The year was 2005 and the Vikings had just traded their freakishly talented but moody wide receiver to the west coast in exchange for a #1 pick. Sound familiar?
When Percy Harvin made it clear that he wanted out of Minnesota, the Vikings obliged, sending him to Seattle for the #25 overall pick, their 7th round pick, and their 3rd round pick for next year. We've debated about the reasons behind the Harvin trade here on DN quite a bit, but few can argue that the Vikings got a good return in trading him.
Well, I'm sure some of you can argue whether or not the Vikings got a good return, but most people feel that is the case. So we'll just go with most people here.
The last time the Vikings were in a similar situation, they did the same thing, and got a similar value in return. That 2005 trade got them the #7 overall pick, a 7th round pick, and LB Napoleon Harris. Harris was a pedestrian starter and backup for some pretty bad Vikings defenses in the mid aughts, so the compensation between then and now is very similar.
This year, the Seattle pick is 25 overall, giving Minnesota picks 23 and 25 in the first round. In 2005 the picks were 7 and 18 overall, so the picks are a little farther down, but still--two first round picks will give the Vikings a golden opportunity to improve two spots almost immediately.
Which is the position the Vikings found themselves in back in '05, and the situations between then and now are very similar. In '05, the Vikings were a team on the rise and made the playoffs, but were still a few pieces away from being a serious contender to the NFC crown. In 2012, the Vikings were much better than a lot of people gave them credit for, yet they went 10-6 and made the playoffs. Like 2005, they're still considered to be a couple pieces away from being considered a serious contender.
The Vikings bombed the 2005 draft in a way that is almost comical if you put aside how far back it set the franchise. Troy Williamson was fast, and couldn't catch the ball. That's a pretty important part of the wide receiver equation:
I still remember this game. #Rage
The other first round pick was Erasmus James, drafted to be a bookend rusher opposite Kenechi Udeze, who was drafted by the Vikings in the first round in 2004. Udeze was diagnosed with leukemia and had to retire after 2006, but James was injured early and often, went to Washington in 2008, and was out of football by 2009. For his Vikings career, which lasted three years, he amassed 12 starts and five sacks.
And they were the headliners, but the rest of that draft turned out to be arguably the worst draft in Vikings history. Second round pick Marcus Johnson was supposed to be a long term answer at guard, and when you're drafted in the second round, you should be a solid starter/contributor. But like James, he left Minnesota after 2008, played 2009 with Tamps, and was out of football.
The rest of the class of 2005 consisted of Dustin Fox, CJ Moseley, Ciatrick Fason, and Adrian Ward. Not one of those players made any significant contributions for the Minnesota Vikings. Most didn't make it more than two years. Dustin Fox never even made it to training camp, as I recall. Or he was put on IR in training camp and never saw the field.
I understand that the NFL draft is as much luck as it is anything else--Udeze getting leukemia, for example, is something a team can't forecast. But to miss so badly on not one, but two first round picks set the Vikings back, and altered the course of the franchise. Think about this for a second:
Let's say Williamson and James play at a high level, like many recent Vikings first round picks have (Greenway, AP, Percy). And we don't even have to assume they would have become the next Percy or AP, I'm just talking a good, solid player that were good starters.
In 2005, even amid Culpepper's shredded knee, Tice's scalped Super Bowl tickets, and the Love Boat scandal, the Vikings finished 9-7 and barely missed the playoffs. If the play of Williamson and James are better, could it have tipped the scales in possibly one loss, and turned it into a win? I think you could make that argument, and if so, now the Vikings are 10-6 and in the playoffs.
If they're 10-6 and make the playoffs, does Wilf have the stones to fire Tice? If he doesn't, Childress doesn't get hired, and so on, and so on, and so on. We can keep going down the rabbit hole to multiple 'Choose Your Own Adventure' endings, but it still leads back to the original point-- a poor draft has long term detrimental effects on a football team.
In 2013, the same rule applies. The Vikings have drafted much, much better since 2006, and with the team coming off a 10-6 record, two first round picks that pan out will make the team much better and one step closer to seriously contending for the NFC North title and the ultimate goal, the Super Bowl.
Blow it, like they did in 2005, and the Vikings will have to either re-address those positions again in two years through free agency or the draft. And the distance between them and getting to the Super Bowl will grow farther away.