stuff? I will tell you this and we can just end the Adrian Peterson stuff. Our position has not changed since all of the statements we made down at the owner's meetings. Adrian Peterson is under contract, his suspension was lifted. We're looking forward to having Adrian Peterson back here as a Minnesota Viking in 2015 and that's the end of the story. That's it.
Question: Are you saying there's no chance he'll be traded this week?
Man of Spiel: I think Coach Zimmer stated it pretty clear that we have no interest in trading Adrian Peterson and we don't. Adrian made a mistake, he's paid the price for that mistake, but I think if our organization didn't believe in Adrian Peterson, he still probably wouldn't be here today - and that's from our ownership on down. We believe in Adrian Peterson but I also know that we're a pretty good football team with Adrian Peterson in our backfield as well.
If you watch the video, you can see that his first statement, "Is this our first Adrian Peterson question?" was said in a joking manner, but he was still kind of annoyed by having to answer it. In any case, after watching the video of the press conference our resident Man of Spiel (master of persuasion) sells a pretty convincing company line about wanting to keep Adrian Peterson. He doesn't even exhibit too many typical traits of a liar either. At this point, I think I actually believe Rick Spielman that the Vikings have no intention of trading Adrian Peterson. And if I'm wrong about that then...damn...he's good.
Question: You talked about those edge rusher tweeners. How do you weigh drafting a situational guy with a value pick in the middle of the 1st round?
Man of Spiel: Those are the things that we've had very thorough discussion on. That's where the coaches really come in and help. We can identify those guys and we can tell you what kind of talent they do have, but are they going to fit from a schematic standpoint? I can tell you some guys, "Okay can they play a stack linebacker on 1st and 2nd down and then they rush off the edge on 3rd down?" Other guys, "Well he can't play stack linebacker so he's going to have to be a defensive end and that's all he can do but he can be a pretty good defensive end as an edge rusher." Other guys, "Well he can't play stack, he can't play defensive end but the only way he's going to help us is on nickel 3rd-down situations," so you weigh all of those in. I think the biggest part is those tweener types and you see a lot of these guys, they're more and more every year 245 to 255, 260 pounds and can he grow big enough to be a defensive end? Is he athletic enough to be a linebacker? As our coaches went out there and worked all of these guys out individually, okay we came back and part of our process was this is the bucket he goes in, this is the bucket he goes in and this is the bucket he goes in. So we have a pretty good idea of what we would do with each one of those guys.
Ahh, very carefully chosen words there Mr. Spielman. But if you read closely you'll find that he's confirming they like their defensive ends to be heavier than 260. That means a guy like Vic Beasley, Shane Ray or Randy Gregory would not be an EDGE rusher in a Mike Zimmer defense until they added about 15-20 pounds, so those guys would be more in the outside linebacker mold. But knowing that Ray and Gregory are pass rushing specialists makes me wonder if they are really targets for the Vikings. But it does mean a guy like Preston Smith or Bud Dupree would be prime targets for defensive end in their scheme. A guy like Dante Fowler would fall right in the middle...bucket. I wonder if he has literal buckets with little sheets of paper that have each draft prospects name on it...but I digress.
Question: Have you made discussions on the 5th-year options for Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith?
Man of Spiel: Yeah, we'll announce those here coming up shortly. I'm going to get through the draft.
Well played. But honestly, they might as well pick up both options since they are only guaranteed in the case of injury. In other words, they are free to cut either player after 2015 without incurring a cap penalty if they regress or nor longer fit the team for whatever reason. Picking up that 5th year option for Smith and Kalil is a win-win for the team as it allows them to hold onto younger talents for an extra year and is part of the strategy Spielman is employing in stockpiling first round talent. And with that, the first edition of
Rickspeak Man of Spiel is complete. As the old idiom goes, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.