Note: The following is an excerpt from Greg Bishop's story for Sports Illustrated on the Vikings' virtual draft operation.
As the first round of a historic NFL draft unspooled Thursday, top members of the Vikings’ IT team grew as nervous as general manager Rick Spielman. That’s not an exaggeration. They understood that years of planning and a month of emergency reconfigurations had come down to three days that promised a binary outcome of technological triumph or disaster. And they knew that they needed to connect upwards of 30 employees via videoconference in order to make a record number of selections remotely. And they understood that their future hinged on eliminating hiccups.
They also realized the duality present in Spielman’s technological proficiency. Sure, the GM had embraced their value, tasking both groups with building out an organization-wide IT infrastructure from scratch by when the franchise opened its palatial new headquarters in 2018. But Spielman also tends to regularly break phones, tablets and programs, like some kind of tech jinx. It left his IT staff to configure an if-you-build-it-he-can’t-break-it system before the draft.
Hours passed before the Vikings’ first selection, at pick No. 22, approached on Thursday. This gave Spielman ample time to crash something and commentators ample opportunity to remind viewers that Minnesota had traded talented wideout Stefon Diggs to Buffalo this spring and lost several key defensive players (end Everson Griffen, tackle Linval Joseph, and three of its top four cornerbacks in Trae Waynes, Xavier Rhodes and Mackensie Alexander) in free agency. The same commentators pointed out that, while Spielman retained a strong young core, he needed to complete a significant roster makeover this draft. Which is why Spielman turned 12 picks into 17 selections that became 15 players (and more picks next year) by the time the draft ended on Saturday afternoon.
The latest Vikings haul represented the largest class since the NFL condensed its annual draft to seven rounds in 1994. It also marked Minnesota’s first 15-member class since ’85 and largest-overall draft class since ’76, when the team added 17 players—over 17 rounds. How did the Vikings pull that off? Well …
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