FanPost

In Defense of Rick Spielman

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Almost seven years ago, shortly after Rick Spielman took over as the full-time General manager of the Vikings, I wrote an article criticizing the drafting ability of the Vikings and asked the question Is the Force Really Strong with Rick Spielman? I used some statistics from the now defunct Draft Metrics website to determine that the Vikings (and probably Rick Spielman) had been average to below average in their drafting ability from 2006-2013. At that time, we only had two drafts where Rick Spielman had been fully in charge and another six drafts where he was the "Director of Player Personnel" within the "Triangle of Authority." It was difficult to determine if Rick Spielman was fully responsible for what were some mediocre drafts during that time-frame. A poll that ran at the bottom of that 2013 article showed only 37% of the Daily Norseman approved of the way Spielman was running the Vikings at that point in time.

Well, here we are over six years later and we've had plenty of time to watch the Rick Spielman Era unfold since then. He's been fully responsible for the last eight drafts from 2012-2019. And I began to wonder how good at drafting Rick Spielman has been during that time, especially considering that I was not high on the Vikings drafts from 2006-2013. The long and short of it is, he's been pretty good overall since he took over as General Manager.

Post-Draft Grades

Football Outsiders has been collecting and averaging draft grades for the past 15 years, called their "Draft Report Cards". I took it upon myself to calculate the Vikings average draft grades and average rank during Spielman's time at the helm (2012-2019). Granted, these draft grades are those given immediately following the draft and before any of the players have taken a snap in the NFL. But, because all teams are graded the same way, it gives us a way to compare Spielman to his peers in the NFL. Overall, Spielman comes out looking very good with Top 10 grades in most of his drafts and an overall average GPA of 3.2 (B+) and an average ranking of 8.6 out of 32.

Post Draft Grades

Year

Avg GPA

GPA Rank

2019

2.91

16

2018

2.83

18

2017

3.15

7

2016

3.26

6

2015

3.57

4

2014

3.66

3

2013

3.38

5

2012

3.11

10

Overall Average

3.23375

8.625

I then took it upon myself to scour the internet for NFL Draft "Re-Grades", like those by Pete Prisco at CBS Sports and Mel Kiper at ESPN. They usually go back a few years later and revisit their initial draft grades to "re-grade" the drafts after seeing the players begin their NFL careers. Even considering the re-grades, Spielman doesn't lose much. The re-grades only go back to 2016, since the three most recent drafts are still pending. But his overall draft grade GPA for those first five drafts sits at 2.89 (B-) ranked 13.2 out of 32.

Draft Re-Grades

Year

Avg GPA

GPA Rank

2016

1.34

30

2015

4.11

1

2014

2.667

18

2013

2.77667

11

2012

3.557

6

Overall Avg

2.890134

13.2

The re-grades paint a slightly different picture, especially in the GPA Ranks as his grades are up and down a bit more. But still, he has a decent overall average rank. This is all fine and good, but ultimately these draft grades are subjective. These are just a few sports writers' opinions of each draft class, and we probably shouldn't put too much weight into these subjective opinions, right? So, what if we instead looked at Pro Football Reference's "Weighted Career Approximate Value" numbers as well? This is a metric that looks at objective measures like career starts and Pro Bowl appearances and assigns a number value to every player in the NFL. I went ahead and totaled up the Career AV of every player that all 32 NFL teams drafted between 2012 and 2019. The teams that have acquired the players with the most Career AV through the draft should theoretically be better at identifying the best players in the draft. And guess what, the Vikings are ranked 4th overall in this metric.

NFL Team

Drafted AV 2012-2019

Rank

SEA

784

1

LAR

750

2

BAL

743

3

MIN

728

4

GB

721

5

KC

702

6

DET

689

7

CLE

681

8

DAL

680

9

NE

679

10

WAS

670

11

HOU

669

12

BUF

666

13

JAX

665

14

CAR

655

15

MIA

654

16

PHI

643

17

TB

639

18

IND

637

19

CIN

633

20

OAK

617

21

CHI

608

22

PIT

600

23

NO

592

24

TEN

587

25

ARI

558

26

ATL

552

27

SF

552

28

LAC

543

29

DEN

539

30

NYG

539

31

NYJ

478

32

Conclusion

It doesn't seem to matter if we consider subjective data like sports writers draft grades, or objective data like Pro Football Reference's "Approximate Value", both types of analysis suggest that Rick Spielman is a skilled talent evaluator in the NFL Draft. In other words, Rick Spielman has been very good at finding talented players in the draft. Obviously, when evaluating an NFL General Manager there is a lot more to it than that, like signing good free agent talent (including undrafted free agents), managing the salary cap, handling trades, hiring and firing coaches, and addressing roster needs. I have spent zero time analyzing his abilities in those regards. But when it comes to the NFL Draft, there are few General Managers that have been better overall at choosing talented players than Rick Spielman in the past 8 years. I may have been critical of his drafting ability almost 7 years ago based on what little information we had back then, but it would appear that I may have been proven wrong.

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.