Gonzo's Fourth Annual Super Ultra Mega NFL Draft Grade Extravaganza

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is the fourth NFL Draft that The Daily Norseman has been around to cover for fans of the Beloved Purple from coast to coast and border to border.  And it's been less than 48 hours since the 2010 version of the NFL Draft reached its conclusion, which can only mean one thing. . .it's time for people to evaluate the draft classes of every team in the league.

The grades have not been terribly favorable to our favorite team thus far, from everything I've seen.  Mel Kiper from ESPN.com gave us a C- mark (can't link to it, since it's on ESPN Insider, but that's what he gave us).  Someone named Rob Rang from NFLDraftScout.com has given the Vikings a B-.  Pete Prisco from CBS Sports gives the Vikings a C+.  There are lots of other draft sites out there as well, all of whom have their takes on the Minnesota Vikings 2010 draft class.

So what's my grade for the group of young men that are set to be the newest members of the Minnesota Vikings this August?  Well, go ahead and hit the jump to find out!  Oh, and you might want to grab a beverage and a snack. . .this is gonna be a long one.

(Michael Scott mode)  That's what she said.  (/Michael Scott mode)

Here's my grade for the Minnesota Vikings' 2010 Draft class. . .it's the same grade I give the Vikings' draft class basically every year, and all of you that have followed the site for a while probably know exactly what it is.  So, here we go!

Gonzo's grade for the 2010 Minnesota Vikings draft class is. . .incomplete.

I've said this before, and I'll say it again. . .personally, I absolutely, positively detest the concept of grading a draft class before they've even put on NFL uniforms for the first time, let alone taken the field for any sort of NFL competition.  I have zero idea what the players the Vikings selected this year are going to do.  Same goes for Mel Kiper, Pete Prisco, Mike Mayock, Todd McShay, and everybody else that watched this year's draft unfold.  There is no way that anybody can reasonably grade a draft class less than 48 hours after the draft, unless they base their grading system wholly and solely on where they had players ranked on their own personal "boards."

To wit. . .here's a blast from the past, an excerpt from one of Mel Kiper's draft grade articles from a few years back.

The (insert team here) targeted speed on their board and they definitely got it with wide receiver (Player 1) who wowed Minnesota enough that the (insert team here) passed on Mike Williams. Defensive end (Player 2) gives them much-needed help up front, guard-tackle (Player 3) will solidify the offensive line and running back (Player 4) has the potential to be a terrific steal in the fourth round. (Player 5) is a good cornerback and defensive tackle (Player 6) is a motivated overachiever.

Kiper gave that draft a solid B+. . .and hey, from the write up, it sounds pretty good, right?  I mean, needs were filled, the team got a lot of talented players. . .that must mean they did an outstanding job.

Well. . .let me fill in the blanks up there for you. . .

The team, as you've probably already guessed, is your Minnesota Vikings.
Player 1 is Troy Williamson, the guy who, as I've said on numerous occasions, couldn't catch gonorrhea in a Vietnamese whorehouse.
Player 2 is Erasmus James, who is currently out of the league.
Player 3 is Marcus Johnson, who may or may not be out of the league.
Player 4 is Ciatrick Fason, a guy who played for the Vikings for about five minutes and really didn't do anything of note.
Player 5 is Dustin Fox, who never suited up for the Vikings and may or may not be in the league, either.
Player 6 is C.J. Mosley, who actually showed some flashes, and who the Vikings thought so highly of that they traded him to the Jets for future UFL MVP candidate Brooks Bollinger.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that was Mel Kiper's evaluation of the Minnesota Vikings' 2005 draft class. . .a group that was, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the worst draft class the Vikings have put together in the quarter-century that I've been watching this team.  If this isn't Exhibit A on the foolishness of grading drafts before any of the players involved take the field. . .well, I'm not sure what would be.

Now what we CAN discuss, on the other hand, is whether or not we like what the Vikings did in this draft. . .and this matter is one that I'm more than happy to talk about.

I've seen a lot of heartburn from members of the Purple community about what the Vikings did with this year's draft selections.  Yes, we all think that they passed on guys that they shouldn't have, that they may not have maneuvered properly and all that other good stuff.  But there's something you have to take into consideration when looking at this year's Minnesota Vikings draft.

The Minnesota Vikings were a 12-4 football team in 2009.  From player #1 to player #53 on their roster, they're probably one of the four or five most talented teams in the National Football League, and I don't think I'll get a lot of arguments about making that declaration.  They also happen to be returning all 22 of their starters from the team that was thisclose to making it to the Super Bowl.  How many roster spots are there in Minnesota that are openly "up for grabs" for a rookie or other youngster to come in and take?  This isn't a case like we see in places like St. Louis and Detroit where a bunch of young guys can immediately come in and start contributing or anything like that.

What the Vikings did with this draft was fill in the couple of needs that they had, and then grabbed guys that could possibly develop into something in the future.  We know that the Vikings' secondary has been the weak link in their defense for a long time, and it's an even bigger question mark going into 2010 with the sudden injury-prone nature of Antoine Winfield, the uncertain status of Cedric Griffin, the lack of production (as of now) from youngsters like Asher Allen, and the relative atrociousness of our safety play for most of last season.

Enter Chris Cook.  Yeah, not the sexiest name at cornerback in this year's draft, but the Vikings' front office obviously saw a lot of things they liked about him. . .particularly his size (6'2", 210 pounds) and his ability to potentially swing from the corner spot to a safety position.  Cook probably won't be expected to come in and start right away, but he'll definitely be in the battle for a spot in the nickel defense, and if someone goes down with an injury, he should be more than capable of stepping in and contributing in some way.

As we previously detailed, the Vikings' biggest loss this off-season has been the loss of running back Chester Taylor.  Taylor was a quality running back that would start for a few teams in this league (and should start for his new team, quite frankly), and served as a nice counter-balance to Adrian Peterson.  Sure, Taylor isn't as big or as fast as AP, but he just seemed to produce regardless of the situation.  The Vikings needed someone to spell #28, as well as contribute in different spots the way that Chester did for the Vikings for four seasons.

Enter Toby Gerhart, the man that (quite frankly) SHOULD have won the Heisman Trophy in 2009,  but didn't because he played for a team not located in the SEC (or anywhere else east of the Mississippi River).  The Gerhart pick is probably my favorite selection in this entire class.  It tells teams that the Vikings are serious about going back to the same power running game that they excelled at prior to the 2009 season.  While Adrian Peterson can beat you in a number of ways, whether it's speed around the corner or power between the tackles, Gerhart is 240 pounds of battering ram, the kind of guy that an opposing defense is NOT going to want to see coming at them after they've been chasing Adrian Peterson around all afternoon.  Gerhart could even contribute as a fullback, in a split backfield with Peterson, or all on his own.

Going into the draft, there were mocks that had Everson Griffen going as high as #16 overall.  To get him with the 100th overall pick, in my opinion, is grand larceny.  The story on Griffen is that he has motivation issues, that he's a "head case," and things of that nature.  Hmmmmm. . .sounds like another defensive end we drafted at the top of the fourth round back in 2006.  Went by the name of Ray Edwards.  I'd like to think he's done pretty well for himself.  Believe me, with the Williams Wall and Jared Allen constantly in his ear, and Karl Dunbar kicking his butt in training camp and practices, I don't think "desire" and "motivation" are going to be a problem for young Mr. Griffen.  Heck, as long as Karl Dunbar is coaching our offensive line, anybody we pick up at defensive tackle or defensive end has all the potential in the world.  Don't believe me?  Ask Jimmy Kennedy. . .or, more accurately, ask Jimmy Kennedy's agent or Jimmy Kennedy's accountant.

Many of our late picks were based on their potential. . .offensive lineman Chris DeGeare sounds like he could develop into a versatile backup type, Nate Triplett appears to potentially be a Heath Farwell-style special teamer, Mickey Shuler is a good blocking tight end, and Ryan D'Imperio will be asked to shift to fullback.  The guy that intrigues the heck out of me, however, is Joe Webb, the quarterback from Alabama-Birmingham that the Vikings took in the sixth round.  Webb has already said that the Vikings are going to play him at wide receiver rather than quarterback.  Why?  Well. . .check out what Jeff Legwold of the Denver Post had to say about Webb's Pro Day prior to the draft.  (Sorry, again, can't provide a link. . .it comes from a premium source.)

At 6-feet-2, 223 pounds, Webb was hand-timed by some scouts in attendance at 4.44 in the 40-yard dash, had an astounding vertical jump of 42 inches and an 11-foot-5-inch standing broad jump. Just for reference Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson had one of the best combine workouts in recent memory for a big-framed wide receiver and his vertical was 42 at the 2007 combine to go with an 11-7 broad jump. Webb’s vertical would have been the best among the wide receivers who were at the combine (Webb was not there), and his 40 time would have put him among the fastest and his size would have made him among the biggest. So, in short, with that kind of explosiveness somebody will try to find a position for this guy to play. It’s not like he doesn’t understand the game. He threw for at least 2,200 yards and rushed for at least 1,000 yards in each of his two seasons as the Blazers’ starting quarterback.

In other words, to borrow a phrase. . .he's a superfreak.  Superfreak.  He's super freaky.  (No word as of yet about whether or not he should be taken home to moth-ah.)  He's definitely a project, but if I were someone like Jaymar Johnson or Greg Lewis or Darius Reynaud, I'd be watching my back and working my tail off before training camp. . .because I really don't think there's any way a guy with that sort of physical ability is going to be sneaking onto the practice squad or anything like that.  Somebody would take a flier on him, in my opinion.

So, the more I look at the Vikings' draft, the more I like it.  Does that mean that the class is going to be awesome?  Certainly not. . .but given the recent track record of Brad Childress and Rick Spielman when it comes to talent evaluation, I'm going to go ahead and trust them until they give me sufficient reason not to.

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