Anyone that's followed the site for any length of time knows that I have a great distaste for the "grading" of a draft that hasn't seen any of its players take the field. I think it's a useless, futile exercise that's a waste of basically everyone's time. That's not to denigrate the people that do partake in those sorts of things. I know that a lot of people do them and a lot of people like to read them, and they're interesting up to a point. But, really. . .they're basically meaningless in the long run.
I will say, however, that I absolutely love what the Minnesota Vikings did yesterday. Every bit of it. The way the draft broke was perfect for what the Vikings needed and, for the most part, they really just let the action come to them. The result was the Vikings finishing the first round with three players that, in my opinion, will step in and contribute from Day 1.
We'll start with defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. I have absolutely no idea why Sharrif Floyd was available at #23 and, from what I've read, neither do a lot of other people. Just as an example, the folks at ESPN had three mock drafts up before the festivities at Radio City Music Hall got underway. One of them was from Scouts, Inc., one of them was from Todd McShay, and one of them was from Mel Kiper. All three of those mock drafts had Floyd going in the same spot. . .to the Oakland Raiders at #3 overall. That he was available 20 picks later than that is ludicrous, and the Vikings wasted no time in bringing him into the fold.
From his interview with Deion Sanders at the draft yesterday, Floyd didn't sound too terribly pleased. Not that he was going to Minnesota, but about the fact that he dropped so far, saying that he has a chip on his shoulder and that he still feels he needs to prove himself. You hate to invoke the name of a soon-to-be Hall of Famer when talking about a guy that hasn't set foot on an NFL field yet, but this sounds a whole lot like 1995, when a young man named Warren Sapp sat and watched a bunch of teams pass on him. He played his career with a chip on his shoulder, too. If Sharrif Floyd can turn himself into half the player that Warren Sapp was, the Vikings have gotten themselves a monstrous steal.
That brings us to Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes, another guy that not many thought would be on the board when the Vikings were on the clock. In fact, in the last installment of our mock draft database, only 7 of the 100 drafts we had put Rhodes in Minnesota (which, incidentally, is six more than projected Sharrif Floyd to the Vikings). For a pretty good chunk of this off-season, Rhodes was the consensus top cornerback available, a position that would have been a need for the Vikings had they retained Antoine Winfield or not.
Rhodes has outstanding size for a corner, measuring in at about 6'2" and around 210 pounds. He was a big part of the reason that Florida State had one of the top pass defenses in college football in 2012, and projects as someone that's actually a whole lot better in man coverage than he is in a zone-type scheme. While the Vikings are known as a "Tampa-2" type of defense, coordinator Alan Williams varied his coverages more and more as last season progressed. Perhaps now with Rhodes on the outside with Chris Cook, the team will use even more man coverage and make themselves even more unpredictable. In any event, this was a huge get by the Vikings at a position they needed.
So, the Vikings were 2-for-2 at that point, in my book. And then, we got word that Rick Spielman had left his press conference with the local media and "sprinted" back into the War Room because the team was looking to move back into the first round.
I'm not going to lie to you folks. . .as soon as I heard what was happening, I had a post all ready to go to announce the drafting of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o. All I had to do was hit the "Publish" button, and it would have been out there. Then Tom Pelissero. . .I think it was him. . .said that the Vikings were instead taking Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, and that made it safe for me and the rest of the staff. I really thought we were going to have a potential Red Dawn situation on our hands.
I'll admit that I haven't been a huge Patterson supporter, but there's no denying that the guy has a ton of raw talent and ability. People will look at his stats from one year of Division I football and wonder what the heck the Vikings were doing. But the guy did put together ten touchdowns for the Volunteers last year (five receiving, three rushing, one on a punt return, and one on a kickoff return), and really is incredible in the open field. Matt Waldman of Football Outsiders has a very detailed write-up about Patterson that you can see right here. A lot of folks were focused on West Virginia's Tavon Austin as a potential Percy Harvin replacement. . .I wouldn't be surprised to see Patterson fill that role, even though he's built much differently than Harvin.
Oh, and Spielman said during his press conference that Patterson could do everything as a returner that Harvin could. So, you know, no pressure or anything.
Now, I know that a lot of people are not terribly happy with what the Vikings gave the New England Patriots to move back up into the first round to get Patterson. . .and it was quite a bit. Four picks is nothing to sneeze at. But you can look at the Jimmy Johnson chart or whatever other chart you've got to argue for or against or whatever. Here's the way I see it.
Going into this draft, the Minnesota Vikings had the opportunity to get five of the top 102 players in the 2013 NFL Draft. Rick Spielman decided he'd rather have three of the top 29. In doing so, he got two definite starters in Floyd and Rhodes, and one that should at least contribute immediately in the return game and in three and four-wide sets in Patterson. I can't really fault him for doing that. He thought strongly enough about Patterson to give up all that treasure to move back up to get him. . .and, after last year's draft, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on this. And, as Pelissero points out in one of his pieces on the draft, taking these three guys in the first round means that the team has a fifth-year option on all of their contracts, which will be very affordable for the duration of their time in Minnesota. The team still has five picks left, so it's not like they won't be adding anybody else.
Sure, it's going to make for a boring draft Friday in April for us fans. But I think it's going to make for a hell of a September and beyond. And that's what matters.