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The Vikings have near “perfect” draft grades… Again

How’d that work out last time?

When I wrote my ‘DRAFT SOME LINEMAN’ 3-part manifesto, I knew it was a HIGHLY unpopular opinion… Which is why I titled it ‘Unpopular Opinion Alert’. Now, I don’t want to harp on this subject, but everywhere I turn I see nothing but glee around the Viking’s internets.

Case in point:

I get it. I really do.

I’ve said multiple times over the years in writing and as part of my podcast(s) that this is my favorite time of year and that wide receiver prospects, especially, are my favorite thing in ALL of football. Before becoming the Ebenezer Scrooge of Vikings media I actually was sort of known as the guy who loved receivers… Big Ten receivers, especially.

The period right before free agency and ending with the draft are what I call ‘The Pretendies’, a time of year where nearly anything is possible for Vikings fans, a group that hasn’t had much end of the season glee to discuss over the decades the team has been in existence.

So, again. I get it. I get that this was a HUGE draft and that it one way or another will shape the future of the organization for the next half-decade. I get why people feel bullish as well. Because all the grades surrounding this draft are spectacular.

The Vikings’ haul is being called the best in the entire NFL (save for the Cowboys’ draft), and whether or not any of these picks actually end up panning out isn’t really the point because the optimistic among us also have popular opinion on their side.

That means that it doesn’t really matter whether or not these players pan out, because as we’ve already seen (in 2017… And 2018… And 2019) that even with one of the best rosters in franchise history, a weak line is the great equalizer. In fact, I’d even say we’ve seen this KIND of draft before.

I will say, though, that I understand the next thing I’m going to say also applies to my sub-A+ grade of the draft (sort of). That grading drafts this close to said draft is a fool’s errand.

Now, I do think my take on the draft does avoid this nullification argument a bit more than those amongst us that are beside themselves with joy over who the Vikings drafted (as, again, the weak point of the Vikings roster, the weak point that time-and-time again has slammed shut very real windows of opportunity, is weaker now than it was during the seasons it essentially ruined).

Meaning that we can say that, at least after the draft, there are no picks to either boom or bust to help the interior of the line, because they simply weren’t drafted. By which I mean, I can say with certainty that this draft did not improve the interior of the offensive line, which was BY FAR the biggest issue that his Vikings team has had since the Joe Berger/Nick Easton team(s).

Again, I get it. 15 picks is just insane in the 7-round era, and the Vikings seemed to get a lot of value from each pick. The argument, again, is that they are still no better off at the line than they were last Wednesday. That doesn’t mean that the players they DID take were busts, but that’s something we simply don’t know right now.

Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT one of those people who think that grading a draft, immediately after said draft, is folly. While I understand the argument (why not wait a couple years to see who actually pans out?), I do think that you can grade picks and draft classes, I just believe in adding more variables than my peers apparently do.

I know that it might seem odd that some of these variables aren’t taken into account, but I’ve literally had others in Vikings media tell me that you can only grade a draft by players taken and not by players NOT taken.

Which, I think raises the question as to what or how people are grading these drafts. Are they simply grading each player in a vacuum? Or are they also assessing what the team needs, how the drafted players fit and what it actually means in 2020?

I call it the Fantasy Football effect. So, yes, player by player… By player… By player, this was on paper a good draft. BUT, we also have to look at what the team didn’t do and that’s something I covered ad nauseum in my above-plugged manifesto. That having been said, as we’ve seen in recent years, the FF draft grading system has, for the Vikings, been astoundingly wrong.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s take a DEEPER look at some of the draft grades for the Vikings!

Bart Hubboch of the New York Post:

“Both of the first two picks look like home runs in stud … wideout … and promising man-coverage corner… ”
Draft Grade: A

USA Today’s Lindsay H. Jones: “It’s hard to find fault with any of the early draft picks.”
Draft Grade: A

Here is the list of overall grades:

USA Today’s Lindsay H. Jones: A. “It’s hard to find fault with any of the early draft picks.”

The Washington Post’s Mark Maske: B+
Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News: A-
SI.com’s Chris Burke and Doug Farrar: B
Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com: B-
Rob Rang of the Sports Xchange: A-
ESPN Insider Mel Kiper Jr.: B-
Evan Silva of Rotoworld.com: B
SB Nation’s Dan Kadar: A-.
Bart Hubboch of the New York Post: A.

As for the first pick, the Vikings took a receiver from the SEC in the early 20’s.

For The Win’s Steven Ruiz gave that pick an A grade. Saying:

“This pick made too much sense for the Vikings to pass up. [He] isn’t a burner but he has the frame and ball skills to develop into a dominant receiver No. 1 receiver. That’s exactly what Minnesota … need to push the passing game to the next level.”

ESPN’s Todd McShay on the receiver that was the Vikings’ first pick and how he…

“… isn’t a burner by any stretch, but he doesn’t need to be in the Vikings’ offense. [The Viking’s] Offensive coordinator will work [with him] on short-to-intermediate routes, playing to his strengths. [He] has a big catch radius and great ball skills, consistently plucking the ball away from his frame. He gives QB Teddy Bridgewater a legitimate No. 1 outside receiver, with the ability to navigate the sideline effortlessly and make plays in the red zone.”

Oh. I forgot to mention. The above grades and pick descriptions?

Are NOT from 2020, my friends, but the grades for the 2016 draft. A draft in which they also went receiver (at 23 not 22), corner, and offensive line (guard not tackle) with their first three picks. Oh, and I was alone in my concern about that draft as well.

The aforementioned receiver? Laquon Treadwell. He’s pro ready! He dominated in college! He isn’t one dimensional despite only doing one thing in college! They have a plan for the line! Stop being so negative! best player available! You can only grade players taken not players they didn’t take!

I heard that then.

Meanwhile, I’m also hearing people say things about Jefferson like:

“Big catch radius”

“He isn’t a burner… But…””Catches the ball away from frame”

Sound familiar?

Let’s look at the WalterFootball.com dating profile for each, namely, where they struggle:

Treadwell:

-Will struggle to separate from NFL cornerbacks
-Not a deep threat
-Not sudden
-Not fast in and out of breaks

Jefferson:

-May not be a big separation receiver
-Not a burner
-May lack deep speed for the NFL
-Could be better off as a No. 2 receivers

Not to say that Jefferson is Treadwell 2.0. They are very different receivers, but they do share similar issues that clearly Treadwell couldn’t overcome as a pro and that made both of our draft experts (in Kirby O’Connor and Deshawn Vaughn) very unhappy with the fact that the Vikings used their 22nd pick for a one dimensional second-tier receiver (when there were a lot of other options that were more pro ready and also available on day 2 of the draft).

Reports are that the Vikings attempted to trade up to pick 14 for a receiver, and like when they took Treadwell with pick 23 in 2016 may have grabbed their best player/receiver available after a run on the position before their pick.

They then used their next pick on a corner. Third pick? Willie Beavers, a guard from Western Michigan with tackle flexibility (he just needed to add strength). Fourth pick? SEC front 7 players in DJ Wonnum and Kentrell Brothers.

Yes, this is a gross oversimplification as you can’t compare these players, individually, to other players who have come and gone. Jefferson, Gladney, Cleveland and Wonnum could all end up being gigantic studs for the Vikings. The point I’m making is that the Vikings have been making the same picks, by position, over and over again while ignoring the weak point of this offense that has ruined seasons that had players at the positions the Vikings just drafted for that were pretty damn good.

WR? Diggs and Thielen.
CB? Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Mackenzie Alexander.
DE? Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter.
DT? Linval Joseph.

Those teams were all amazing on paper.

Where did that lead?

To where we are now. Or rather, where we were.

On the precipice of a 12 (then 15) player draft that could’ve shown that the powers that be in Eagan have learned from the wasted opportunities that were the teams with the above mentioned STUDS.

Instead?

They did almost exactly the same thing they always do, and like in 2016 I’m one of the only people in Vikings media that isn’t enamored by the picks. That realizes you have to grade drafts based both on players taken and players that weren’t taken/positions of need. That has seen the season where we moved a player who had only played tackle in the pros (or period) to guard (Remmers) for a young offensive lineman who many have said is a year or two project (Cleveland/O’Neill).

I’ve also seen others in Vikings/sports media throw out mostly ‘A’ grades for these kinds of drafts. Who love one dimensional wideouts because of their dominance against lesser opponents in college. Who love yet another top pick being used on a corner despite this team’s ability to develop later round/UDFA defensive backs (at least when compared to their ability to do the same with offensive line talent), although that sample size isn’t very large because of all of the 1st/2nd rounders they’ve drafted (Rhodes (pre-Zim), Waynes, Alexander, Hughes, and now Gladney and a 3rd on Dantzler).

We could look at the three-year grades for that A/B+ 2016 draft (Spoiler alert: It went D, A, F… BEFORE Alexander’s 2019 and leaving for a single season prove it deal as a middle finger to the “CB Whisperer” in Zimmer).

Or, we could’ve used this draft to finally shore up the Achilles heel that is the interior of the line in a draft with 15 picks, 5 of which were used on DBs, and a reach at 22 for a slot guy on a team that has one of the best slot producers in not only the NFL today, but in the history of the NFL. Keep in mind that this team still has no deep threat or outside receiver outside of Thielen. That arguably hurt their remaining ability to stretch the field by drafting not just that one slot receiver, but a SECOND slot guy in KJ Osborn.

We can look at that and say that doing the same thing and expecting different results is, despite the sheer magnitude of amazing quantity that Spielman was able to put together, not going to create different results. I mean, at least in 2016 they tried to bring in a guard before the 253rd pick.

Yes. It’s amazing they had 15 picks and yes these guys could all end up as starters who contribute heavily. But, if this approach to team building DIDNT work last time, even in drafts where all we needed was a guard or two to get over the hump. I ask how will that change this time?

Let us hope to all that is whatever is holy to whomever is reading this (unless you consider Aaron Rodgers holy… Too soon) that they bring recently released guard Josh Kline back (although for the savings they received by cutting him, that seems kinda unlikely), as he was GREATLY missed when he was out in 2019.

Let’s also hope that they also sign another guard, as well. By forgoing the Trent Williams trade they at least have the cap space for it. Even so, they could’ve saved a lot of cap space by using the draft as opposed to free agency. It’s not as if they didn’t have the sheer amount of picks to do so.

That’s the main difference between 2016 and 2020. They had half the picks in ‘16 that they had in 2020, which is what makes this past weekend such a brazen doubling down on that hasn’t worked for them thus far. But, they do deserve credit for the sheer magnitude of picks, a lot of which seem great on paper.

But, we’ve seen what a great on paper roster can and can’t do when the line has two giant holes on the interior of the offensive line. That makes the response to this draft a bit surprising.

But then again, it’s not as if we haven’t seen this before.

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Joe Johnson

Joe Johnson started purplePTSD.com back in 2015 & purpleTERRITORYradio.com in 2019, and purchased VikingsTerritory.com before the 2017-18 season , used to write for VikingsJournal.com and is the host of the ’Morning Joes’ & ‘About the Labor’ Podcasts, as well. Follow on Twitter: @vtPTSD

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16 Comments

  1. We get it you want a guard haha, and how did Jefferson dominate lower competition? He was literally on number one ranked LSU and he dominated all the top ten ranked teams he played, I feel like you’re just throwing out the one dimensional label too, like I get he’s mainly a slot and that’s a problem with Thielen’s skill set but come on he does a heck of a lot right and has a great chance to contribute.

  2. I think you under estimate Jefferson’s versitility.
    From what I understand he has one of the most polished route trees. LSU used him strictly at slot, but only senior season.

  3. Hard to take this article seriously when the writer is showing the wrong facts and making ridiculous comparisons. Your grades are wrong for one thing.
    Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com: B-
    Rob Rang of the Sports Xchange: A-
    ESPN Insider Mel Kiper Jr.: B-

    I had just looked at these articles today so I knew what they were. Pete Prisco A Mel Kiper A-. So I’m not sure where you are pulling it from.

    Next, comparing Jefferson to Treadwell? Lol. Treadwell ran a 4.64 and Jefferson ran a 4.43. Do those compare? Jefferson played in a pro offense for the national champions and had 110 catches 1500+ yards and 18 TD’s. He is also a great route runner. Treadwell played a non-pro offense where he didn’t even know routes, much less run them and didn’t have anywhere near the production Jefferson did.

    To be honest, I stopped reading the article there.

  4. I take it you missed the part where I explained those grades were from the 2016 draft?

    Which is the point of the article.

    I was showing that immediate draft grades for drafts in which very similar picks were made (albeit in drafts where we weren’t yet aware of the depths bad guard play could bring us and in a draft with 8, not 15 picks, were made) were graded similarly and in which I was slammed for reacting in a similar fashion.

    I reacted the same way then. I thought they should’ve traded down, grabbed an interior guy and Michael Thomas. I was told on my podcast I was being reactionary by the guy who hosts Locked On Vikings. That they had a plan.

    Still waiting for that plan.

    They’ve wasted the best two years of Cousins’ being here , the years in which the roster was still championship caliber (outside of the guards) because they refuse to fix the … to quote the Dark Knight… “the clown was right… we have to fix real problem” *eats pancakes*

    So. Yeah. I was making a point about post draft enthusiasm. In doing the exact same thing multiple times. In refusing to fix the main problem this team has had for years. 15 picks. ONE guard. Pick 253. 2 picks before Mr. Irrelevant.

    Yay?

  5. I Understand and Agree that there at least two Big Holes in the OL! Maybe a third medium hole. Looking A at current Roster. It appears Team could fill one of the OL holes with 3rd Year Guard, Aviante Collins out of TCU. It Appears he his completely deathly and eager to Go! What Are your Thoughts??

  6. You should all slow down and try to understand the writers thoughts. In my opinion he is spot on. Good picks throughout the draft but missed the biggest hole. Who like watching cousins try. To locate a receiver down field and have to quickly check down because he has no chance to see is second and third receiver? How many times did you see Diggs, Thielen, Kyle or jr. running free and he didn’t see them. He was running for his life. Everyone sees him as a QB who holds on to the ball to long or doesn’t have the ability to scramble but I say he’s trying desperately to go through his progressions and still checking down. Frustrating to see a accurate QB that can’t get time to someone down field more then once a game. Say what you want about cousins but if he can’t see around or over the pass rush you will never see a super bowl
    Just my opinion

  7. People forget the famous 2018 interaction between Diggs and Cousins where he said he doesn’t have the time for the routes to develop in the red zone.

    Or how he really could only be effective in 2019 from outside the pocket.

    2020 was a chance to see if Zimmer could/should stick around after his contract expires. That he had learned the faults of his last attempt to build a contender and was worthy of having the keys to yet another one.

    Yep.

    Nope.

    I get very anxious to read the comments on articles like these as I’m aware these aren’t popular opinions. So, thanks for listening and reading the whole thing!

    All is not lost, they have some FA money. I really hope Kline comes back. My other draft piece (part 2) explained his importance in 2019 and beyond.

  8. Man! Treadwell Comps? Adam Theilen 40 time 4.45 & Diggs 40 time 4.46 Lower numbers are better right? Jefferson 40 time 4.38. Jefferson is also 6’1″. w great contested catch skills. He is not the outside route runner that Diggs became and has not mastered WR release moves vs press yet. So Jefferson is Bigger, Faster, Stronger & Less polished route runner than Diggs. Almost everybody is a less polished route runner than Diggs (He Good) and almost every Rookie WR improves route running from more contact with NFL WR coaching and NFL QB interaction.

  9. Agree with you on the Guards – Same guys who point out KCousins can’t handle interior pressure – OK with Vikings passing on Charles, Bartch, Jackson, Muti in Rds 4 -6.

  10. Agree on point about inside (or any) pressure being a issue for Cousins, but with first, second, third round picks on interior o.l., plus udfa and free agents, we have Brian O’Neal a genuine stud and notmuch else…Cleveland? 50-50 as a REAL left tackle at best…O’Neal to the left side? Messing around with Pro Bowl talent where he is at…

  11. Ok, Debbie Downer, you only have so many top picks and you can’t address every hole the Vikings needed to fill. JJ is no Treadwell nor should he be compared to him, totally different receivers. This is a passing league, so it’s important addressing the secondary when you lose three starters. Defensive line is just as important as OL so you can’t fault those draft picks either. Drafted one OT with the first 3 picks that should in time be a great choice. No OL was even drafted between the Vikings last first round pick and their second, not sure where you are going to get an immediate starter from? I think they did find in the draft but only time will tell how they all pan out, I do know however that the Vikings have the most drafted players on their team than any other team! Lastly, since we didn’t get Williams, I would hope that the Vikings will address the guard positions through FA, which would be a better decision than drafting a 5th rounder to groom.

  12. Gee, maybe the Vikings staff might, I don’t know, have a better read on their pre-draft roster than you or I do? Like, maybe, they let Kline go because they felt that Samia (or someone else) was ready to step up and take his place? As for left guard, who would you have gotten? After Ruiz, who got snagged way early by the Aints, the guard class drops way off? So perhaps they think the three guards they did get are just as good, for much lower draft picks, than all the other also-rans? And nobody says that Joe Thuney is even on the market …. so who would you have gotten? Plus maybe they think Reiff WILL work at right guard (that Remmers didn’t is irrelevant) and put Cleveland at LT. So perhaps the Vikings feel that they DID address the o-line to the extent it was practicable, given other major holes. In any case, as of late, you’ve been unremittingly negative about the Vikings. I don’t agree with all of Spielman’s moves (or non-moves) but whether you admit it or not, the Vikings got some really good players and improved their team this off season – If you want to continue being “Debbie Downer” as another poster put it – perhaps you should consider writing for the Packers?

  13. Yeah, that was I wondering too. As much as not taking a Guard earlier bothered me, I don’t know who it would have been with such a weak class of Guards. Anyone want to chime in here? The Cowboys got the center from Wisconsin at the end of round 4 who had been ranked quite high at one point. I liked him, but can he also play Guard? I don’t know. That’s the only guy that comes to mind without running down the lists round by round.

  14. My bad. I didn’t see that the draft grades were from 2016. I don’t agree with comparing Treeadwell and Jefferson. I do agree that they should have drafted a guard. Hunt went too early though. But they could have drafted Stenberg or Lamieux later. The only thing I can think of is that they felt like Dozier, Samia and possible Collins were better than those guys would be coming in. I don’t think anyone outside of Hunt would have come in and improved the line in their first year. I will say though that they should have made a big effort to sign DJ Fluker this week when he was released. I think Cousins can be really good if protected, but Rick hasn’t done a good job making that happen. I hope that Ezra can come in and start, and that he and Reiff can handle the left side. That would be an upgrade over Elflein. I would bring back Kline as well. Hope fully that would be enough along with improvement from Bradberry. Osemele and Ron Leary are possible options as well as OT Jason peters from the Eagles.I think the draft was great with that exception, but adding more developmental projects at OG wasn’t going to help them this year. Still I would have taken Stenberg or Lamieux.

  15. I like to see teams build from inside out (start with DL/OL), so I understand why you are frustrated they didn’t draft interior OL. They definitely have neglected this position for far too long, and they haven’t been able to develop OLs since Tice left (his value at developing OLs was on par with Patterson’s for DLs).

    Having acknowledged your frustration as legit, I think your take on the draft is just bizarre.

    1. You will be proven wrong about Justin Jefferson. He is a legit star WR, and he will show that he if versatile and can play both inside or out. Just because LSU used him exclusively in the slot last year doesn’t mean that he could not have succeeded on the outside. So how do you know he will fail outside when there is no evidence that will be the case? He isn’t an undersized or overly slow WR, and you acknowledged he is a good route runner. So why would you think he can’t play outside? Just because he didn’t last year? Seems an odd way to conclusively critique someone: JJ is allegedly terrible at something you didn’t get to see him do (play outside)…

    2. Your comparison of JJ to Treadwell or Williamson (prior WR picks) is also odd. Treadwell failed in the NFL for exactly the reasons you read about amongst analysts who didn’t like his draft stock: too slow, can’t get separation, not a polished route runner. These criticisms seemed fair and accurate pre-draft, and they proved to be true in the NFL — plus other problems emerged (i.e., inability to learn/execute plays). Williamson was drafted on speed alone, caught very few passes at a college that featured an overwhelmingly run-focused attack. Bizarrely, the Vikings wasted a high 1st round pick on a WR who couldn’t catch. Whatever you think about JJ, it is very clear looking at game film that he has exceptional body control, hands and ability to track balls — you know, exceptional WR skills that neither Treadwell nor Williamson every showed.

    3. I really liked all of the Vikings’ picks through the 3rd round. It seems like they might have been able to reach for interior OL in the 4th round, but many scheme fit OLs got drafter before that. And if the Vikings had drafted a poor scheme fit interior OL in the 4th, not sure that would have been a good idea.

    4. I am guessing the Vikings got too cute and had some 4th-5th round interior OL who got taken before we picked.

    While it is fair to criticize the Vikings for not getting more interior OL help, that doesn’t mean that they had a bad draft. With few exceptions, they got guys that look like they have good potential to succeed at positions of need. And with 15 “at bats”, I like the odds of getting more than a few contributors from this class.

    Lastly, while everyone is focusing on Oli Udoh and Dru Samia, what about Aviante Collins? They seemed very high on him before he got hurt, and he has had plenty of time to heal. Perhaps the surprise interior OL will be Collins?

    Anyway, the draft was very good, even if it didn’t address the interior OL in the way you would have liked.

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