Since the NFL Draft was shortened to seven rounds in 1994, the record for the most picks by one team in a single draft is 14. The Dolphins set that mark in 1997, and the Browns matched it in 2016. At the moment, the Vikings have 13 picks on day three of the 2020 draft alone, to go with the four players they've already taken. If they make all of their scheduled selections on Saturday, the record will be obliterated. After trading down twice in as many days, GM Rick Spielman has turned 12 picks into an almost unfathomable 17.
The Vikings' first move was a savvy one. Late in the first round on Thursday night, they received a fourth-rounder and a fifth from the 49ers to move back six spots and still get a player they coveted all along. The next one was also good value. Holding the penultimate pick in the third round, a bidding war broke out between teams who wanted to get back into Day 3.
"We had probably five or six calls at that 105 spot, so it was very busy," Spielman said in Zoom call on Friday night.
In the end, the Saints submitted a winning bid of their four remaining picks: a fourth, a fifth, a sixth, and a seventh. They really wanted Dayton tight end Adam Trautman, apparently. While the Vikings have 17 picks, New Orleans is likely done for the weekend with just three. Even if some people will criticize the Vikings for not just taking a player in that spot, it's hard to argue with the return.
Here's the entire four-step process of the Vikings going from seven picks to 17 in a month and a half:
- March 10: Compensatory picks are awarded, with the Vikings getting three of them (+3)
- March 16: The Vikings trade disgruntled receiver Stefon Diggs and a seventh-round pick to the Bills for a first, a fifth, a sixth, and a 2021 fourth (+2)
- April 23: The Vikings gain a fourth and a fifth by moving back in the first round (+2)
- April 24: The Vikings turn one third-round pick into four day three selections (+3)
Spielman is known for trading back and accumulating picks, but this is his magnum opus. The Vikings currently have three fourths, three fifths, three sixths, and four sevenths. Of the 149 players that will be drafted on Saturday, nearly nine percent are scheduled to go to Minnesota.
However, despite how ridiculous it may seem, there's actually some logic to the approach. The Vikings – who lost a lot of talent in free agency this offseason – had around 60 players on their roster entering the draft. NFL teams need to get to 90. Instead of relying heavily on signing undrafted players in college free agency, which requires you to compete with other teams for each guy, the Vikings can give themselves more control by simply drafting those players instead. That's especially helpful considering that the college free agency process will be significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Having this amount of picks, it alleviates some of that stress in college free agency just because of the situation that we're dealing with right now," Spielman said. "So having a lot of those picks in the third day, especially, I don't know if we have maybe four in the seventh round and three in the sixth round. A lot of those guys that we like, if they did get to free agency, you'd have to be battling with [other teams]. We have an opportunity to select those guys."
With that said, there's a good chance the Vikings don't end up making all 13 picks on Saturday. They have the ammo to "hopefully go up and get what we need," according to Spielman, who joked about trading back some more. There's still a lot of talent on the board, especially in the fourth round.
"We can even, I don't want to say overpay, but be even more aggressive if we hone in on some guys, especially in that fourth round area," Spielman said. "If you can potentially move in there and get more picks in that fourth round, you're getting the best of the third day. Hopefully that will be what we try to do, but we'll just have to see how it all goes."
After taking a receiver, two cornerbacks, and an offensive tackle, the Vikings still have plenty of positions of varying levels of need that they can address in the fourth round. There are edge rushers like Curtis Weaver and Alton Robinson, defensive tackles like James Lynch and Jason Strowbridge, and safeties like K'Von Wallace and Geno Stone. There are also some talented guards, linebackers, receivers and even quarterbacks.
Spielman also mentioned the possibility of turning some of the picks into 2021 picks in deals with teams – the Saints, for example – who are low on day three capital and want to give up future assets to go get a player.
It'll be exciting to see who the Vikings end up taking. It might be even more exciting to see if the single-draft record of 14 picks lives to see another year.
The full slate, as of Saturday morning
- Round 4, Pick 117 (via SF)
- Round 4, Pick 130 (via NO)
- Round 4, Pick 132
- Round 5, Pick 155 (via BUF)
- Round 5, Pick 169 (via NO)
- Round 5, Pick 176 (via SF)
- Round 6, Pick 201 (via BUF)
- Round 6, Pick 205 (via NO)
- Round 6, Pick 205
- Round 7, Pick 219
- Round 7, Pick 244 (via NO)
- Round 7, Pick 249 (compensatory)
- Round 7, Pick 253 (compensatory)
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