Vikings GM Rick Spielman is a man in his element right now. Much like little kids love Christmas morning, Spielman lives for the NFL Draft. No, not because he gets to wheel and deal, and select players he thinks will help the Minnesota Vikings win football games.
No, no no no no no. No sir.
He literally gets paid to lie to the press, to other GM’s, and to you. Rick Spielman has money deposited into his account every week based on how well he can lie during this time of the year.
It’s a great gig if you can get it.
Lie, though, is such a harsh word. A mean word, if I may be so bold. Instead of lie, let’s say Rick nuances the truth. And unless you are schooled in the ways of nuance, you’ll be lost at what he’s really trying to say.
This is where the Department of Interpretation here at The Daily Norseman comes in.* We give them the Spielman transcripts, our crack staff sifts through the nuance,** and give you a true meaning of what Rick is trying to say.***
*Yeah we work for free, and interpreters don’t, so...do with that information what you will.
***I just make dumb jokes based off what he said. 100% made up.
As is our wont, Spielman’s actual quotes are in the blockquotes, then what he really means follows. As usual, Spielman had an opening statement.
What Rick Said: Just to start off, very excited to get the offseason started last week here at TCO Performance Center. You had an opportunity to see our players work out today and an opportunity to talk to some of our players as well. The energy, the sense of urgency that you feel in this building is pretty special. I know from the players’ standpoint and the coaches’ standpoint as well. I would like to thank Jamaal Stephenson and his leadership through this whole process as we get prepared for this weekend. The coaches, the entire football operations from our scouts, Eric Sugarman and the medical, our psychologists, our intelligence doctors, A to Z. There is a lot of people involved in this process to help make the best decisions we could possibly make. It is truly a team effort as we get ready to finalize our board, which we did today and to get ready to go this weekend. This is the last chance during the offseason that you have an opportunity to really make a significant change to your roster. We were able to be aggressive in free agency. We got a key extension done so far with Eric Kendricks and now this is truly the last piece of the puzzle where you can make some significant changes to your roster. We are always going to continue the philosophy of building through the draft, supplementing with free agency and anticipate this is the next step into building this 2018 roster.
What Rick Meant: Look at this bitchin’ building, man! I just want to say we have looked at these prospects from every angle. We’ve looked at them physically and mentally, and we’ve taken all the future village idiots off of our board. We’ve also had Eric Sugarman give us a detailed estimate on when every QB prospect in this draft will have a knee explode. We’re ready. Also, we will not be drafting a quarterback.
Q: Have you had a lot of action going on trades or calls going back and forth?
What Rick Said: The trade thing I know everybody talks about wanting to trade up or trade down. I’ve had four calls over the last two days where we’re picking. You don’t know. I wish I could say ‘Yes, we’d love to trade out’, but I don’t want to trade out if there’s a player that falls to us. An example like a Dalvin Cook last year, then we went and traded up. Our philosophy on the trades last year was we traded up twice and down seven times. It’s not planned. It’s more reactive to how the names are falling off the board and also what the depth is at that particular position. If it is a deep class at a particular position and one of the areas that we want to try to address and we can move down and still get that player, sure why wouldn’t you do that because then you get the benefit of another draft pick or adding another potential player to your roster. Or if it is a significant situation like where we felt last year twice on Friday we went up to get guys because we felt that strongly about it. Not only with Dalvin Cook but I think last year when you see that center/guard area start making a run, we weren’t going to sit back where we were picking in the third round and we were pretty aggressive to go up and get Pat [Elflein], the guy that we coveted in the draft last year.
What Rick Meant: We’ve had more action than the 1st Minnesota at Gettysburg. I’m trading down. Book it, bitches. Charge.
Q: Does it take the pressure off of the draft at all with how aggressive you were in free agency filling some big needs already before you get to draft day?
What Rick Said: I don’t think it ever takes the pressure off. I think what it does, especially where we are picking this year, which I would take two spots lower. But I would take this area every year we possibly can get. It is that it gives you a lot of flexibility on what direction you want to go. I know everybody in the mock world and experts out there it’s offensive line, offensive line, offensive line. But when you look at your roster, you have to look at ‘Ok, where are some other holes that you are going to have to fill?’ That is why I am looking at the 2019 roster as well. Guys who are not under contact. What if there is a significant player that is there at 30 that can potentially fill a need. He may have a role this year, but definitely fill a need in the future. You have to weigh in not only what your needs are this year, but I think we’re in a position especially at 30 as everybody thinks we are locked in at offensive line and that is absolutely not the case. I think right now the way our draft board has developed, we have five different positions that we can go in any direction depending on how the board is falling Thursday night.
What Rick Meant: Oh, the pressure is immense regardless. If we didn’t get Kirk Cousins, I’d be on my knees begging and pleading someone in the top 10-12 to disembowel me in a lopsided trade so I could hold my nose to get Josh Allen or maybe get lucky and get Lamar Jackson and THEN pray to the eight pound six ounce Baby Jesus they develop before the entire front office and coaching staff gets kicked to the curb. And if he didn’t I’d have about three total draft picks over the next four drafts and my future would be about as bleak as the typical post season of our Minnesota sports teams, minus the Lynx.
But because we signed who is arguably the best QB to ever hit free agency we can sit back, let the board come to us, and maybe even move back a few spots. With any luck, we’ll get a couple more picks in the third and fourth round if we get a good enough deal, and address what little needs we have remaining with some real quality football players.
I mean if being eaten alive by a soulless death machine like a Great White Shark is equivalent to your grandma giving you a big hug and kiss and some of her homemade cookies, then I guess it’s the exact same thing, Cubby.
Q: Do you consider the offensive line a deep class this year?
What Rick Said: I think in specific areas. I would say the center/guard area is a pretty deep class. I think there are some offensive tackles in this class, but I think it may drop off quicker than a center/guard area. Those are the things we are weighing. If Sid’s [Hartman] prediction come true and we do move out of the first round and you have three or four options in a particular position and you can get that same player in the second round and also have an additional pick, why wouldn’t you do that?
What Rick Meant: Interior line is deeper than the Marianas Trench and Sid’s first question in my next press conference won’t be a question it will be a statement along the lines of ‘I TOLD YOU YOU WOULD TRADE BACK AND LOOK AT THE GUY YOU GOT ISN’T THAT SOMETHING’.
Q: Do you have enough money to resign Anthony Barr, Danielle Hunter and Stefon Diggs?
What Rick Said: Rob [Brzezisnki] said we do. We’re working on that. We’re looking, it’s a process. Where the money comes in, I know we’ve tried to plan. I don’t know the next potential guy is. We’ll continue to work through that. Usually the trigger point is right before training camp, is when we’ve got a lot of extensions done. So, we’ll monitor it. But, that will not have any indication of what direction we go in the draft. You want to draft good football players, is what you want to draft. That’s what we’re going to do. I think the other thing that you have to be aware of is as we’re going through these meetings, you’re looking at players and there are a lot of good players. He may be a good player in a different scheme. I think the communication that we have with the coaching staff and the personnel staff. We sit there and we’re group studying. In fact, offensive and defensive coaches, I gave them a pod of players to look at that are graded relatively in the same area. But, we may go in a different direction than people anticipate because maybe that player is going to be a really good player but he is going to be a really good player in a different system than we run. So, that’s where you have to be on the same page with the coaching staff on understanding the physical traits. What the player is going to be asked to do, whether from an offensive scheme standpoint or a defensive scheme standpoint.
What Rick Meant: If we don’t, it’s Rob Brzezinski’s fault. 100%. He’s the cap guy, fire him.
Q: Have you made a decision where Mike Remmers will play next year and how could that affect your draft choices?
What Rick Said: Well, Mike Remmers gives us some flexibility to go either direction if we do go offensive line. If you go with an interior player, then Mike Remmers we feel can play right tackle for us and he can play at a winning level. If we go tackle, Mike Remmers can slide inside at guard like he had to during the playoffs and he played winning football at guard. So, when you have guys on your roster that can play multiple positions like that, that’s what gives you the flexibility to go with best player. That’s what we look for a lot in the draft, too, is guys that can play. Pat Elflein, for example, played guard and then he was a center. So, a lot of these guys we looked at, can these tackles play guard? Can these guards play center? Can these centers play guard? Even on the defensive side of the ball, we do the same thing. When you have players like that, it gives you the flexibility to go with best player available on your board.
What Rick Meant: We strongly feel we can start Mike Remmers at all five positions at once. Consequently we’ll be drafting a punter.
Q: What do you know now that you didn’t when you started working drafts?
What Rick Said: I don’t know, I’ll let you know after the draft. That’s what makes the draft, to me, so much fun. It’s because it’s so unpredictable, you can’t predict what trades are going to happen in front of you. You can’t predict what players are going to drop to you. Basically, you do all this prep and this is the time of the year where I’ve hammered so many different scenarios over the last three days. I can’t tell you all weekend, how much film we watched and how many scenarios we have put ourselves in. Not only at 30 but if we trade back, these players are available, are we just as happy getting one of these players and another pick? We went through scenarios through to the bottom of the second and bottom of the third round right now. That’s the exciting part because you don’t know what you’re going to experience because it seems like you experience something new every year.
What Rick Meant: I know if I pay a homeless guy to tell Jimmy Haslam to draft the lowest rated QB on the board in the first round he will, and I’ll win about a $1,200 bet between me and Zimmer, because Zim doesn’t think anyone is that clueless besides Bobby Petrino. I also know that Jerry Jones has been ravaged by a strain of syphillis that doesn’t respond to antibiotics, which explains most of his recent drafts. Oh...did I say that out loud?
Q: When you’re able to stock pile 10 picks, is that about having more swings at players or more flexibility?
What Rick Said: I’ve just always had the philosophy, if you can get to that amount or more, you have a better chance of hitting on players. Sure, you’re going to have your misses. But, the more swings that you get at the plate, the better odds you have of hitting the ball. If you only get to bat twice, you’ve got maybe a 50-50 chance. If you get to bat 10 times, hopefully your 50-50 chance, your odds have increased pretty good. So, I’ve always had the philosophy of getting as many of those picks, but also, not passing up on good football players just to get the picks. There has to be a reason why. There’s a lot of thought that goes into it. You just don’t do it to do it. Last year, for example, when we moved up twice on Friday, I was like, ‘I think we only have two picks left for the rest of the draft.’ Then we ended up with whatever more we did on Saturday. If a good player is there, you just take them. Or, if a good player is falling, you go get him. Or, if you have options to still get a good player and can get additional picks, then you do that. So, it’s not one set philosophy. That’s why you can’t predict what is going to happen on draft day. If we ended up with four players this year but four significant players, I’d be just as happy with that.
What Rick Meant: I am going to do more trades over draft weekend than Keith Richards has done drugs.
Q: How much of a factor has it been having 10 picks in the draft?
What Rick Said: I think it’s taking as many swings as you can down in those later rounds. I think last year what I wanted to improve on the most was the college free agency and our approach and philosophy in that area. I think it paid off last year and I think it’s even going to be more significant this year. When you have a roster, I think the way ours is built right now, we have two tiers. We have a pretty expensive tier in your starters, but you can’t have that expensive of a tier in your backups. So you have to have guys that can economically fit in the cap as your backups. But the reason you feel so confident about that is because the of the coaching staff that we have and how they’ve developed all these young guys. I think that’s why we’ve been successful. We can identify these guys but our coaches across the board, and that starts with our head coach, have done incredible at developing this young talent.
What Rick Meant: One year, it may be this year or it may be four or five years from now, I am going to trade myself into a situation where I will own every seventh round pick in the draft and they’re all going to make the roster. Every. One. Oh yes, yes my precious.
Q: With the roster you have with big money contracts, is it important to supplement with first contract guys rather than go out and get veteran backups with big contracts?
What Rick Said: Yes, it’s exactly what the thinking is right now. Every year is a big draft, but the more heavier or front loaded our roster gets with those big contracts the more important the backups or the role players that you’re hoping will develop into starters make a significant difference. If you do get one of your top tier guys that you paid a lot of money to hurt, like I said there isn’t another high expensive player behind him. Now you got these young guys and we have the coaching staff that are going to get these young guys to go out there and preform.
What Rick Meant: That is exactly the opposite of what we’re thinking. We’ve got Rob Brzezinski as our cap guy. The man is a got dang money sorcerer. I was kidding earlier when I said fire him. Please don’t. Ever.
Q: What’s your early feedback on the new draft board technology?
What Rick Said: I would say that the IT people in Paul Nelson and Luke Burson and all the people that went into that – I would consider myself not an IT person, but I know how to break things easily, not only IT stuff but other things. But I haven’t been able to break the board. The biggest thing that I was very nervous about, it’s the first time in I think 30 years that I have never gone without magnets. But this board has been incredible. And again, all the credit to the Wilf’s for giving us the resources to have such a unique board. Which I don’t think any team in the NFL or any other sport has this board. It made us so much more efficient, so when we’re sitting there and we’re working in our areas of the board and as you know I work horizontally. I’m going down to this end and pulling this tag for a defensive end and I’m going down this end and pulling a tag for this running back. Well it takes me, with the way I walk, 10 minutes, now I’m just pushing things and within 30 seconds we’ve been so much more efficient. The time we’ve saved by the technology that’s in that room is incredible. It all comes down to making sure you’re making the right decisions, but it’s freed up more time for us to do film, group studies. It’s freed up more time for us to do a lot more conversations. Like right now, last year at this time when you have tags. We had to have everything done and finalized by this afternoon because then we’re running the tags and putting all the tags up on the board. We’re still dosing up the board a little bit, tweaking the board. Because all you’re doing is changing and it automatically changes, you don’t have to run any tags. The efficiency has been incredible. The amount of time we’ve saved has been incredible. Usually we have a big assembly line of people doing tags right now putting them on magnets so they can stick on the board. Now, all we’re doing is focusing on this and we don’t have to waste that time.
What Rick Meant: I turned the damn thing on, it didn’t work, and so I yelled NNNNNNNNEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRRRDDDDDSSSSSS WHERE ARE YOU FIX THIS OR BE UNEMPLOYED and they fixed it. It’s pretty awesome as long as it works, but I swear to the great Magnet Board in Valhalla if it fails on Draft Night I’m ramming this whole board up their Power Point sideways.
Q: Can you get a good offensive tackle in the second round?
What Rick Said: If one falls there, maybe.
What Rick Meant: YUUUUUP
Q: Those last six quarters of the season, did those effect how you evaluated what you have and what you don’t have?
What Rick Said: I don’t think you measure anything in that short of a window. I think you have to measure the whole season. I think you measure from the first day you’re at training camp all the way through. I know we didn’t play our best football in those last six quarters. I know the coaches have went back and hashed through that 100 times on why and what we can do to get better. But I don’t think you put a point of emphasis on the last six quarters.
What Rick Meant: Those last six quarters absolutely affected everything we have done to this point. If it didn’t we would have re-signed Case Keenum and we wouldn’t have signed Sheldon Richardson, and I wouldn’t be Jonesing for some offensive linemen in this draft. Man those last six quarters sucked, minus the Greatest Play In Franchise History.
Why yes, yes let’s watch that play one more time:
Q: Where are you getting all the money to sign all these guys?
What Rick Said: I would tell you this, most of the people that work on the football side from the training staff to the cap people to the analytics people, one thing I learned is hire people that are a lot smarter than you and are experts in those areas and then you can orchestrate everything and orchestrate your beliefs and make the final decisions. When you have experts in those areas that I think are the best in the business, I think it gives you the best opportunity to have success.
What Rick Meant: Zygmunt Freaking Wilf, and not some carny sideshow crapola like ‘ownership stock sale’. Because only rubes from Wisconsin fall for something that stupid.