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Zulgad’s Roundup: Plenty of unknowns remain when it comes to how Vikings’ GM will operate

NFL: Combine
Mar 1, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah during the NFL Combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings’ decision to fire Rick Spielman and hire Kwesi Adofo-Mensah as their general manager in January, means the team will have a new executive running the draft for the first time since 2007. Spielman played a significant role in the Vikings’ decision-making in the draft from 2007 through 2011 and he was responsible for running the draft from 2012 through 2021.

Spielman’s draft strategy as GM wasn’t too hard to figure out. His tendency to trade back and accumulate picks landed the Vikings a seven-round record of 15 selections in 2020. With Adofo-Mensah now calling the shots, we have little idea of how he will approach the April 28-30 draft.

In his latest mock draft for ESPN, Todd McShay has the Vikings taking LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. with the 12th overall pick. But there also is a chance Adofo-Mensah will move back in the draft in order to try to add an extra first-round selection for 2023, when the quarterback class is expected to be far better than it is this season.

The Vikings likely will looking for Kirk Cousins’ successor at that point — the veteran is signed through 2023 with void years for the following two seasons — and the 2023 QB class includes Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Alabama’s Bryce Young and South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler. One mock draft has five quarterbacks going in the Top 10 next year.

Adding a second first-round pick would enable the Vikings to either be in position to get a Top 10 selection, or put together a strong enough trade package to move up significantly.

The Philadelphia Eagles made such a trade this week by sending the 16th and 19th picks in this year’s first round, along with a sixth-round selection, to New Orleans in return for the 18th pick, along with a third- and seventh-round selection this year. The Eagles also received a 2023 first- and second-round pick in return and now have two first-round picks in 2022 and 2023.

That positions them to move on from 2020 second-round pick Jalen Hurts, if they decide the quarterback isn’t the answer. There are several teams that likely have an eye on next year’s quarterback class and the Vikings would be wise to put themselves in a prime position to compete for a high-end selection.

Will Adofo-Mensah do it? That will be among the many interesting things we will find out about the Vikings’ new boss in the coming weeks and months.

  • McShay has the Steelers selecting Liberty quarterback Malik Willis with the 20th pick. It’s difficult to believe that a team wouldn’t try to jump in front of Pittsburgh if Willis fell that far. That’s why it would make a lot of sense for the Steelers to try to work a trade with the Vikings to exchange first-round picks and also deal their 2023 first-rounder to Minnesota.
  • Former Gophers linebacker Boye Mafe will go to Kansas City with the 30th pick, according to McShay.
  • Considering the type of season Wild winger Kirill Kaprivoz is having it seems a bit odd he isn’t being mentioned as a candidate for the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP. Kaprizov entered Tuesday’s game in Nashville with a team-leading 39 goals and a franchise-record 85 points and deserve to be mentioned alongside Edmonton’s Connor McDavid; Toronto’s Auston Matthews; Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau; Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau; and Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin.
  • Kaprizov needs 11 goals in his final 15 regular-season games to become the first player from a Minnesota-based NHL team to score 50 goals in a season since Brian Bellows had 55 for the North Stars in 1989-90. The only other North Stars player to score 50 or more goals in a season was winger Dino Ciccarelli, who had 55 in 1981-82 and 52 in 1986-87. Mike Modano, who was drafted by the North Stars and had a Hall of Fame career in Dallas, is the only other player in Minnesota/Dallas history to reach 50 goals. He had 50 goals in 1993-94, the franchise’s first season in Texas.
  • Speaking of guys being ignored for postseason awards. The Timberwolves’ Patrick Beverley tweeted Monday that “It’s shocking to me that no one is talking about COACH FINCHY for COTY.” That, of course, is shorthand for NBA Coach of the Year and Beverley is exactly right to mention the Wolves’ Chris Finch. Again, Finch might not win it, but he definitely deserves to be in the conversation. Phoenix coach Monty Williams is the favorite.
  • How important was the trade-deadline acquisition of veteran goalie Marc-Andre Fleury by Wild general manager Bill Guerin? Well, there is real concern in Toronto that the Maple Leafs’ dynamic offense might not be enough to overcome the goaltending concerns that exist with Jack Campbell and Co., in the playoffs. The Leafs were among the teams with an interest in landing Fleury but all indications are he favored Minnesota. Entering Tuesday’s game, Fleury was 3-0 with a 1.34 goals-against average and .958 saves percentage (four goals on 96 shots) since being acquired from the Blackhawks. Cam Talbot, Fleury’s goaltending partner, was 4-0-1 with a 1.78 goals against and .945 saves percentage (nine goals on 163 shots) since the trade.
  • So who will start in goal for the Wild in the playoffs and will coach Dean Evason try to ride the hot hand? What a great problem for a coach to face.
  • Byron Buxton’s fantastic spring again makes one wonder what he could accomplish if he can stay healthy for an entire season. The Twins center fielder, who signed a seven-year, $100 million contract extension in November, entered Tuesday’s spring training finale slashing .452/.500/1.000 with a team-leading four home runs and 12 RBIs. Buxton has played in 100 or more games only once in seven seasons and that was back in 2017. He played in 140 games that year, hitting .253/.314/.413 with 16 homers and 51 RBIs in 462 at-bats. Buxton is now a far more confident and superior player, especially at the plate.
  • Former Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson, whose trade to the Yankees this spring cleared up salary space for the Twins to sign Carlos Correa, has three home runs and six RBIs for the Bronx Bombers in 10 games.
  • Exciting news for fans of the Purple Daily podcast with Phil Mackey, Declan Goff and yours truly. SKOR North and Surly will combine to host an NFL draft party at Surly Brewing (520 Malcolm Ave SE, Minneapolis) from which we will do our podcast during the first round on Thursday, April 28. Doors will be open at 3 p.m. and the event will start at 6 p.m. and go until the first round is complete. You could win a 65-inch, TCL 4k Dolby Vision Google TV and Surly will have a pale ale available for that night only called “Before I Die,” in honor of the fact we regularly talk about just wanting one Super Bowl championship before we die. There will be no admission charged.