Rick Spielman (Tom Dahlin/Viking Update)
The NFL draft moves to three days this year, which could promote more trading because teams have two overnight sessions to strategize, gauge value and target certain players. Last year, with a two-day draft, there was still plenty of trade movement, but Vikings VP Rick Spielman admits that could increase this year.
The NFL draft annually brings excitement among fans and tension in front offices across the league.
In 2007, the Vikings were excited about the possibility of drafting running back Adrian Peterson with the seventh overall pick, especially when he began to slide down the draft board. QB JaMarcus Russell, who is still struggling to secure a starting role in Oakland, went first, followed by WR Calvin Johnson and LT Joe Thomas, both good players.
But then came DE Gaines Adams and OT Levi Brown, and finally the Vikings waited out the Washington Redskins, who decided on safety LaRon Landry. The Vikings had an opportunity to trade up and assure they could get Peterson, but they decided to wait patiently (and nervously) and hope the star Oklahoma running back slid one more pick.
NFL teams normally burn up the phone lines on draft weekend looking to maneuver for position and players, but this year the trading could be even more commonplace than before because the league is turning the draft into a three-day affair, with overnight breaks after Thursday’s first round and Friday’s second and third rounds. Rounds four through seven take place on Saturday, April 24th.
“You get into those five-minute rounds and it’s rapid-fire. Now you’ve got evening and the next morning to re-evaluate where you’re at and maybe potentially there is more talk because it is extended on trades,” said Rick Spielman, Vikings vice president of player personnel.
Last year, three teams entered the first round of the draft holding picks from other teams. By the time the first round was completed, nine picks had been traded, and four of those were traded twice. The first round allowed teams 10 minutes to choose their player.
The second round, which moved to seven minutes last year, featured four picks that had been traded before the draft. By the time the second round had been completed, 15 picks – almost half of the round – had been traded at least once.
Spielman said at the NFL Scouting Combine that he didn’t expect too many veteran players to be traded on draft day, but with an overnight break between the first and second round, there could be even more movement in the second round this year.
“Even in the old format there were a lot of trades, especially people jockeying position,” Spielman said. “I don’t think there is going to be trades (of) players for draft picks. I think it’s going to be just people jockeying for position like people normally do on draft day.”
Last year, the first two rounds were held on Saturday, with the only overnight break between the second and third rounds. This year, teams will have to re-examine the remaining value in the draft with overnight breaks between the first and second rounds, and the third and fourth rounds.
With last year’s overnight break, three third-round picks were traded before draft weekend. Much like the second round, that number ballooned to 13 picks in the round being held by teams that didn’t originally own them, and five of those picks were traded twice.
The Vikings held firm through the first three rounds last year, selecting Percy Harvin in the first (22nd overall), Phil Loadholt in the second (54th overall) and Asher Allen in the third (86th overall). Their patience paid off once again, just like it did with Peterson. Harvin became the offensive rookie of the year, Loadholt was the starting right tackle from opening day and Allen worked his way into a contributing role in the Vikings’ nickel and dime defenses.
The team didn’t have a pick in the fourth round because of their February trade for Sage Rosenfels, but once the fifth round rolled around, they couldn’t wait any longer. They saw linebacker Jasper Brinkley dropping and didn’t want to wait until the 158th pick for fear a couple of teams in front of them were interested. They moved up eight slots, trading away their fifth-round pick and a seventh-rounder they had obtained for Erasmus James to go get Brinkley with the 150th pick. He ended up being a valuable replacement when E.J. Henderson fractured his fibula and was lost for the final month of the regular season and the playoffs.
The Vikings currently have eight picks – one in each round and an additional fifth-round compensatory pick. They also have a roster that might not have room for four picks in the fifth round or later, meaning we could see some more movement from Spielman, who isn’t afraid to move late-round picks to move up and find value in the middle rounds. That might be especially true in this year’s draft, which some analysts have called the deepest draft in a decade and see potential starters in the middle rounds.
So just how much will a three-day draft contribute to additional trades? Nobody knows for sure, but Spielman prepared for it as he always has, with meticulous research, and that will help even once the draft has ended and it’s time to add undrafted rookies.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.