Note: This article is the third part in my post Draft Unpopular Opinion Alert series, arguing that the 2020 draft was another/biggest yet missed opportunity by the Vikings to learn from the past six seasons.
You can read Part 1 by clicking HERE
You can read Part 2 by clicking HERE
Now onto the third and final entry! Before we start, keep in mind that I DID win the purpleTERRITORY Media 2019 Fantasy League. So. Yeah. Avert your gaze.
The last argument I’ve heard is if not X then who?
If not Treadwell, then who? If not Jefferson or Gladney, then who? Let’s take a look at the 2018 draft as an example, and keep in mind that the Vikings drafted five guards in the Zimmer era. in rounds 4 (Willie Beavers), 5 (Danny Isidora), 6 (Colby), 4 (Samia), and 7 (Kyle Hinton). In the picks between Hughes and O’Neill in 2018, a draft that was thought to be relatively deep with interior offensive lineman, there were five offensive lineman taken, four of which were interior lineman.
Of those four, all four currently play guard. Connor Williams for the Cowboys (the 4th ranked unit in the league) started 11 games before injuries cut his season sort. James Daniels has played in all 32 games for the Bears (moving between guard and center depending on injuries on the line).
Austin Corbett who was drafted by the Browns and traded to the Rams for a fifth-round pick in the 2021 draft and finally Will Hernandez, who was named the starting left guard for the New York Giants before the 2018 season, has started all 32 games since and was named to the Pro Football Writers Association All-Rookie team.
I would’ve taken any of those.
In this draft? I would’ve traded down at 22, waited to pick up an outside receiver like Denzel Mims (or if we’re going slot I would’ve taken someone like KJ Hamler, as he at least showed some ability from the outside despite his height) and drafted someone like Jonah Jackson in the third round to play guard (or really anyone before the 253rd pick, which is when the Vikings decided to pull the trigger on a guard).
I certainly wouldn’t have drafted a receiver in the first round (or THIS first round), and I don’t think I need to explain to any of you the history that Rick Spielman has drafting receivers in general, but especially in the first round (and especially in response to the team losing a core receiver).
But, for those of you that are new to this whole watching the Vikings thing, read this awesome article by purplePTSD.com writer Ben Lyso that was aptly titled ‘Drafting a Wide Receiver in the First Round would be a Disaster for the Vikings‘.
I could be wrong. I mean, everyone seems to think I am.
But, that’s because I think we’re talking about different things. If this is the start of a complete rebuild, and we need to look at it in that way, then I will leave you with this question.
What about the past six seasons gives you confidence that at least Mike Zimmer is the man for the job?
He’s been given everything a head coach could ask for and more. A new stadium, the best facility in the league in Eagan, complete control of his defense, a gigantic amount of input as to who the team drafts to build (or rebuild) that defense, etc. What do we have to show for it?
A good regular-season record, a good defense that has been great at times but wilted when things have mattered the most? His pride and joy unit of cornerback, being the weakest spot on the unit in 2019? And the weakest of weak players on that unit, Xavier Rhodes, turning the team down when they offered him the option to return?
Excluding the missed 27-yard kick, this unit has been so embarrassingly tossed from the playoffs in 2017 and 2019 that one lead to the team breaking the bank to sign a quarterback in the hopes that that’d get them over the hump, and in 2019 leading to the symbolic firing of Zimmer’s long time right-hand man, George Edwards (as well as the signing of outsider/devil’s advocate consultant, Dom Capers to boot) as a sign from ownership that 2020 was a make it or break it sort of year.
Even with the writing on the wall, all we saw from Zimmer and Spielman this weekend was more of the same, and I get that 15 picks are a lot and in a vacuum, perhaps, people are happy with these picks.
But, football doesn’t exist in a vacuum and we have all seen what happens when the Vikings prioritize the defense over the offense to this extent. We’ve all seen what happens when Spielman reaches for a one-dimensional receiver in the first. We’ve seen what happens when they go into a season with holes on the interior.
Why would we expect anything different in 2020?
MY hope was that with Gary Kubiak elevated to the role of full offensive coordinator, that they’d invest in the line first (as opposed to last) and then focus on rebuilding the defense. There’s way more evidence that Zimmer and company are able to draft and develop talent on the defensive side of the ball in the latter rounds of the draft than they are able to build the line that way, as it’s clear (or I thought it was) that even at its peak Zimmer’s defense isn’t elite enough to get this team over the hump.
With an offensive mastermind like Kubiak, and Cousins showing that with time he’s capable of airing it out with the best in the league, the hope was that this would be a team with as new an identity as you could have with the same head coach and general manager. That, with the one in a generation haul that they had in 2020 they would do something that we hadn’t seen before… From this management at least.
Because, even if these players pan out, and Jefferson immediately is as good as Diggs (and players like Gladney and Dantzler are as good as Waynes/Rhodes/Alexander in 2018-19), those teams and the opportunities they created were squandered by the fact that it’s impossible to run an offense when your quarterback is under pressure so often that the only way to actually run the passing offense is to have him roll out/run bootlegs, etc.
And if the three games that Kline missed were any indication as to what 2020 is going to be like for Dalvin Cook, perhaps he shouldn’t be pushing for an extension in Minnesota after all. But, as things stand right now, it’s safe to say that 2020 is another squandered year for Cousins.
Either way. Considering the fact that all we saw was more of the same from Zimmer and Spielman over the weekend I’ll ask you out there, again… Why do you expect different results? Or even better, wouldn’t you have felt more confident going into 2020 with a young defense and an offense with a good offensive line that could open holes for Cook and protect for Cousins? As opposed to the reality we now find ourselves in which is, a young defense and a worse offensive line than we had in 2019, or 2018?
But maybe Reiff at 31 can go back to his teen years and recall playing guard? Or we can risk moving O’Neill to the left side and expect Cleveland to contribute right away… Or risk putting Cleveland at guard when he’s very clearly a tackle?
Can’t you see it’s always some sort of weird puzzle? Let’s move X to guard and then flip Y to Z! That’s not how winning franchises build their line and that’s why this iteration of the Vikings will never get over the hump.
You can let me know in the comments below or by joining our new(ish) Message Board. I promise, we have writers that also liked (parts) of the draft!