[Note From Adam: One of my favorite sources of Vikings analysis and opinion comes from the “Kick Ass Blog” run by Darren Campbell. Check them out often (they are on our blogroll forever)! Darren was kind enough to provide us with a guest post outlining the successes and failures experienced in the NFL Draft since Rick Spielman has been with the Vikings. Enjoy!]
Rick Spielman is in his eighth season with the Minnesota Vikings. He first joined the team as the club’s vice-president of player personnel. One of his jobs was preparing for the NFL’s college draft, which is something he continued to oversee after being named the Vikings general manager in 2012.
Up until he became GM last year, Spielman didn’t have full control over who made the Vikings roster. However, it’s fair to say he still had considerable influence on the process and over whom the team did and didn’t pick in each of the six drafts he’s been a part of.
This April’s draft will be Spielman’s seventh with the Vikings. And as it is April 1, I wanted to drill down and take a closer look at the players Minnesota has picked since 2007 and when they’ve picked them. Here is what I found.
1st round (#23 and 25th overall in 2013 draft)
Draft picks: Adrian Peterson (2007); Percy Harvin (2009); Christian Ponder (2011); Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith (2012)
Commentary: Your first round picks should be the ones you get right the majority of the time and that’s been true under Spielman. The Peterson and Harvin picks (even though things turned sour with Percy) were masterstrokes and though it’s still early, Kalil and Smith look like exceptional selections also. And let’s not forget the Vikings used their 2008 first round selection to help take defensive end Jared Allen (74 sacks in 80 games with Minnesota) off Kansas City’s hands. The only first rounder during Spielman’s tenure who looks iffy is Ponder- and this would be a huge whiff that could set the franchise back several seasons if CP7 can’t cut it as a starter. Still, given Spielman and the Vikings track record since 2007, there’s an excellent chance they will get some good players if the team keeps both the #23 and #25 overall selections. Spielman has chosen well in this round regardless of whether he’s had a top 10 pick – Peterson (#7) and Kalil (#4) -or a late first rounder like Harvin (#22) or Smith (#29).
2nd round (#52 overall in 2013 draft)
Draft picks: Sidney Rice (2007); Tyrell Johnson (2008); Phil Loadholt (2009); Chris Cook and Toby Gerhart (2010); Kyle Rudolph (2011)
Commentary: It’s been a bit of a mixed bag in this round for Spielman and the Vikings. Johnson was obviously a horrendous choice. He showed little aptitude for the game or the position during his four years with the Vikings. Cook would have to be considered a bit of a disappointment so far as well. He can’t stay on the field, has no interceptions in 22 career games and isn’t a great tackler despite being 6’2 and over 200 pounds. Rice mixed in a solid rookie year and a fantastic 2009 with two injury-filled seasons and signed a big free agent deal with Seattle. Gerhart has looked OK-to-good when he’s played, but he’s stuck behind Peterson. Rudolph is a huge man with great hands who should be a vital weapon for the Vikings for the next decade. Loadholt is a penalty machine, but he’s durable, steady and works hard. His best football should be ahead of him. Flip a coin in this round – the Vikings will either select a useful starter or a non-entity.
3rd round (#83 overall in 2013 draft)
Draft picks: Marcus McCauley (2007); Asher Allen (2009); Josh Robinson (2012)
Commentary: Don’t get too excited when the 3rd round of the draft rolls around. Under Spielman, history shows the Vikings will either trade this pick away or select a cornerback who can’t play. Now that’s being too harsh on Robinson, who I think will be a good player even if he looked overmatched during the second half of his rookie season. But you can’t deny McCauley and Allen were busts. For whatever reason, the Vikings inability to pick anybody useful in the third round of the college draft goes back a long way (check out this Vikings draft retrospective from a few years ago at the old Grant’s Tomb site and you’ll see what I mean.)
4th round (#102 and #120 overall in 2013 draft)
Draft picks: Brian Robison (2007); Everson Griffen (2010); Christian Ballard (2011); Jarius Wright, Rhett Eliison and Greg Childs (2012)
Commentary: This is a round where the Vikings and Spielman take some chances on players, and some of those chances have paid off handsomely. Robison is the best value pick the Vikes have made since 2007. He’s productive, gives 100 per cent effort on every play and represents the team well on and off the field. Coaches dream about guys like this. Griffen has improved every year as a defensive end and he’s been an integral part of the team’s special team’s coverage units. Expect big things from him in a contract year. Wright will be counted on to be a key part of the Minnesota passing game and he might be ready for it. Ellison was a useful blocker in his rookie season and has shown good hands when he’s been thrown the ball. Ballard is the only fourth round draft pick during Spielman’s time here who looks like just another guy. I guess you can’t win ‘em all.
5th round (#155 overall in 2013 draft)
Draft picks: Aundrae Allison (2007); John David Booty and Letroy Guion (2008); Jasper Brinkley (2009); Chris DeGeare and Nate Triplett (2010); Brandon Burton (2011); Robert Blanton (2012)
Commentary: Not much gold has been mined in this round since 2007. Guion was a flop as a starter last year at nose tackle and Brinkley was only slightly better as the starting middle linebacker. The Vikings thought so much of Brinkley they made no effort to resign him. He’s Arizona’s problem now (Guion, on the other hand, is still our problem.) Other than those two you’ve got a bunch of guys who couldn’t cut it at the NFL level, although it’s too early to write off Blanton, who was just a rookie last season. Hey, some rounds are just a dead zone for franchises. The 5th round has been one of those for the Minnesota Vikings.
6th round (#189 overall in 2013 draft)
Draft picks: Rufus Alexander (2007); John Sullivan and Jaymar Johnson (2008); Joe Webb (2010); DeMarcus Love, Mistral Raymond, Brandon Fusco and Ross Homan (2011); Blair Walsh (2012)
Commentary: Spielman and his scouting staff have done pretty well in this round. They were smart enough to chose Sullivan, who is now considered one of the best centers in the NFL. Walsh had a killer rookie year – one of the best a placekicker has ever had. Webb is a fantastic athlete who the Vikings haven’t figured out how to use. Fusco and Raymond are starters who have scuffled, but there is still time for them to develop into useful players. The moral of this tale? Remember the name of the guy the Vikings choose in this round if Spielman doesn’t trade the pick – he could be the next Sullivan or Walsh.
7th round (#213, #214 and #239 overall in 2013 draft)
Draft picks: Tyler Thigpen and Chandler Williams (2007); Jamarca Sanford (2009); Mickey Shuler and Ryan D’Imperio (2010); D’Aundre Reed and Stephen Burton (2011); Audie Cole and Trevor Guyton (2012)
Commentary: Not many seventh round draft picks turn into impact players, and the Vikings selections in this round while Spielman has been employed with the organization have been no exception. The best pick of the nine has been Sanford by far. He’s a part-time starter at safety and one of the team’s best special teams players. Burton has proven to be a strong run blocker, but wide receivers generally get paid to catch, not block. Cole made a number of plays during the 2012 preseason but basically played on coverage units when he did dress during the regular season. However, he’s a guy to monitor this year to see if he can progress. The best news for Vikings fans is Spielman will have three bullets he can shoot in a round where teams generally need all the ammo they can get to find anything of value. Maybe he’ll hit the bullseye with one of those three draft choices.