Best and Worst Drafts in Vikings History

Elsa

With a little help from Football Perspective, the Daily Norseman takes a look at the best and worst drafts in Vikings history.

I'm sure many readers here at the Daily Norseman are fans of football analyst Chase Stuart.  If you're not aware of his work, he's the owner of Football Perspective, but he also writes for Pro Football Reference and blogs for the New York Times.  I'm a big fan of his work and recently he put out an article about the best and worst drafts since 1970.  It's a fascinating read and well worth your time.

In the article he makes use of Pro Football Reference's "Approximate Value" metric that attempts to improve upon other metrics that value a player's career like "number of seasons as a starter" or "number of times making the pro bowl."  The brief explanation of AV is summed up here and also broken down in more detail here, but is essentially this:

You should think of it as being essentially like those two metrics, but with interpolation in between. That is, 'number of seasons as a starter' is a reasonable starting point if you're trying to measure, say, how good a particular draft class is, or what kind of player you can expect to get with the #13 pick in the draft. But obviously some starters are better than others. Starters on good teams are, as a group, better than starters on bad teams. Starting WRs who had lots of receiving yards are, as a group, better than starting WRs who did not have many receiving yards. Starters who made the pro bowl are, as a group, better than starters who didn't, and so on. And non-starters aren't worthless, so they get some points too."

So, Chase Stuart determined an expected AV of each draft position (which would be the same for every draft class), and then using the data at Pro Football Reference, he compared the expected AV with the actual AV of all players drafted in each year.  The difference in those two numbers gives us a value of every player drafted for every draft position.  Here's the end result graph showing a general uptick in teams' ability to draft as time has moved forward.  It showed that the best draft was 1993 and the worst draft was in 1972.  This is all well and good, but what does this tell us about the Vikings?  Well, I tweeted at Chase Stuart wondering if the 2005 Vikings draft had any claim on being the worst draft in NFL history, and it turns out that yes, in fact they are very close.  Chase was kind of enough to resort the data on a team-by-team basis and you can find that massive table (it's sortable!) here.

That table is sorted by "Value" by default, with the best draft being at the top, and the worst draft being at the bottom.  To put this in perspective that table includes 1,093 team drafts since 1970.  In other words, every single team that drafted from 1970 to 2007 is included.  And where did the Vikings 2005 draft show up?  9th worst.  That's right 9th worst, out of 1,093 possible drafts.  That puts them in the 0.8th percentile.  Their draft value was -55 overall.  It was so bad that the draft actually hurt the team.  The worst draft in history goes to the 1970 cardinals whose value was -70.5.  But that 2005 Vikings draft was without a doubt, the worst in team history.  If you need a reminder about how bad it was, that was the draft immediately following the trade of Randy Moss to the Raiders.  We spent that 1st round pick on Troy Williamson and used our other one on Erasmus James, both of whom are regarded as one of the 4 worst players drafted that year...and they went to the same team!  There is not a single player from that draft still with the team today, and none of them lasted in the NFL more than a couple of years.

But what about the Vikings best draft?  Well for that we turn to 1998 a draft that once again involves Randy Moss.  Our 1998 draft was ranked 59th overall.  That may not sound good, but in the context of 1,093 drafts that puts it in the 95th percentile, which is very, very good.  If you need a reminder the 1998 draft gave us Randy Moss in the 1st round and Matt Birk in the 6th as well as a slew of other valuable players.

We have yet to determine how the most recent drafts have fared, as this kind of analysis begins to breakdown with the most recent drafts.  For example, if you look at the graph I linked above you can see that the most recent drafts included in the data, from 2007-2008, all have very low AV's, but this is mostly because there are so many players still playing in the NFL and accumulating starts and stats from those draft years.  So, it's going to be at least 6-8 years before we can definitely state how the drafts from 2012-2014 have gone. But I went through and pulled out all of the Vikings drafts from the table of 1,093 and ranked them by Draft Value to give us an idea of how good they have been at drafting from 1970-2007.  I left in each drafts overall rank as well.  A special thanks to Chase Stuart for compiling the per-team data.

Overall Rank

Year

Expected AV

Actual AV

Draft Value

59

1998

41.7

93

51.3

84

2003

47.1

90

42.9

91

1977

33

74

41

103

1973

60.1

98

37.9

130

1972

43.8

77

33.2

143

1988

45.6

77

31.4

176

1982

44.8

72

27.2

180

1999

55.3

82

26.7

195

2006

52.1

77

24.9

208

1995

62

86

24

256

2007

50.2

70

19.8

268

1987

44.3

63

18.7

294

1984

35.3

51

15.7

313

1991

32.1

46

13.9

327

1976

43.1

56

12.9

337

1979

41.1

53

11.9

359

1992

25.7

36

10.3

373

1994

61.6

71

9.4

377

1983

36.8

46

9.2

529

1986

33.1

33

-0.1

538

1978

38.6

38

-0.6

618

1997

41.2

36

-5.2

619

2004

44.3

39

-5.3

671

1980

60

52

-8

688

2002

51.5

42

-9.5

716

1990

31.4

20

-11.4

777

1985

85.7

71

-14.7

785

2001

41

26

-15

805

1971

29.5

13

-16.5

828

2000

49.8

32

-17.8

843

1981

49.8

31

-18.8

901

1993

49.8

27

-22.8

910

1974

84.3

61

-23.3

926

1989

24.9

0

-24.9

934

1970

37.4

12

-25.4

949

1975

43.8

17

-26.8

1041

1996

42.9

5

-37.9

1085

2005

61

6

-55

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