While the Vikings made an unexpected run at the playoffs I embarked on a quest to provide grades to each of Rick Spielman’s offseason moves to help us understand what happened, how it worked out, and what we might have to look forward to this coming offseason.
The part about free agency can be found by clicking here. Meanwhile, you can click here to see my grades for the first picks of the 2012 Draft. Now, we move into the lower half of the 2012 Draft to see exactly how things played out.
4.39 Greg Childs, WR: The Vikings wanted to pair up Childs with fellow Arkansas teammate Jarius Wright, hoping to jump start their passing game by infusing some youthful talent. Unfortunately, that strategy got derailed when Childs suffered a freak injury during the preseason. He tore both of his patellar tendons in one shot and his rookie season was over before it began.
Injuries caused Childs to fall to the fourth round which has some critics pointing out that you cannot expect much more when you take a guy with red flags about his health. No NFL player has ever returned from this injury, but Childs remains devoted to his rehabilitation and sounds very confident that he will.
The Vikings got no production out of this selection in 2012 after an impressive training camp, but there may still be some hope for the future.
5.4 Robert Blanton, S: I hated this pick when it happened because I felt like the Notre Dame product could not play cornerback in the NFL. Apparently the Vikings agreed, as they drafted him to play safety instead. Blanton got limited action at safety but did a very good job when Harrison Smith’s ejection and some injuries forced him into temporary action, and Blanton held his own pretty well on special teams.
Blanton actually played in thirteen games in his rookie season and accumulated 13 tackles.
We’re getting into the lower part of the Draft, so just the fact that he has been able to to stick to this roster is a fairly decent sign.
6.5 Blair Walsh, K: When the Vikings selected Walsh four picks after the Rams took Greg Zuerlin, I panned the move and claimed this was simply a panic pick from a team that really wanted the Draft’s best kicker.
As it turns out, they hadn’t panicked and they did get the Draft’s best kicker.
Walsh has exceeded every expectation possible after struggling in his final year of college. He is among the top kickers in the NFL for touchback ratio. He broke a rookie scoring record for the Vikings that was most recently set by Randy Moss. He even shattered the NFL record for most 50 yard plus field goals in a season. Walsh has been rock solid and while some might give all the credit to Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer for hand picking Walsh, Spielman deserves credit for trusting his staff.
7.3 Audie Cole, LB: After managing to make a preseason game interesting with a pair of interceptions returned for touchdowns (on consecutive plays) Cole instantly became a fan favorite. However, he never really got a chance to do much during the regular season.
Cole played in five regular season games and the lone playoff game but was unable to register a stat being kept by the NFL.
Still, getting a linebacker that sticks to the roster all year long isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do in the seventh round. Looking back, Vontaze Burfict might have had more of an immediate impact like he has for the Bengals, but Cole was a much safer bet.
Cole will compete once again next year, and perhaps with a year under his belt we will get to see more out of him in 2013.
7.12 Trevor Guyton, DE: The late round flier was cut at the end of August and never really stood much of a chance of seeing the field. This was clearly the worst pick of Spielman’s class, which is pretty passable considering how late into the Draft weekend we are getting by this point.
Again, Burfict might have been the better choice, or even tight end David Paulson.
Conclusion: The Vikings got a franchise kicker, by all appearances, in the latter part of their Draft. They also got promising prospects at safety and linebacker, mixed with a possibly great comeback story from a talented receiver.
It is to be expected that this half of the Draft wasn’t as productive as the first, but anyone looking at this class as a whole has to admit that our new G.M. did a pretty fine job giving this whole rebuilding thing a kick in the pants.