Vikings fans whom I interact with via email and the comments section on vikings.com have made it clear that it’s been tough to be a Vikings fan recently. A heart-breaking conclusion to the 2009 season in the NFC title game followed by an extremely disappointing 2010 season that included the Metrodome’s roof collapse. Add in the NFL labor unrest and an unresolved stadium situation, and there seems to be good reason for the lament.
But the Vikings organization has an opportunity to catch a break – an opportunity to find some luck – and that opportunity is the NFL draft. For every NFL team, the annual NFL draft represents the beginning of a new season. But for the Vikings this year – with a new head coach in place and plenty of roster turnover expected – the draft represents a great chance to replenish the roster with young talent and fill important vacancies that were partially to blame for disappointing on-field results from previous seasons.
The reason this year’s draft represents a great opportunity for the Vikings is not only because this year’s class is deep on the defensive talent and pretty good on offensive talent. It’s also because the Vikings have a great track record in the draft since the arrival of VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman, and it’s also because Spielman and his personnel department have a full contingent of picks with which to work.
Spielman’s first draft in Minnesota was the 2007 NFL Draft, in which the club selected RB Adrian Peterson 7th overall and also chose WR Sidney Rice in the 2nd round and DE Brian Robison in the 4th round. In 2008 the Vikings grabbed S Tyrell Johnson in the 2nd round, DT Letroy Guion in the 5th-round and future starting C John Sullivan in the 6th round. The 2009 draft was Spielman’s best, as he found rookie of the year Percy Harvin in the 1st round, starting RT Phil Loadholt in the 2nd, CB Asher Allen in the 3rd, LB Jasper Brinkley in the 5th and S Jamarca Sanford in the 7th. And although it’s still early, the 2010 draft looks pretty decent with CB Chris Cook (2nd round), RB Toby Gerhart (2nd round), DE Everson Griffen (4th round), G Chris DeGeare (5th round) and QB Joe Webb (6th round) all figuring to be significant contributors in 2011 and even FB Ryan D’Imperio (7th round) capable of competing for a roster spot in training camp.
In total, the Vikings got 27 starts from their rookies in 2007, 7 starts in 2008, 28 starts in 2009 and 13 starts in 2010. Of Spielman’s 26 draft selections since 2007, 18 of them are still on the Vikings roster and only 1 is not currently in the NFL. Also of Spielman’s 26 draft selections in Minnesota, 14 of them have played in double-digit games during their rookie seasons. Two recent Vikings draft picks (Peterson and Harvin) have won rookie of the year honors.
So this year Spielman will use his rookie evaluation acumen to try and fill some holes on the Vikings roster. With 8 total picks, including an extra pick in the 5th and 6th rounds, the Vikings will have flexibility to move up if they identify a player they want. But Spielman and Co. have also shown the shrewdness to move back and still wind up with a player they covet while also acquiring an extra selection.
Even more good news for Vikings fans is the team is committed to finding a QB at some point this offseason to compete with Webb for the starting job. That player could most certainly come in the draft, and it’s always fun to identify a QB you like in the draft and hope your favorite team selects that player. Furthermore, the Vikings could certainly use some young talent on their defense and this draft is absolutely loaded with defensive talent. CB Patrick Peterson is considered by many to be one of the best CB prospects to come out in a while and NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock projects that as many as 9 DEs could come out of the 1st round of this year’s draft.
The last paragraph should get any Vikings fan excited for the draft later this month, no matter how hard you’ve taken the last 16 months or so. Times have been tough recently, but I think the 2011 NFL Draft will be a turning point for success in upcoming seasons.
Tags: 2011 NFL Draft, Joe Webb, Rick Spielman
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 12 Comments »