Rick Spielman has his flaws as a general manager, but he's always had a reputation for doing well in the draft. His philosophy of frequently trading down and acquiring additional picks is an analytically-sound one, and he's hit on a number of star players since becoming the Vikings' GM in 2012.
With that in mind, it shouldn't be too surprising to see that Spielman comes in fairly high in Gregg Rosenthal's rankings of the best drafting GMs. Out of the 23 GMs who have been around since at least the 2019 draft, Spielman came in sixth in Rosenthal's rankings for NFL.com.
Here's what Rosenthal had to say.
Best pick: Justin Jefferson | Round 1 (No. 22), 2020
Worst pick: Laquon Treadwell | Round 1 (No. 23), 2016
Spielman has quietly been with the Vikings since 2006 and received the general manager title in 2012. Selecting Justin Jefferson last year was the latest in a string of big draft hits (Stefon Diggs, Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks and Dalvin Cook). Plucking five Pro Bowlers over the past six drafts is impressive, though Spielman's getting further removed from the 2015 bounty that landed Diggs, Hunter and Hendricks. The Vikings GM would rank even higher if not for a few first-round misfires (Laquon Treadwell, Mike Hughes, Garrett Bradbury) and a general struggle to solve the offensive line despite investing a lot of draft capital.
I think that's a fair and accurate assessment. Spielman got off to a strong start with his first four drafts as GM, peaking in 2015. When I ranked all eight classes (including UDFAs) prior to last year's draft, 2012-2015 made up the top four, though not in that order. Those classes produced Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes, Adam Thielen, Anthony Barr, Teddy Bridgewater, Danielle Hunter, Stefon Diggs, Eric Kendricks, Trae Waynes, and Anthony Harris.
The issue is that Spielman fell off in a big way over the next four years. 2016, headlined by Treadwell, was his worst draft in Minnesota. 2017 was decent considering he didn't have a first-round pick, but Dalvin Cook is the only player left from that class. 2018 has only produced one starter (Brian O'Neill) — although Mike Hughes' injuries couldn't have been foreseen — and this is a huge year for 2019 draftees Garrett Bradbury and Irv Smith Jr. to prove themselves as impact players in the NFL.
Spielman bounced back in 2020 with a class that might be second only to 2015, even when considering the Jeff Gladney incident and his uncertain future. That's how good Justin Jefferson, Ezra Cleveland, and Cameron Dantzler are.
Overall, sixth out of 23 feels spot on.
The five GMs ahead of Spielman in Rosenthal's rankings are Chris Ballard (Colts), Kevin Colbert (Steelers), Jason Licht (Buccaneers), Brandon Beane (Bills), and Mickey Loomis (Saints). It's hard to argue with any of those.
Other NFC North GMs haven't fared quite as well. The Packers' Brian Gutekunst ranks 13th, the Bears' Ryan Pace is towards the bottom at 20th, and the Lions' Brad Holmes isn't on the list because he just took over.
Thanks for reading. Make sure to bookmark this site and check back daily for the latest Vikings news and analysis all offseason long. Also, follow me on Twitter and feel free to ask me any questions on there.