Video: Rick Spielman Shares Draft Story About Getting “Hoodwinked”

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Recently, former Vikings GM Rick Spielman shared a pretty fascinating story from his time calling the shots in Minnesota.

Apparently, Slick Rick was interested in a trade to go get C.J. Gardner-Johnson, the versatile defensive back who recently joined forces with Dan Campbell in Detroit. The deal didn’t materialize, though. According to Spielman, he got so mad that he even threw his squeeze ball, an uncharacteristic move for the normally calm-cool-collected executive.

Rick Spielman
Jun 11, 2019; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman after practice at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Take a peak at the short clip:

Gardner-Johnson was the 105th selection in the 2019 NFL Draft. Or, put differently, he was taken at the top of the 4th by the New Orleans Saints.

If you recall, the Vikings had just made a pick at 102, the final selection of the 3rd. Alexander Mattison from Boise State – who recently signed his second contract in Minnesota – was the pick.

Those who have spent some time following Gardner-Johnson in the NFL can understand the appeal of adding the young DB. He has shown great versatility and is plenty capable of making plays on the ball (6 INTs last year). The safety has actually played 1520 snaps in the slot over his career, by far the most of any position in the secondary. He’s essentially a slot corner who has a knack for being disruptive in coverage.

Mike Zimmer was still at the helm and the veteran coach was never shy about his affection for additions to the secondary.

Nov 14, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer looks on as players warm up before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Rick Spielman avoids mentioning a specific team in the clip, but the teams in between pick 102 (when they chose Mattison) and 105 were the Arizona Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals. It’s possible they tried to get to their draft slot to pick the DB.

However, it’s worth keeping in mind that the 49ers owned the 104th pick but traded it on April 27, 2019 (Day 3 of that draft) to the Bengals. Moreover, the Jets owned the 105th pick but traded it to the Saints on the same day. Was Spielman negotiating with either the 49ers or Jets about getting their pick to then see one of these teams instead accept a different offer?

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Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) greets fans after the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

In the end, the Vikings didn’t get Gardner-Johnson. Their next pick – 114th – was used on Dru Samia, who didn’t work out in Minnesota. Had the trade come to fruition, the Vikings likely wouldn’t have had the 114th pick.

The story from the former GM is yet another indication that the NFL Draft is a wild, unpredictable event. Everyone from NFL GMs all the way down to the fans experience at least some level of chaos.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and PFF helped with this piece.