I'm certainly not one to look at the facts through purple-tinted lenses, that's for sure. Over the decades, there have been terrible Drafts, Mediocre Drafts and a few Excellent Drafts. While no Draft can be properly evaluated until a season or three pass, a lot of faithful followers can sense whether the team executed their plan or stumbled over themselves during the selection process. This year, I got the clear sense that Rick Spielman and company had a well-defined outline, and they seemed to execute it as well as one could hope.
While there were a couple of "WTF" selections, I presume that is just a product of my own ignorance about team needs assessment, and the team going BPA on occasion. I was glued to every Pick this year (watching online with NFL.com and sharing thoughts with fellow DN fans here throughout the three days.) I had more depth of knowledge than any other year, having spent months researching, Mock Drafting and asking opinions of other fans. So, I not only knew a bit about almost every player selected, but was armed with quite a bit of knowledge about the players I had ear-marked for the Vikings. My preferences, if you will.
In retrospect, I am actually a little in awe over how well Rick Spielman orchestrated the Draft. Not only did he do exactly what I was lobbying for (multiple trade-downs and exhibiting patience in a very deep Draft) but he did not mortgage our future, seemed to guess right on a few key players that slid to later Rounds, and even fleeced the Browns out of a free Pick (nice!)
Here's my amateur reaction on a Pick-by-Pick basis:
1st Round - LB Anthony Barr - I had three players at the very top of my Wish List: Khalil Mack, Anthony Barr and Ryan Shazier. I knew we would not have a chance at Mack, but was thrilled to get Barr, a player I feel can be equal to or possibly even better than Mack in a season or two. I was pleasantly surprised and think this was a Pick we will point to with pride for years to come.
1st Round - QB Teddy Bridgewater - I anticipated precisely what happened. A great many fans had long since abandoned the DN site as the later Picks were being slowly unveiled. (cricket-cricket). I would never miss the full Round of selections, and I also kept saying, "Spielman will deal his way back in and take a QB." When I saw the news flash on screen, I felt vindicated and excited. Talk about perfect timing and execution. The trade deal was more than fair, and now we at least have a realistic chance of establishing a long-term solution at Quarterback.
3rd Round - DE Scott Crichton - WHO? I really did not know anything about him. After reading up today, I feel this was a case of the team brain-trust knowing what they wanted and doing their research to unearth this type of potential gem.
3rd Round - RB Jerik McKinnon - Another guy I knew next to nothing about. I did feel we had to take a RB, albeit later in this Draft. I felt there were about 12 players we could work with, so I was not overly zeroed in on any specific player. Again, I have to trust our execs and think they feel extremely positive abut this young man's upside
5th Round - OL David Yankey - I had Guard as a position of "dire need" going into the Draft. My top choices (and I felt we needed to act during Rounds 2 or 3 to get one) were Xavier Su'a-Filo, Gabe Jackson or David Yankey. It was driving me crazy as the Rounds went by and we weren't addressing a key need. When this Pick was announced I was elated. To get Yankey in Round 5 was one of the coups of this entire Draft, in my opinion. He can play Tackle, as well, and I think he will be a fixture for a decade or more. Awesome.
6th Round - CB Antone Exum - Another position of need on my list, I was thinking we could wait. When several runs on CBs snagged a few of the highest-rated players, I was worried. But, the announcement of this selection restored my faith yet again. Exum was on my short list of players I felt would fit well and be better players than some scouts were saying. He can play Safety or CB, which is something I was hoping for. I think he will be productive as long as he can stay healthy, a small concern given his recent history. But, I love this choice!
6th Round - CB Kendall James
7th Round - DT Shamar Stephen
7th Round - LB Brandon Watts
7th Round - CB Jabari Price
--- I admit to not knowing enough about any of the four players above to have an opinion, but like that the Defensive Backfield was still a focus. And while we went after a higher percentage of Defensive players than I imagined we would, it was close to the balance I would have gone for.
So, we got one of the real phenoms of the Draft at a position of severe need in Anthony Barr. The consensus "most NFL-ready quarterback" was secured in a bold move, and we get him with the 5th-Year option. (We also may have stolen him out from under the Texans, although no one is saying.) We took one of the best Guards available, and snagged him in the 5th Round. Our D-Line is set up to be one of the most dynamic and deep in the League. The depth will allow Coach Zimmer to rotate players all game long, helping to tire out opposing Offenses which will probably resulting more turnovers and 3-and-outs than we have seen in years. We added a talented RB to take some pressure off AD. WE shored up our Defensive Backfield with a guy who may be able to play multiple roles.
There is more work to be done, and UDFA signings will help fill additional gaps. I'm sure some are not nearly as happy with the results as I am, but hopefully the majority feel we did fairly well. I think most feel Coach Zimmer was a good hire, has the team pointed in a good direction, and that there is reason for optimism with he ongoing makeover. We need a little good luck along the way, and a series of goo Drafts. But, the sky's the limit and this has been one solid Off-season, as far as I'm concerned. SKOL!