Apr 27, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman introduces first round draft picks Matt Kalil from Southern California (left) and Harrison Smith (right) from Notre Dame to news media at Vikings headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Greg Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Vikings Draft 2012: Rick Spielman Giving Fans Plenty to Grumble About

A fan mini-revolt may be in the offing against the regime of Rick Spielman. So far on day 3 Spielman has executed several moves that have many scratching their heads and a few calling for the GM’s.

It started when the Vikings used their first pick of the 4th round on wide receiver Jarius Wright of Arkansas. Fast guy. Good talent. But a little on the small side and maybe not a classic outside receiver?

Fans immediately wondered why the Vikes would go for Wright with Percy Harvin already on the team and a few quality outside receivers still on the board. Well there could be a couple of answers. One is that the Vikings are worried about Percy’s durability and drafted Wright as a back-up. The other could be that in the Vikings’ eyes Wright ISN’T strictly a slot receiver and can be used outside as well.

That seemingly questionable move got slightly less questionable when, a little later, the Vikings took Wright’s former Arkansas teammate Greg Childs. Now they had their classic tall, speedy outside receiver. Although Childs comes with his own question marks too. He blew out a knee in 2010 and some argue he has never been the same player since. But when you’re picking late in the 4th, you’re not going to get a perfect guy. Thing is, Childs probably could’ve been had later in the draft or maybe by waiting all the way till afterward.

Speaking of guys you could’ve had by waiting…

Sandwiched in between the Wright and Childs picks was arguably the biggest head-scratcher of the draft. With the 128th overall, the Vikings took USC TE Rhett Ellison, a man known more for blocking than receiving.

Not a sexy pick by any stretch. However, the Vikings did have a legitimate need for a blocking tight end after Jim Kleinsasser’s exit. So the pick is easy to defend on that count. Here’s where it gets sticky. Ellison was not only not on anyone’s draft radar, he himself didn’t expect to be picked. When interviewed, Ellison said he was floating around on a river contemplating his non-football future when the phone rang and it was the Vikings telling him he was joining the NFL. He was so surprised he literally broke down crying.

So it appears Rick Spielman used a fourth on a guy he could’ve waited until after the draft and signed as a UFA. But in Spielman’s defense, there could theoretically have been another team looking to take Ellison. I mean there must be another team out there somewhere that places a 4th round value on a blocking tight end/H-back right? The Steelers maybe? Bill Musgrave can’t be the only one who would fall for a guy like this.

I’m trying to work with Spielman here. Personally I’m fine with the pick and I don’t even mind the reach that much. The problem is that, at least in the fans’ eyes, the Vikings have lots of other needs, defensive tackle and outside linebacker chief among them. It’s possible though that the Vikings themselves don’t look at those spots as areas of need. External and internal perception can often be very very different.

I wish I could say that was the end of the fan-irritating moves for Spielman but it wasn’t. Next, Spielman went and traded the Vikings’ first pick of the fifth round to the Detroit Lions, receiving a 2013 fourth in exchange while also switching picks in the seventh. That move is fine with me too – they got a higher pick next year than the one they had this year – but I guess some fans wanted the Vikes to use all their picks this year, so it got them mad. Maybe they’re worried the world is going to end and the Vikes will never get to use that fourth?

Last but not least, the Vikings ticked off the Notre Dame haters – again – by taking cornerback Robert Blanton with their one remaining fifth round selection. The backlash over the Harrison Smith pick wasn’t bad enough without them going out and taking another guy off a soft Golden Domer secondary? Despite legitimate concerns about both Smith and Blanton as players, you can’t convince me that 90% of the venom being spewed over them isn’t just flat-out Notre Dame aversion. But maybe I’m wrong.

However you slice it, Rick Spielman did some weird stuff on the third day of this draft. Of course if the players turn out to be solid contributors to a winning team, all the angst will go away and Spielman will be a genius. We’ll just have to trust that Spielman and Co. have a successful formula going here. I for one am ready to almost give him the benefit of the doubt. If only he’d learn that it’s “genetic freak” and not “generic freak.”

Update: It got worse. Spielman went out and drafted a kicker in the sixth. If he takes a long snapper in the seventh, Winter Park will be burned to the ground.

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