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NFL Draft

General Manager Speak: Assessing Vikings’ 2020 NFL Draft

  • The Draft Network
  • May 24, 2020
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The Vikings are one of the more interesting teams to follow through the draft season. 

General manager Rick Spielman was armed with 15 picks in the 2020 NFL Draft and went above and beyond anything we've seen from his regime. Minnesota's double-digit selections surpassed any previous number since Spielman took over full-time in 2012.

After losing many core pieces and lacking depth to immediately fill those spots, Spielman finagled his way down the draft order. He never executed a trade up into an earlier spot; instead, he traded down with the 49ers from No. 25 to No. 31. The Vikings targeted cornerback Jeff Gladney and landed the defensive back and an extra fourth- and fifth-round pick. 

Spielman maximized the value of Minnesota’s picks and gained players at positions of need who received identical grades, like how he added Justin Jefferson with the 22nd-overall pick and then Gladney.

The Vikings’ complete 2020 draft class:

In this new series, I will analyze quotes that stuck out the most from executives’ pre- and post-draft press conferences. Below are quotes from Spielman.

Question: Does Gladney project as more of a slot or outside guy?

Spielman: “I think, yeah, I think he's versatile enough to play both inside and out. When you add him with some of the other young corners that we have, I think the coaches will kind of figure that out as we go along. But I know we broke down four or five corners we looked at from an analytic standpoint and Jeff was one of the guys, especially in the red zone, he had the lowest cornerback rating on balls thrown his way and one of the lower just overall incompletion percentages as we look at not only what he did on the field — so we do the tape first but then we added in the analytics on top of that and felt he was one of the better corners that could make plays on the ball.”

Analysis: One of the biggest steals of the draft was when the Vikings trading back from No. 25 and still acquiring Gladney six picks later. When examining the cornerback class, there were only a few prospects who checked off of all the prerequisites like Gladney. When evaluating young talent, Minnesota has been adamant about character, baseline testing performances and players who aren't afraid to bark back — meaning they have plenty of confidence in their abilities. 

What makes Gladney so appealing is his progress in four seasons, leadership and upside. When the Vikings lost Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander in the offseason, it was important to restock the missing talent at the position. Gladney brings inside-out versatility and a cheap option, on a rookie deal, for the foreseeable future — a huge determining factor since Minnesota is currently cap-strapped heading into next season.

Question: Were you anticipating that Philadelphia was going to take Jefferson, just realizing he was the best slot receiver available? Was there a moment you are wanted to trade up?

Spielman: “He was one of the guys — we had two other names, as well, but we were very excited to get Justin Jefferson, because I know he's going to have — he has a chance to be a pretty impactful rookie when we get him in here.”

Analysis: Jefferson and the Vikings were a common player-team pairing for mock drafts prior to the draft. Spielman openly admitted he was surprised that the record-setting LSU target made it to their pick at No. 22 overall. 

With Stefon Diggs now in Buffalo, Minnesota needed a new running mate for Adam Thielen. While there’s a concern Jefferson is an inside-only threat, the Vikings offense can utilize targets at different spots and alignments and Jefferson an opportunity to showcase his abilities in different formational sets. 

For more “General Manager Speak,” see Cincinnati, Miami, Detroit, Arizona, New York Giants, Cleveland, Los Angeles Chargers, Carolina, Oakland and San Francisco’s executives discuss their 2020 draft class.

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