The logic behind the Vikings’ draft day trades with the Lions and Packers
The No. 1 story of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s first draft as general manager, more than any individual player selected by the Vikings, revolves around the two major trades he made with the NFC North rivals.
On Thursday night, Adofo-Mensah sent picks Nos. 12 and 46 to the Lions for picks 32, 34 and 66. We knew a trade from 12 was a strong possibility, but going down 20 spots in a deal with a divisional opponent was shocking.
This decision was met with a mostly negative reaction from fans. Not only have the Vikings dropped the likes of Jameson Williams, Kyle Hamilton, Jordan Davis and Trent McDuffie, they now face Williams twice a year after being selected by the Lions at 12. Instead of taking the safe draft consensus from Hamilton, the Vikings fell 20 spots and took a different safety: Lewis Cine of Georgia.
The biggest question some fans had was whether Adofo-Mensah had enough in the trade. Using the standard charts that assign a point value to each draft pick — the traditional version of Jimmy Johnson and the newer version of Rich Hill — the Vikings lost the case. Using newer predictive charts that focus on talent cliffs, contract value, and non-quarterback career outcomes (judged by metrics like Pro Football Reference approximate value and wins superior to replacing Pro Football Focus), the Vikings won it. Instead of getting a crack on a better player at 12, Adofo-Mensah opted to get two at 32 and 34 while falling back 46-66 to do so.
“You usually want to target parts of the board because it’s an auction,” Adofo-Mensah said. “It’s a first-price auction. All you need is a name to call, so you always want to put yourself in a situation, ‘Hey, there’s five good players in this area of the board or five very good players in this area of the board.’ As you progress through the draft, and you feel like those five players that you would pick at that pick will be available 20 picks later, that becomes an opportunity, doesn’t it? you start with a plan and you always adapt and evolve as the board takes shape and continues.”
You can watch the trade in several ways. There’s evidence the Vikings made the right call from an analytical standpoint, given what we know about how 12th vs. 32nd/34th draft non-QBs do in the NFL and what kind of excess value they provide during their rookie contracts. This is a team that’s gone 15-18 the past two years and isn’t one player away from a Super Bowl; From this goal, you can understand that Adofo-Mensah wants to get two players with star potential instead of one.
At the same time, it’s hard not to think the Vikings could have gotten more back from the Lions, based on market value and the teams’ precedent using traditional charts to shape trades. Even if the negotiation process was smart, couldn’t they really have secured a future Lions first-round pick? Even giving up the 77th pick instead of the 46th pick in the deal would have made the value even on Rich Hill’s chart.
Adofo-Mensah said the approach to making deals during the draft was not limited to graphics.
“A lot of times people talk about the chart, and the chart is kind of a guideline,” he said. “I’m not saying you shouldn’t follow the chart, but in reality you’re comparing different alternatives. If your alternative is to stay and choose, that’s a value, an inherent happiness, whatever it is. If you trade, there’s an inherent happiness, so if you’re happier trading and getting anything than picking whichever player you would pick, you should do that scenario thing, “Here are the different scenarios we could be in if we pick this player or not”, and just compare them and see how we are. There are mathematical ways of doing it, but there are also common sense ways of doing it and intuition as well.”
On the return the Vikings got, Adofo-Mensah said: “It’s not like you call someone if you buy a house and say, hey, it should be worth it. Well, they might not pay for it. Something’s worth as much as someone’s willing to pay for it.”
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As Adofo-Mensah’s first draft at GM headquarters, the trade with the Lions will be dissected and debated for years to come. It will be easy to criticize if Williams becomes a star in Detroit, if Hamilton becomes a star in Baltimore, or even in the probable case someone chosen in the 12-31 range at a position of need for the Vikings becomes a star. The focus should be on the process of moving Vikings in the moment, but that’s not how the stories work or how most fans work. Of course, the opposite is also true; if Cine becomes a star in Minnesota as the eventual replacement for Harrison Smith, it will earn plenty of praise.
The first trade made by Adofo-Mensah didn’t make the second one any less surprising. After he was reportedly waived trade 32nd pick to the Packers by others in the Vikings draft room late Thursday night, he accepted a deal for the 34th pick early Friday night. Green Bay picked up North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson at 34, sending the 53rd and 59th picks to Minnesota.
What was surprising about this trade was the team the Vikings were trading with. What’s not in question is who won the trade, in terms of value. There’s no chart out there that says the Packers got the best end to a deal that saw them give up two second-round picks in exchange for one. Of course, if Watson becomes a star, the Packers won’t care and the Vikings could be criticized in hindsight. But from what we know now, it was a big win for Adofo-Mensah that eased some of the concerns over the previous night’s trade.
Still, even Adofo-Mensah knew the optics were a bit unusual. Really? Two trades with divisional opponents that led them to take wide receivers, when the Vikings – at least at the time – had a major weakness at cornerback?
“A call was made, and obviously we thought a lot about, again, making another exchange [within] our division — for another receiver — and at this point on the board, I don’t believe we’ve had a corner yet,” he said. “So believe me, the gravity of this hasn’t been lost on me, but again, you’re supposed to make calculated decisions, and we did, and ultimately I think we were rewarded with what we did in the end.”
Adofo-Mensah also made an interesting point after the two trades. People will bash the Vikings for “allowing” the Lions and Packers to land receivers that could cause them secondary problems for a long time, but it’s not like the Vikings are the only thing standing between these teams. and these players. Detroit and Green Bay probably could have found other business partners that would have allowed them to pick up Williams and Watson. So, Adofo-Mensah said, why not get the value of doing the business themselves?
“The other thing people should understand is that they can call other teams, so we were pretty sure the team behind us would get the same contract,” he said. “That team getting that player and us not getting those picks is not a better outcome. The only better outcome would have been to take that player, but in our situation we didn’t think that was the best. decision to be made. … We’d rather reap the benefits of the trade if we thought so. We’re fine. It’s a big league, they’re big organizations and we’re going to have to compete with them anyway and we’ll be ready up to the challenge.”
Shortly after making the trade from the Packers, Adofo-Mensah went 53-42 via a deal with the Colts and landed Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth Jr., a first-round talent who dropped in due to injury issues. Booth has a special advantage and gives the Vikings someone who can cover Williams and Watson going forward. Adofo-Mensah would go on to make three more trades on Day 3.
Trades with the Lions and Packers, due to the nature of the teams, picks and players involved, will be analyzed for many years. But whatever your thoughts about them at the time, consider Adofo-Mensah’s rationale behind their making has some merit. Starting this fall, let’s see how it all plays out.
“It’s something you think about,” Adofo-Mensah said of trading within the division and having to see a player like Williams twice a year. “Me and Kevin talked about it. He was one of our favorite players in the draft, but we have a really bad guy on our team, and we can add more pieces on the other side. Again, they have to play the Minnesota Vikings. . We don’t have to face Jameson Williams. They have to face the Minnesota Vikings.”
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