Since my 2008 Draft Grade post went over so well, I figured I’d go back in time a year and issue grades for 2007 as well. 2007 marked the first year Rick Spielman was involved with a Minnesota Vikings draft, and was the 2nd draft for Brad Childress. The farther back in time we go, the easier it is to issues draft grades, but again, the earliest I would ever feel comfortable issuing a grade for a draft is within 4 years of the draft. So, for anyone hoping to read a report from me on 2009 or earlier, you’ll have to wait until next year and beyond! For more on 2007, read on after the jump.
Once again, let’s flashback, this time to April of 2007. Brad Childress had just finished his first year as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, after taking over for Mike Tice amid the "Love Boat" scandal the year prior. He was regarded as a no-nonsense coach who was brought in to clean house and right the Viking longboat. Things didn’t start off very well for Childress as the 9-7 team he took over went 6-10 during the 2006 Season. Let’s take a look at the state of the roster at the end of that disappointing 2006 season, shall we?
QB: Brad Johnson, Brooks Bollinger, Tarvaris Jackson
RB: Chester Taylor, Mewelde Moore, Ciatrick Fason, Artose Pinner, Wendall Mathis
FB: Nafahu Tahi, Jeff Dugan (Tony Richardson went to IR)
WR: Travis Taylor, Troy Williamson, Billy McMullen, Bethel Johnson, Martin Nance, Jason Carter
TE: Jermaine Wiggins, Jimmy Kleinsasser
OT: Bryant McKinnie, Marcus Johnson, Ryan Cook, Mike Rosenthal
OG: Steve Hutchinson, Artis Hicks, Anthony Herrera, Jason Whittle
C: Matt Birk
So, where to start? Our QB position had a worn-out and noodle-armed Brad Johnson, and nothing behind him. We had a decent running back in Chester Taylor and a good offensive line, but then no wide receivers to speak of. Travis Taylor was our best WR that year…and I can’t believe I actually had to type that sentence out. Our TEs were average, and we had no depth behind the starters on the O-line. As a starting point for building a team, Childress didn’t have much to work with here during his first year, aside from a decent running game.
DT: Kevin Williams, Pat Williams, Ross Kolodziej, (Spencer Johnson went on IR)
DE: Kenechi Udeze, Darrion Scott, Ray Edwards, Jayme Mitchell, Khreem Smith
OLB: Ben Leber, EJ Henderson, Rod Davis, (Chad Greenway and Jason Glenn went on IR)
MLB: Napolean Harris, Dontarrius Thomas
CB: Antoine Winfield, Cedric Griffen, Fred Smoot, Ronyell Whitaker, Charles Gordon, Mike Hawkins, (Davonte Edwards went on IR)
S: Darren Sharper, Dwight Smith, Tank Williams, Greg Blue, Will Hunter
It’s amazing to think that a lot of the stars of this 2006 team were still with the team in a starting role 5 years later in 2011. But, back in 2006 most of these guys were either young and still learning the game, or hitting their prime years. We had a weakness in depth along the D-Line, and we lacked a dominant DE as well. Our LB corp was decent, although depth behind them was a bit of a concern, and our CB position was in flux after Fred Smoot was benched in favor of a young Cedric Griffen . But by golly, we were great against the run ranking 1st in the league.
The 2006 season was the first season Ryan Longwell played for the Vikings, and the first of 5 fruitful years for this kicking trio.
Pre-Draft Off-Season Moves
We cut the following players during the 2007 off-season leading up to the draft: QB Brad Johnson, CB Fred Smoot, TE Jermaine Wiggins, OT Mike Rosenthal and let the following players become free agents: LB Napolean Harris, WR Bethel Johnson, DT Ross Kolodziej, WR Travis Taylor, and OG Jason Whittle. We then signed the following free agents: TE Visanthe Shiancoe, WR Bobby Wade, QB Drew Henson, S Mike Doss, and WR Cortez Hankton.
On offense our one strength was the running game, but our passing attack was in shambles. We needed a QB pretty badly heading into this draft. We tried to put a Brad Johnson band-aid over losing Daunte Culpepper in 2005, and Childress moved up in the 2nd round of the 2006 draft for Tarvaris Jackson to be our QB of the Future. T-Jack even saw a bit of playing time as a rookie at the end of the 2006 season, but he was viewed as still pretty raw, and many (including the coaching staff) didn’t think he was ready to become the full-time starter heading into the 2007 season. Our WR corp was in complete disarray after we traded Randy Moss to the Raiders a few years prior. His replacement Troy Williamson had not impressed anybody in his 2nd year, but many were hopeful he could still develop heading into his 3rd. We picked up a great FA slot receiver in Bobby Wade, but WR was still a need. Many questioned the signing of TE Visanthe Shiancoe, because at the time he was just a backup to Jeremy Shockey in NY. Whoever scouted him out should be given a raise, because he proved to be one of the better free agent pickups in recent memory. We also needed depth along the O-Line. On the defensive side of the ball, we didn’t do much to address depth in free agency aside from S Mike Doss, but our starters were decent. We could have used another safety, although Tank Williams and Dwight Smith were adequate. We really needed an elite DE and some DT depth along the D-line. At LB, we let Napolean Harris go, and there just wasn’t much depth. EJ Henderson was moving to the MLB spot, and we were getting Greenway back from IR. After all, we were still 1st against the run that year, so all we needed was some help in pass rush and the secondary. So, what did we do in the 2007 draft, and how good of a draft was it?
Round 1, #7: RB Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma
Grade: A, 98/100. Hindsight sure is great, isn’t it? At the time, this was a shocking pick. We had so many other needs on the team, and many considered the running game to be a point of strength, because Chester Taylor (who we had just picked up in free agency) had a good year in 2006 rushing for 1,216 yards and 6 TDs. But, credit somebody for identifying the next "best running back in the NFL", because that’s exactly what Adrian Peterson became. Everyone knew he was good, but he was labeled an "injury risk" and he slid down to us at #7. The only thing keeping this from being a 100/100, is the fact that we didn’t address any glaring needs with our pick. Many fans wanted us to draft QB Brady Quinn that year, but thankfully we didn’t, because it wasn’t a very strong class for QBs. The following guys were the only 1st round QBs picked in 2007: JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn. Yeah, we needed a QB, but neither of those guys would have panned out for us, and the 2nd and 3rd rounds weren’t much better: Kevin Kolb, John Beck, Drew Stanton and Trent Edwards. The following other guys were there for us at #7 in the 1st round that could have addressed needs: DT Omobi Okoye, LB Patrick Willis, CB Darrelle Revis, S Michael Griffin, S Brandon Merriweather, and WR Dwayne Bowe (among many others). Again, I’m not saying drafting Peterson was a bad decision, but if RB had been a real need, then it would have been 100/100. Since he wasn’t a need, the pick gets docked a couple points.
Round 2, #44: WR Sidney Rice, South Carolina
Grade: B, 87/100. We traded down with Atlanta here, and got an extra 4th round pick. If it weren’t for all the injuries, Sidney Rice would be an A selection. He showed a ton of potential his first couple years and then had a breakout year in 2009 with Brett Favre throwing him the ball. But outside of that one magical season, what has he done since? He was a guy with tons of potential that just couldn’t stay on the field. Last year in Seattle was no different.
Round 3, #72: CB Marcus McCauley, Fresno State
Grade: D, 60/100. The only thing keeping this from being an all-out F, is the fact that McCauley spent 4 years in the league as a backup. It could warrant a C, because that’s the average length of a career in the NFL, but he also spent time with 6 different teams. Ultimately 6 different teams said, "Nope, you’re not staying on our team, even as a backup." Just think how much better off our secondary would be if this pick had gone right. Even though we had just grabbed Rice, we passed on another slew of 3rd round WR at this point in the draft: Jacoby Jones, Laurent Robinson, and James Jones to name a few. We passed on RT Marshall Yanda and LB Stewart Bradley who were taken in the 3rd as well. Any of those guys would have been better picks than Marcus McCauley.
Round 4, #102: DE Brian Robison, Texas
Grade: B, 89/100. The Vikings moved up here, swapping 4ths with the Bucs and giving up a 6th round pick to draft Brian Robison. Robinson began his career as a backup and Special Teams player, and worked his way into the rotation as a situational rusher on passing downs. But give him (or the coaches) a lot of credit for stepping up and playing well opposite Jared Allen last year as the starter. We’ll see if he has long-term value as a more full-time starter, but if the promise he showed last year continues, he will end up being a very good pick for us in this draft.
Round 5, #146: WR Aundrae Allison, East Carolina
Grade: F, 59/100. He lasted all of a couple years on our team, and after bouncing around on some practice squads is now a wide receiver in the UFL. Sure there aren’t a lot of expectations for players in the 5th round and lower, but you would expect to see a competent backup here. And Allison was anything but that. There weren’t a lot of better options at this point in the draft, but there were some talented 5th round TE still floating around: Kevin Boss, Dante Rosario, and Brent Celek. CB William Gay went in the 5th after Allison as well.
Round 6, #176: OLB Rufus Alexander, Oklahoma
Grade: F, 59/100. We were able to get back into the 6th round by trading down from our extra 4th round pick (from Atlanta) earlier in the draft to Denver, and used it to pick Rufus Alexander. Unfortunately, Alexander tore his ACL in the 2007 Pre-Season, and it pretty much ended his career. He was given a chance in the 2008 training camp, but didn’t make the team. It’s always tough to grade a player in a situation like this, because we really have no idea what his potential might have been. But, the fact is, he never made it on the team and as unfortunate as this injury was, the grade has to be an F.
Round 7, #217: QB Tyler Thigpen, Coastal Carolina
Grade: A, 90/100. Thigpen had a tough time finding a spot on the team after we picked up Kelly Holcomb at the end of training camp (that was even more last minute than Favre!) when it was clear Tarvaris Jackson was not ready to start. We also still had Brooks Bollinger on the roster, and we hoped to sneak Thigpen on the practice squad. Unfortunately, Thigpen never made it through waivers. He’s had a decent career as a backup QB, even seeing some playing time for Kansas City in 2008. He is currently still in the league as a backup with the Buffalo Bills. As a 7th round selection, this was a great draft pick. Unfortunately the Vikings (I mean Brad Childress) royally screwed it up by trying to keep Brooks Bollinger instead of Tyler Thigpen. Childress is to blame there, because Bollinger was clearly "his guy" since he coached him at Wisconsin. We should have kept Thigpen.
Round 7, #233: WR Chandler Williams, Florida International University
Grade: D, 60/100. This extra 7th rounder also came from Denver in the trade down out of the 4th round from earlier in the draft. Sure, he’s practically "Mr. Irrelevant", but the guy didn’t even make the team in 2007…as a wide receiver. That says a lot, considering the state of the WR corp heading into 2007. He played on a few different practice squads as recently as 2011, but is currently a member of the UFL. WR Chansi Stuckey and RB Ahmad Bradshaw were both still available and drafted in the 7th round, and either one would have been a better pick here.
Overall Grade: C+/B-
Of the 8 players we drafted in 2007, 2 are still starters on the team, 2 are still in the league with other teams, and the other 4 are no longer in the NFL. In the end, this was a mixed draft, and the raw grade average comes out to a solid C (75%). I used my teacher license though to bump it up a bit because of the impact of getting Adrian Peterson. Brian Robison, Sidney Rice and Tyler Thigpen were all great picks, but unfortunately we missed again in the secondary with Marcus McCauley in the 3rd round. The later round picks were all pretty bad: Aundrae Allison, Rufus Alexander and Chandler Williams. This was pretty much an average draft that included one star player.
What the Experts Said in 2007
At the time, many experts were issuing their draft grades for 2007, and here are what some of the experts said immediately following the 2007 Draft:
Walterfootball.com - oops
Grade given on 5/1/07: A
Good Moves: The Vikings sat at No. 7 and still managed to obtain one of the best players in the draft. I know they already had Chester Taylor, but you can't compare him to Adrian Peterson. Besides, you need two talented running backs to succeed in the NFL. I also loved the addition of Marcus McCauley; he'll provide depth for a weak cornerbacking corps, and could eventually start for the troubled Cedric Griffin. McCauley was a second-round prospect, whom Minnesota was able to obtain in the third. Sidney Rice, taken in the second, should be a nice receiver for the Vikings. Aundrae Allison and Rufus Alexander were Day 2 steals. Both have the capability of making huge impacts in 2007.
Bad Moves: I don't get Brian Robison in the fourth round. He's more of a 3-4 rusher; I don't think he fits in the 4-3.
Instant 2007 Starters: RB Adrian Peterson.
Potential 2007 Starters: WR Sidney Rice, CB Marcus McCauley, WR Aundrae Allison.
Other Picks: DE Brian Robison, OLB Rufus Alexander, QB Tyler Thigpen, WR Chandler Williams.
Yahoo! Sports - hmm...
Minnesota Vikings: Adrian Peterson is a risky pick at No. 7 overall, but it could pay off huge. You just wonder if passing on Brady Quinn will come back to haunt the Vikings. Wideout Sidney Rice is another risk. He's big and strong with some speed, but he's also inexperienced (redshirted '04 season; declared for the draft as a sophomore) and has an attitude. Some scouts have compared his mental makeup to that of Brandon Lloyd and Antonio Bryant. Not exactly what you want in Minnesota after the past few years of fiascos. Cornerback Marcus McCauley and defensive end Brian Robison could develop into solid starters from the middle rounds.
Mel Kiper of ESPN - actually not too bad Mel
Minnesota Vikings: GRADE: B+
Vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman had an outstanding weekend. Somebody had to fall to the Vikings in the first round, and with Adrian Peterson, they got a potential franchise running back to go along with Chester Taylor. Sidney Rice -- who could have been a top-15 pick if he had returned for his senior season -- is a great value pick in the second round. If cornerback Marcus McCauley plays the way he did as a junior, the Vikings got a great player in the third round. If McCauley plays like he did in 2006, he'll struggle to make the team. Brian Robison is a pass-rushing defensive end and a very good Day 2 selection. Robison also will contribute on special teams. Wide receiver Aundrae Allison spent time on the Big Board in 2006 and was a good pick in the fifth round; Rufus Alexander was a solid sixth-round pick; and Tyler Thigpen is more of a developmental, third-string quarterback.
Sports Illustrated.com - you know, speed isn't everything.
VIKINGS -- B
If Adrian Peterson's collarbone really is fine, then the seventh spot was a good place for the Vikes to land him. If it isn't, then I'll publish a retraction and a new grade when the time comes. I'm not betting this one either way, but what gives Minnesota its mark is the dedicated upgrade in speed from this draft. WRs Sidney Rice and Aundrae Allison, CB Marcus McCauley, even DE Brian Robison are all athletically gifted speedsters, and that includes Peterson. I'll put this bunch up against anyone in an NFL sprint relay.
Again, I've said it before, but you can pretty much ignore any and all draft grades people are giving out about the 2012 draft. Nobody knows how well any of these rookies will play this year, or even for the next several years. What may look great on paper, could turn out to be disastrous, and vice-versa.