NFL Draft day is finally here. Tonight, after months of mock drafts, rumors, and general speculation, we'll find out who the Vikings are adding to their roster in the first round.
One of the big questions is this: will they make their pick at No. 14 as scheduled, or will Rick Spielman and company wind up striking a deal? No general manager is more prone to make trades during the draft than Spielman, and you can count on the fact that he'll be working the phones as things start to unfold this evening.
"We've looked at scenarios on if a specific player was falling in the top ten, do we go up and get that player? We're going through what the potential cost of that would be," he said on Tuesday. "We're also looking at if we are at 14 and if the board there, we have two or three players that we still think we can get, like we've done in the past, trading back, picking up some more draft capital. So we have the flexibility of moving up and down through the draft."
Spielman went on to say "we feel very confident if we do not move up or down in the draft, we’re going to get a very good football player at 14," but there's a real chance that the pick the Vikings make tonight doesn't come at their original draft slot.
If that's the case, it's worth going over several potential trade partners in both directions. These are teams who either have GMs with past tendencies that suggest they'd be open to trading, legitimate reasons for considering doing so, or both.
Possible trade-up partners
As I've mentioned a bunch of times in recent weeks, the Vikings haven't moved up from their first-round pick since 1987. They've traded back into the first round from outside of it, but that's not the same thing.
However, Spielman did call the 49ers last year with his eyes on moving up for Tristan Wirfs, and there have been a bunch of recent reports that the Vikings would consider a trade up in the right circumstance. The player they reportedly love who isn't expected to be there at 14 is Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater, but don't rule out a shocking trade to go get a QB like Justin Fields or Trey Lance, either. It's a major longshot, but who knows?
Here are the three teams picking in front of Minnesota that I think make the most sense as a trade partner.
Carolina Panthers (No. 8)
The Panthers are a team that has shown a lot of reported interest in moving back.
The Lions at 7 and the Panthers at 8 were mentioned by Tom Pelissero as the "hot spot" for trades — and he followed that up by mentioning the Vikings as a team that could have interest in moving up for Slater or Penei Sewell. I don't think the Lions will want to trade with a divisional rival, so Carolina feels like the highest the Vikings would realistically go.
After acquiring Sam Darnold, the rebuilding Panthers and new GM Scott Fitterer may want to acquire additional draft capital, either for this year or 2022. If the Vikings have their eyes on a top tackle or QB, they could send 14, 78, and a fourth to move up to 8. If the Panthers are thinking long-term, 14 and an early-round pick (first or second round) in 2022 might be their preferred return.
Denver Broncos (No. 9)
It would be pretty funny if George Paton's first big draft move as the Broncos' GM was to take a page out of Spielman's book, strike up a deal with his longtime friend and coworker, and move back to 14. The relationship that exists between the two men suggests this is a possibility. I'm not sure Denver's trade for Teddy Bridgewater on Wednesday takes them out of the QB market, but it's possible neither Fields nor Lance will be there at 9 anyways.
If the QBs the Broncos like are gone, they could move back to 14 and still land a top-tier corner or linebacker. The return would be slightly less than what the Vikings would need to give to go to 8. Again, that could be 2021 mid-rounders or a more premium pick next year.
Philadelphia Eagles (No. 12)
If Slater is falling and the Vikings simply need to jump in front of the OL-needy Chargers to get him, Spielman might pick up the phone and call Howie Roseman to see if he's willing to tango. Roseman is a notorious dealmaker who is open to moving in either direction as he sees fit. A 2021 fourth or 2022 third should be enough to get this done, although maybe the Chargers would talk to the Eagles as well, driving up the price.
Possible trade-down partners
History suggests this option is far more likely than a move upwards in the draft. If the Vikings are on the clock at 14 and have several available players ranked similarly on their board — particularly if Alijah Vera-Tucker has already been selected — it wouldn't surprise me at all to see them move back.
Here are three teams who could be looking to come up.
Washington Football Team (No. 19)
The immediate range of teams picking after the Vikings includes three who are in need of a QB: the Patriots at 15, Washington at 19, and the Bears at 20. I wouldn't be surprised if the Pats had already moved up into the top ten to get their guy (Fields or Lance) by the time this pick rolls around, and I doubt they'd move up just one spot.
But let's say Mac Jones is still on the board and Washington wants to make sure they get him. The Vikings would presumably be more inclined to do business with them than they would with the rival Bears. WFT sending 19 and 51 to the Vikings for 14 and 78 could work for both sides, hypothetically.
Tennessee Titans (No. 22)
Titans GM Jon Robinson has a history of being aggressive and moving up in the draft, with nine of his 12 career draft-day trades going in that direction. Tennessee has recorded five straight winning seasons, but they still have some significant needs. They could look to trade up for a top receiver to pair with A.J. Brown after losing Corey Davis in free agency. Maybe they'd move up for a cornerback or edge rusher. I don't know! What I do is that Robinson isn't shy about going to get his guy, and there are several top players at positions of need who could strike his fancy.
For the Vikings, at least one of the top edge rushers that fit their defense — Kwity Paye, Jaelan Phillips, and Jayson Oweh — would still be available at 22, as would Oklahoma State tackle Teven Jenkins and some top players at other positions.
Baltimore Ravens (No. 27 and 31)
This is more of a bold one: after trading Orlando Brown Jr. to the Chiefs and picking up a second first-rounder, would the Ravens package both to come up to 14? They could have their eye on one of the Alabama receivers to give Lamar Jackson a true No. 1 target. The Vikings would need to send a pick or two back to make the value work. I don't think there's much of a chance of this happening, but you never know.
I'll throw out the Raiders (No. 17), Dolphins (No. 18), and Saints (No. 28) as honorable mentions here.
- Minnesota Vikings 2021 Seven-Round Mock Draft With Three Trades
- Five Takeaways From Rick Spielman's 2021 Pre-NFL Draft Press Conference
- 25 Players the Vikings Could Conceivably Draft in the First Round, Sorted into Tiers
- The Latest 2021 NFL Draft Rumors and Reports Surrounding the Minnesota Vikings
- Are the Minnesota Vikings Going to Draft a Quarterback Early this Year?
- Five Offensive Linemen the Vikings Could Target on Each Day of the 2021 NFL Draft
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