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Updated: May 10th, 2014 7:25pm
Zulgad: Spielman not bothered by late-round picks' hit-and-miss nature

Zulgad: Spielman not bothered by late-round picks' hit-and-miss nature

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Rick Spielman was named the Vikings' vice president of player personnel in May 2006 and began playing a significant role in the draft process the following spring.

Spielman and coach Brad Childress worked together until November 2010 when the latter was fired. For much of the time, neither would reveal exactly who had a say in what or which one had the greater authority.

This changed during the 2010 season.

As things fell apart around Childress and the pressure intensified, Childress revealed he had the final call over the 53-man roster, meaning that in actuality he might as well have carried the general manager's title.

Leslie Frazier replaced Childress on an interim basis in 2010 and then was given the permanent job after that season. Owners Zygi and Mark Wilf made it clear following Frazier's hiring that the coach and Spielman would have equal say on personnel matters.

This didn't last long. Following the Vikings' 3-13 finish in 2011, Spielman was promoted to GM and given full authority over the 53-man roster.

That means that without question the past three drafts have been Spielman's doing. New coach Mike Zimmer had plenty to do with what happened this weekend at Winter Park -- you only need to look at the Vikings using the ninth pick to take UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr to realize that -- but if there was any doubt about a pick it is Spielman who makes the call.

There are at least a couple of trends that have developed in the time that Spielman has been looked to for a final answer.

He likes to get back into the end of the first round -- he's done it in each draft since 2012 (safety Harrison Smith, wide receiver Cordarelle Patterson and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater)  -- and he values the ability to accumulate selections later in the draft.

Trader Rick proved this again Saturday when he made two deals to move down and finished the day, which featured rounds four through seven, with six selections, including three in the seventh and final round.

After not having a fourth-round pick, the Vikings took Stanford guard David Yankey in round No. 5 and finished the day by selecting North Carolina cornerback Jabari Price with the 225th pick in the seventh.

Spielman's love for trading picks meant only three of the 10 selections he used originally belonged to the Vikings. Seven of Spielman's picks addressed the defensive side of the ball, including taking three defensive backs on Saturday.

Attempting to judge Spielman's work for 2014 is impossible, although many will try in the next few days. However, he does have enough of a track record in Minnesota that it is fair to examine recent history.

In 2013, the Vikings had nine picks, including six on the third day, and the year before, they had 10 selections, including seven on the last day. If you want to throw in 2011, since Spielman likely had more authority than Frazier in the draft room, the Vikings had 10 picks that year and eight came in rounds four through seven.

That is 21 picks on day three. Ten are still on the roster.

This is in large part because only safety Mistral Raymond and guard Brandon Fusco remain from the Vikings' fourth- through seventh-round selections in 2011.

Gone are defensive lineman Christian Ballard (fourth round), cornerback Brandon Burton (fifth round), offensive lineman DeMarcus Love (sixth round), linebacker Ross Homan (sixth round), defensive end D'Aundre Reed (seventh round) and wide receiver Stephen Burton (seventh round).

Wide receiver Greg Childs (fourth round) and defensive lineman Trevor Guyton (seventh round) are the only two third-day picks no longer around from 2012. Wide receiver Jarius Wright (fourth round), tight end Rhett Ellison (fourth round), safety Robert Blanton (fifth rond), kicker Blair Walsh (sixth round) and linebacker Audie Cole (seventh round) remain.

As for last year's draft, seventh-round picks Travis Bond, a guard, and Everett Dawkins, a defensive tackle, already are gone. Linebacker Gerald Hodges (fourth round), punter Jeff Locke (fifth round), guard Jeff Baca (sixth round) and linebacker Michael Mauti (seventh round) remain.

Of the 10 players who are still around, Fusco, Walsh and Locke would be considered the biggest contributors. Fusco is the starting right guard. Wright, a slot receiver, is making progress and had 26 receptions for 434 yards with three touchdowns last season. Ellison has 12 catches and one touchdown in two years and can contribute as a blocker. Cole saw playing time at linebacker last season and could battle for a job under Zimmer.

Nonetheless, it's clear that these third-day picks come with zero guarantee that there will be a return.

This might bother some but not Trader Rick. He seems to take joy in the potential reward that goes with the risk of day three.    

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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