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This Thanksgiving, let’s give thanks to the Vikings’ scouting department

From looking at the roster, they don’t get nearly enough praise

NFL: International Series-Minnesota Vikings at Cleveland Browns
Rick Spielman is the public face of the Vikings’ front office, but there are a ton of people behind the scenes that deserve our thanks
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to the construction of a National Football League roster, more often than not it’s the General Manager and/or the head coach that get the majority of the credit. As fans of the Minnesota Vikings, we often talk about what Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer are going to do in a particular situation or how they’re going to fill a roster spot or who they’ll select in the draft.

However, beyond those two gentlemen, there are a bunch of people that deserve credit for the building of a team that currently sits at 8-2 and can put a stranglehold on the NFC North with a victory in Detroit on Thursday. They’re people that we don’t talk about very often, but their role can’t possibly be understated.

I’m talking about the Minnesota Vikings’ scouting staff, and a good look at the Vikings’ roster shows exactly what a job they’ve done over the past couple of seasons.

For example, there was a graphic that someone put out on social media that showed where the starters that the Vikings put out on the field on offense in this past Sunday’s game were drafted. Here’s the full breakdown, with the starters taken from the official NFL Game Book:

  • QB Case Keenum - Undrafted
  • WR Stefon Diggs - 5th round
  • WR Adam Thielen - Undrafted
  • RB Latavius Murray - 6th round
  • TE David Morgan - 6th round
  • TE Kyle Rudolph - 2nd round
  • RT Rashod Hill - Undrafted
  • RG Joe Berger - 6th round
  • C Pat Elflein - 3rd round
  • LG Nick Easton - Undrafted
  • LT Riley Reiff - 1st round

The Vikings have had an incredible offensive transformation this season, and they’ve done it largely on the backs of players that had little to no fanfare coming out of college. With four undrafted free agents in the starting lineup. . .and that number remains the same if you replace Hill with the Vikings’ regular starting right tackle, Mike Remmers, because he was undrafted, too. . .this team’s scouting department has worked overtime to find some hidden gems.

It’s not just the college scouts that are getting the job done, either. There are plenty of pro personnel scouts in the Vikings’ front office that are watching a ton of film and giving feedback to the higher-ups. After all, somebody saw Rashod Hill languishing on the Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice squad last season and thought that he would be a good fit for this team. With all the potential backup quarterback options that were out there this past offseason, someone had to stand up and say that Case Keenum offered more than the other options. Yes, Rick Spielman will get the credit in the public eye for it, but there were a ton of people that worked a lot of hours to help him reach that decision.

It isn’t just on offense, either. Sure, the Vikings’ defense is led by a ton of stars with significant pedigrees, but there are contributors on that side of the ball that didn’t, too. Andrew Sendejo was an undrafted guy that the Dallas Cowboys couldn’t seem to find a fit for, and Tom Johnson had spent time in Europe and the Arena League before finally finding his way to the Twin Cities. Just going back to Sunday’s win over the Los Angeles Rams, the biggest play of the game was made by yet another undrafted find in safety Anthony Harris. Harris forced a Rams’ fumble at the 1-yard line, preventing a touchdown and really shifting the momentum in Minnesota’s favor. And, to end the game, former #1 overall pick Jared Goff was taken down for a sack by undrafted free agent Tashawn Bower, who was active due to the injury to Brian Robison.

A leader is only as good as the people they surround themselves with. In the case of Rick Spielman, he has surrounded himself with an outstanding group of people who clearly share his vision of how this roster should be constructed, and the moves that the front office has made this offseason all seem to have worked out about as well as could be expected.

From everything I’ve read about it and know about the world of scouting, it isn’t a glamorous job. It’s my understanding that it also doesn’t pay a hell of a lot and often involves a lot of long hours. But the men and women of the Minnesota Vikings’ scouting department appear to have put together a collection of talent that is not only making a run this season, but looks like it’s well-positioned to be a force going forward as well.

So, this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for Jamaal Stephenson (the team’s Director of College Scouting), Ryan Monnens (Director of Pro Scouting), Anne Doepner (Director of Football Administration), and all of the men and women that make up the Minnesota Vikings’ scouting staff. Thanks to all of you for putting together a team of players that has given us an incredibly entertaining season thus far, and one that it appears may be just getting started.