Day 1 of the 2017 NFL Draft was sort of a snooze for Vikings fans (and the writers covering the Vikings from Winter Park). Day 2 was a never-ending torrent of activity. Four trades, two picks, two Spielman press conferences, three conference calls (including Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher), and one partridge in a pear tree later, the Vikings have two players that they hope will be early contributors in 2017.
One of the biggest debates during every NFL Draft is best player available vs. positional need. The Vikings seemed to accomplish both with Dalvin Cook and Pat Elflein.
Cook, the 41st overall pick, was the #12 overall player on the consensus Big Board and the 9th ranked player by Pro Football Focus. Most talent evaluators had Elflein slotted right around where he was picked at #70 in the third round. Rick Spielman once again used his trademark draft day maneuverability to get value picks that also hope to fill team needs.
Of course, there were reasons why someone as talented as Cook slid all the way to the 40’s. The words “red flags” usually follow any conversation about him from talking heads. I encourage all of you to read this honest, in-depth profile from Robert Klemko of the MMQB on Cook’s checkered past. There are definitely reasons for concern, but there were quite a few mitigating factors that went into his tough upbringing. The Vikings seem very confident that his troubles are behind him; if that’s the case, Minnesota might have got their first round pick after all.
And while the best player mantra is Spielman’s usual company line, he went as far to admit that he wanted the Vikings to add an offensive lineman on Friday. He complimented Elflein’s physical play and ability to play both guard and center as reasons why the Vikings thought he was a good fit. (Elflein played guard his entire career until his senior year, where all he did was win the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s best center.)
With the choices that the Vikings made in the draft along with their free agent acquisitions, it’s obvious that improving last year’s league-worst rushing offense has been a high priority at Winter Park. After adding Elflein, it looks like the Vikings will likely have 3 new starters on an offensive line that was in desperate need of an overhaul. Cook, Latavius Murray, and Jerick McKinnon compose a backfield that could suddenly be quite formidable, especially if the line can open up a hole or two.
And while Spielman had to trade up to get both players the Vikings ended up selecting, they didn’t have to concede much to move up the board a handful of slots. In fact, after wheeling and dealing twice at the back end of Day 2, the Vikings actually ended up with more draft picks than when they started on Friday. (They’re currently at nine total picks, one short of Spielman’s usual magic number of ten. I asked him if he thought they could get to ten on Saturday; he smiled and said “we’ll see.”)
In the end, Spielman and the Vikings may have taken a slightly different approach to how they went about the 2017 draft, but it still seems to be business as usual. The Vikings have a bevy of picks stockpiled for the final day of the draft, which is just how Spielman likes it.
“We have seven draft picks tomorrow. That gives us a lot of ability to move up and down...we have a lot of names up there still.”
So if you thought Friday was crazy, buckle up for Saturday. With three 4ths, a 6th, three 7ths, and endless permutations of trade possibilities, the draft fireworks are just beginning here at Winter Park. Saturday should be the wildest day yet.