Rick Spielman Drafting “Busts” Is Overblown

Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman is not a universally loved figure. But on the whole, most reasonable people acknowledge the “job well done” since Spielman took over the Vikings big job in 2012.

Before that, Spielman was in the leadership triangle, yet it was always unclear as to who was personally making the draft picks in Minnesota. 2012 erased all the mystery, though. Spielman can be held fully accountable for the last nine drafts.

Spielman has made 1st-Round draft picks 13 times since he was anointed the head boss. 54% of those 13 men have reached Pro Bowls with the Vikings during their careers: Matt Kalil, Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes, Coradarrelle Patterson, Teddy Bridgewater, Anthony Barr, and Justin Jefferson. And in total fairness, Spielman endured a sizable gap from 2015 to 2019 when no 1st-Rounders ascended to Pro Bowl status (yet).

Some Vikings heads will call Matt Kalil a bust. He isn’t. Kalil just never lived up to the stardom that he kindled during his rookie season. He was tremendous in 2012, but that was his magnum opus. The left tackle never reclaimed his first-year glory and later battled injuries before departing the league for good in 2017.

The sure-fire bust was Laquon Treadwell. That is Spielman’s one blemish on the 1st-Round resume. However, some fans — inexplicably — link Spielman to other “busts.”

Rarely does Spielman draft a player in the first round — only to see that man become an awful football player. The closest thing to that description is Laquon Treadwell.

These are the rest that wobble on the bust vs. injured debate.

Sharrif Floyd, a three-technique defensive tackle from the University of Flordia drafted in 2013, never materialized. At the peak of his powers, however, Floyd was pretty studly. He tallied an 84.2 Pro Football Focus grade during his sophomore campaign in 2014 — a score that Vikings faithful would lust for now from a 3DT.

But Floyd only started 12 games after that commendable season. He was out of the league entirely by 2017 due to nerve damage in his knee. So, Floyd as a bust? Not so much. He succumbed to a strange, career-ending injury.

Mike Hughes is tunneling down the pipeline of “bust” conversations. The Central Florida alumnus has missed 50% of all football games since his 2018 entry into the NFL. When he’s on the field, Hughes is decent. He certainly hasn’t lived up to the 1st-Round billing. Nevertheless, the verdict is still out on Hughes. He has not been jettisoned from the team or league but instead faces a make-or-break 2021 campaign.

Hughes’ presence in 2021 is all the more important because last year’s 1st-Rounder, Jeff Gladney, is embattled in a vile legal affair. The 24-year-old is accused of assaulting his girlfriend in Texas and awaits next steps for the conduct upcoming in May. Gladney may or may not play in the NFL again, so Hughes must show up and remain healthy this September.

All in all, Treadwell is the true-blue bust. Christian Ponder is certainly one of those, and Spielman is 33.3% accountable for the selection of the former Vikings quarterback. Spielman cannot escape the stink of that mistake.

After that, it’s the middle-ground 1st-Rounders: Mackensie Alexander, Trae Waynes, and Garrett Bradbury. None of those men can be judiciously considered “busts.” What’s more, it’s also a bizarre tactic to hold Spielman to a standalone standard of draft supremacy. Nearly every general manager in history has picks that result in mediocre output.

But for some reason, we think Spielman is the only dude to do so. Seldom does anybody mention the aforementioned fact that over half of Spielman’s 1st-Rounders reached the Pro Bowl for the Vikings.