When trying to make predictions on the directions that a team will go in the NFL draft, context is always key. More often than not, that context is determined by team needs and what the strengths of the board are in a given year. When you break down the specifics of a GM or organization though, a different story is often told. There are trends that are blatant give aways as to what a team will do. As far as Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman is concerned, he has a few trends that define him but one has always stood out to me: he loves taking college teammates.
Since Spielman became the GM of the Vikings in January of 2012, he has done so in 5 of the 9 drafts he has been in charge of, including 3 sets of teammates in 2012 and 2 sets in 2013.
2012: Matt Kalil and Rhett Ellison-USC
Harrison Smith & Robert Blanton-Notre Dame
Jarius Wright & Greg Childs-Arkansas
2013: Jeff Locke & Jeff Baca-UCLAXavier Rhodes & Everett Dawkins-Florida State
2016: Danny Isidora & Stacy Coley-Miami (FL)
2017: Mackensie Alexander & Jayron Kearse-Clemson
2020: Cameron Dantzler & Brian Cole II-Mississippi State
With the Vikings set to pick at 14, I selected what I believe are 6 realistic possibilities at 14. With each one, I explored who else they might draft from their same school.
EDGE Jaelan Phillips-TE Brevin Jordan
While it doesn’t feel like a pressing need, tight end is still a position that the Vikings should and probably will target at some point draft weekend. With the departure of Kyle Rudolph, only Irv Smith Jr and Tyler Conklin remain on the roster as serviceable tight ends. While Jordan isn’t on the same level as Kyle Pitts, he does bring flexibility in the passing game as a move tight end and shows real effort in blocking. Taking Jordan and having him on the field with Smith Jr would lessen the need for a third wide receiver because they both could fill the role.
EDGE Kwity Paye-LB Cameron McGrone, WR Nico Collins
With the uncertainty at linebacker after this season, taking a high upside athlete at the position makes all the sense in the world late day 2/early day 3. McGrone brings that to the table along with the ability to play in base packages and special teams day one.
Taking Nico Collins would be an excellent decision on day 2 for the Vikings. A hyper athlete with tremendous size for the position (6’4″ 216lbs), Collins never got the chance to truly shine as a receiver due to abysmal quarterback play. Put his talent and athleticism in the right system and we could see him thrive and be a steal on day 2.
OT Christian Darrisaw-S Divine Deablo
It’s no secret that the safety depth on this team has been lacking and things didn’t get any better with the departure of Anthony Harris. Divine Deablo would give the Vikings what they had (sort of) with Jayron Kearse: a hybrid type player who can play the running game as a WLB and play well in coverage. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him become a Viking if he is available on day 3.
OT Samuel Cosmi-S Caden Stearns
Caden Stearns has had quite the career arc at Texas. Going from first-team All Big 12 as a freshman to having an injury-ridden final 2 seasons for the Longhorns. What is going in Stearns’ favor during the process is his superb athletic testing. Teams will likely target Stearns due to his excellent testing and what they have seen on tape in his freshman season. If there is one thing NFL teams like to do, it’s taking a high upside athlete and trying to fix him.
OT Teven Jenkins-WR Tylan Wallace, CB Rodarius Williams
What more can be said about Tylan Wallace that I haven’t said before. A true alpha at the position, Wallace has the flexibility to play all over the field and the potential to grow into a complete receiver. Adding his skillset to the likes of Thielen and Jefferson would make for a fun group of skill players.
In the fourth round, there won’t be many cornerbacks to take a chance on. One of those is Rodarius Williams. The brother of Cleveland Browns cornerback Greedy Williams, Rodarius played a variety of coverage at Oklahoma State. He needs some work in being instinctive with his reactions, but being a good athlete with good length will be appealing to teams in the early parts of day 3.
Alijah Vera-Tucker-S Talanoa Hufanga
Talanoa Hufanga is a rare player on the back end. He is able to play all across the defense and thrive on all levels of the field. A good athlete, Hufanga’s best ability is his versatility to play everywhere in any situation. Mike Zimmer would have a blast utilizing him in all sorts of fun ways.
When it comes to Rick Spielman, it isn’t a guarantee that the first round pick will have a college teammate taken, as only 2/5 seasons involved a first rounder. What this exercise does show is who some of those players could be come day 2 and 3.