Now that it’s been 4 years, it’s time to look back and grade the 2009 draft. Like I promised last year when I looked at the 2008 draft, I’m going to issue my grades for the 2009 draft. What, you thought I was going to grade the 2013 draft less than 24 hours after it has finished, and before any players have even set foot in Minnesota, let alone a practice field or NFL game? We simply don’t know what kind of value any of these players may have. According to the NFLPA, the average length of an NFL career is about 3.5 years. So if we’re going to find out if any of our draft picks have value above the average, then we’re going to have to wait 4 years to find out. It’s rough, I know. So, with that, here are my grades for the 2009 draft.
Let’s flashback to the 2009 off-season, shall we? The Vikings had just finished the 2008 season first in the NFC North, going 10-6. We had secured a wild-card playoff berth and played the Philadelphia Eagles, at home. Adrian Peterson led the league in rushing that year with 1,760 yards, and our rushing offense was ranked 5th in the league. We had the #1 rushing defense in 2008 anchored by the "Williams Wall", but our passing offense was the one weak spot, ranked 25th overall. We cycled back and forth between veteran journeyman Gus Ferrote and 3nd year player Tarvaris Jackson at QB. Neither was particularly effective, but when Gus went down with an injury at the end of the year, "T-Jack" led the team to the playoffs, and then promptly laid an egg at home against the Eagles. Fans were on fire and we needed a QB. So, let’s take a look at the roster at the end of the 2008 season:
We had a very strong offensive line, but lost Matt Birk in free agency, and Marcus Johnson wasn’t getting it done on the right side. Sullivan was going to be the new starter at center, but he was unproven, and many saw him as undersized. We also lacked talent at QB and WR. We had a good stable of running backs and tight ends though. Berrian was having decent production, but wasn’t that consistent presence on the field. Sidney Rice was a young WR with a ton of upside, but he couldn’t seem to stay on the field and hadn’t been able to put it all together. We had a couple of other veterans in Wade and Ferguson, but we pretty clearly needed a #1 go-to guy. But after the T-Jack experiment largely failed in 2008, QB was the most pressing need of the offense.
Our defensive line was stacked, and deserved the #1 ranking it earned against the run. However, EJ Henderson went on IR and it revealed the total lack of depth we had at the LB position. Erin Henderson was an undrafted free agent rookie at this point and wasn’t really ready for primetime. So, we relied on Herron and Ciurciu. But we put a lot of faith in the trainers to bring EJ back for the 2009 season. Our CB situation was also pretty dire. We had two decent starters in Winfield and Griffin, but McCauley was not panning out, and Sapp was a liability. Our safety situation was solid, but aging. Sharper was near the end of his career, and Abdullah and Williams were just "guys". We had very high hopes for Tyrell Johnson at this point. But what we couldn’t see then was just how bad this secondary would get in just a few short years thanks to injuries.
P: Chris Kluwe
LS: Cullen Loefller
This trio was dominant in 2008, with Longwell being one of the most accurate kickers in the league, and Kluwe booming punts all season long.
Free Agency and Pre-Draft moves
One of the first moves of the off-season was to trade for Safe Rosenfels. We gave up a 4th round pick to Houston for his services. We then re-signed a few free agents of our own: Heath Farwell, Benny Sapp, Fred Evans and Jimmy Kennedy. We also signed Cedric Griffin to a contract extension, and had to match an offer on restricted free agent Naufahu Tahi. Outside of that, we didn’t do much else in free agency before the draft aside from signing a few lower tier players.
So, how did the Vikings approach the 2009 draft? Well, our biggest needs were still pretty clearly QB (unless you thought Sage Rosenfels was capable of starting for the Vikings), OT, WR, LB and basically general depth, with perhaps an eye towards Safety. Here’s how the 2009 Draft went down:
Round 1, Pick #22: WR Percy Harvin
This pick was made with a bit of controversy. He was an elite talent who had some off-the-field issues. He was known to have problems with coaching authority, and also failed a drug test at the combine. But his talent was undeniable. That he fell in our laps at #22 was viewed as a steal by some, but he was the quintessential "boom or bust" type of pick. At the time I was hoping the Vikings would have taken Hakeem Nicks or Jeremy Maclin in the 1st round. Michael Crabtree was generally regarded as the best WR prospect that year, with everyone assuming he would go to the Raiders, but they surprised everyone by taking Darius Heyward-Bey as the first WR off the board, citing his fast 40-time as the reason. I was bummed to see Maclin taken by the Eagles just a few picks before us, but I had my fingers crossed for Hakeem Nicks. Sadly, we passed on Nicks (who went to the Giants at #29 just a few picks later). Harvin was an extremely productive WR for us during his tenure, and was an exceptionally versatile talent able to not only catch, but also take hand-offs out of the backfield, and return punts/kick-offs. While he never had over 1,000 yards receiving in his 4 years on the team, he had some of the most all-purpose yards of any player in the NFL. On talent alone this pick could be graded as an A. Unfortunately, we just traded Harvin to the Seahawks due to contract/personality issues. So, there just isn’t any way we can grade this pick as an A. Because of the trade to the Seahawks, and the fact that the pick didn’t work out in the long term for the Vikings, I have to down-grade it. We took a chance on an elite talent with off-the-field issues, and it didn’t work out. At least we got good production from him while he was in purple. Pick Grade: B
Round 2, Pick #54: OT Phil Loadholt
Loadholt was one of the biggest lineman available in the draft, and he was regarded as one of the best run-blocking OT in the draft too. He needed work on pass protection, but this was a decent pick that filled a major need. And as it turns out, Loadholt was recently rewarded with a contract extension and has been a fixture on the O-line since he became the starter in 2009. Pick Grade: A
Round 3, Pick #86: CB Asher Allen
Allen had the size of Antoine Winfield, but he didn’t have the talent or technique. That said, I personally believe he was an underrated CB that many fans wrongly hated because he was rushed onto the field before he was ready. But it’s all a moot point. Allen retired after the 2011 season for personal reasons. Seeing as how he never cracked the starting line-up and only lasted for 3 seasons, this makes him a below average pick. Considering that LaDarius Webb was taken 2 picks later by the Ravens, leads me to believe that this just wasn’t a good pick. There were a lot of other excellent options still on the board at the time like Glover Quinn, D.J. Moore and Brian Hartline, so the Pick Grade for me is: D.
Round 5, Pick #150: ILB Jasper Brinkley
We traded our 6th round pick to the Redskins in order to move up the board to draft Jasper Brinkley. Seeing as how we lost our 4th rounder in the Rosenfels trade too, that makes this move very questionable. Brinkley had a lot of promise his rookie year as he stepped in for EJ Henderson when Henderson again went on IR with a horrific leg injury that looked like it might end his NFL career. But then Brinkley had an injury of his own and spent the entire 2010 season on IR. He came back in 2011 and spelled EJ Henderson some, and then slotted in as the starter in 2012. Unfortunately he played pretty poorly last season and did not earn a new contract. He signed with Arizona on a small 2-year deal this past off-season. He’s generally a decent run stuffer, and a hard hitter, but he lacks coverage skills and his tackling is not sound. The fact that he’s still in the league, is about par for the course for a 5th round draft pick. However, considering that we traded UP for him and he’s no longer with the team, this pick has to be: D.
Round 7, Pick #231: S Jamarca Sanford
Sanford has been much-maligned by fans as he has dropped a large number of potential interceptions. But for the past 4 years he has been an extremely hard worker, and has excelled at special teams as one of the hardest hitting safeties on the team (until Harrison Smith arrived). He was in and out of the starting lineup for the past two seasons, having shown a lot of development, and earned a new contract as a free agent this past off-season. He figures to have the other starting spot locked down for 2013, although most people would agree that we could stand to upgrade from Sanford. But for a 7th round pick to not only stick with the team for 4 years, but also earn a new free agent contract and slot in as the presumed starter says a lot. Pick Grade: A+.
Overall Grade: C+
This draft would be a heck of a lot better if Percy Harvin had worked out. I still believe we would have been better served to draft Hakeem Nicks in the 1st round, and I think history has proven that to be true. Nicks has dealt with some injuries and has played hurt, but when healthy he is the go-to guy for the New York Giants, along with Victor Cruz. But we still got a couple of decent starters out of this draft in Loadholt and Sanford, and Brinkley and Allen proved to be decent backup options in the mid-rounds. 2009 was also a year that had very little talent at the QB position in the draft outside of Matthew Stafford and Josh Freeman, which is one reason why we pursued Brett Favre so heavily that off-season. I think the trade for Rosenfels was a dumb move, especially considering we just traded him to the Giants the following off-season anyway. Consider this hindsight re-draft:
1. Clay Mathews
2. Mike Wallace
3. T.J. Lang
5. Javon Ringer
7. Jamarca Sanford
Even keeping the two trades, we could have done a LOT better at the exact same positions by addressing them at different places in the draft. Hindsight isn’t fair though, is it? So, let’s see what the media experts said about the 2009 Draft at the time:
The Vikings had only five picks, but no team did better with less. The selection of wideout Percy Harvin is not without obvious risk, but his speed and agility give the Vikings a versatile and dynamic weapon. Phil Loadholt makes the team stouter immediately at right tackle and was viewed as a first-round talent by many clubs. A trio of SEC defenders in Asher Allen, Jasper Brinkley and Jamarca Sanford could all make the final roster and contribute -- at least on special teams -- as rookies.
• Minnesota Vikings: Went for a boom-or-bust type in WR Percy Harvin. A little undersized, has history of injuries and other issues and tested positive for marijuana at scouting combine. Also an explosive talent who will allow the Vikings to implement more varied offensive packages. OT Phil Loadholt could step in on the right side and solidify a problem area. Huge, at 6-8 and 337. CB Asher Allen has to remind Vikings of Antoine Winfield and that's a good thing. No center after losing Matt Birk.
Minnesota Vikings - Pushed aside character to select WR/KR Percy Harvin whose addition to the offense should open things up a little for RB Adrian Peterson and take pressure off their questionable quarterbacks.
Right tackle Phil Loadholt fills a major need as did the selection of cover corner Asher Allen. Fifth rounder Jasper Brinkley could a fifth-round steal if his knee is healthy and he keeps his weight in check.
18. Minnesota Vikings- The selection of WR Percy Harvin was a good one if he can remain healthy and stay out of trouble. Harvin could help to open up the offense and take some of the pressure off of current RB Adrian Peterson. Offensive tackle Phil Loadholt was another good selection and the Vikings got a great value in ILB Jasper Brinkley. Grade C+
This could end up being an outstanding draft. The top two picks are expected to make an immediate draft, while third-rounder Asher Allen could end up starting at cornerback and Jasper Brinkley could become a very useful run-stuffing linebacker.
But it's also risky. If it works out, Childress may finally win over the Vikings fans. If it doesn't, he won't have to hear their boos any longer.
Grade: B-. Two years from now this could be an A, but if also could end up being a D. Fate awards the bold?
Minnesota Vikings: GRADE: C+
If they can keep wide receiver Percy Harvin focused and maximize his potential, then taking him at No. 22 could end up being a good selection. The only problem is the fact that he has some character question marks surrounding him, but there's no questioning his talent. Third-round selection Asher Allen is a good pick, inside linebacker Jasper Brinkley could be a good fit and seventh-rounder Jamarca Sanford is a good player.
It seems that many media outlets agreed with me at the time that this draft would end up being in the C+ range. It all hinged on whether the writer thought Harvin would pan out. As it turns out, he didn’t exactly pan out for the Vikings, but he’ll likely continue to be a very productive and elite talent in the NFL. Most of the media outlets really liked the Asher Allen and Jasper Brinkley picks...looks like they, along with the Vikings, were wrong.