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Vikings Draft Grades

Jeff Zelevansky

If you're looking for draft grades of the 2014 NFL Draft, less than 24 hours after they've happened,'re looking in the wrong place!  As I've done for several off-seasons now, I'll be offering draft grades for the draft that happened FOUR YEARS AGO, or in other words, the 2010 draft.  Why am I looking back four years ago?  Well, according to the NFLPA the average length of an NFL career is about 3.5 years.  So if we want to accurately evaluate whether or not our draft picks have had above average careers, then we're going to have to wait 4 years to find out.  So, you can expect my grades for the 2014 draft in, oh, 2018.  In the meantime, now is the appropriate time to issue draft grades for the 2010 Draft.

So, let's flashback to the 2010 Off-season, shall we?  Brad Childress was the head coach at this time, and the dreaded "Triangle of Authority" was in place with Spielman directing scouting and draft preparations, but with Childress having final say over the final 53-man roster.  The Vikings had just finished riding the wave of Brett Favre's magical run to the NFC Championship Game during the 2009 season, where we ultimately fell short of the Super Bowl, losing at the hands of the Bounty Induced Saints.  During free agency we let RB Chester Taylor, CB Karl Paymah and OL Artis Hicks go to other teams.  We resigned QB Tarvaris Jackson and FB Nafahu Tahi to 1-year deals as well as OL Ryan Cook, DT Fred Evans and S Eric Frampton.   We also signed DT Jimmy Kennedy, DE Mike Montgomery, CB Benny Sapp, CB Lito Sheppard and K Rhys Lloyd just before the draft.  The biggest question mark on the roster was the quarterback position as the team was on "Favre Watch" for the 2nd offseason in a row, and it was unclear what was going to happen with free agent defensive end Ray Edwards as he went through the free agency period being unsigned leading up to the draft.  In addition, CB Cedric Griffen had torn his ACL in the NFC Championship Game and was not expected back for the 2010 season, and EJ Henderson was working his way back from IR after a horrific leg injury where he broke his left femur but was looking to be on track to return as a starter.  Many people (fans and coaches alike) thought that if the team just came back healthy and returned all their starters, then they could threaten for a 2nd Super Bowl run.  Let's take a look at the state of the roster heading into the 2010 Draft:

QB: Tarvaris Jackson, Sage Rosenfels
RB: Adrian Peterson, Albert Young
FB: Nafahu Tahi
WR: Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice, Greg Lewis
TE: Visanthe Shiancoe, Jimmy Kleinsasser, Jeff Dugan
OL: Bryant McKinnie, Phil Loadholt, Steve Hutchinson, Anthony Herrera, John Sullivan

DE: Jared Allen, Brian Robison, Jayme Mitchell
DT: Kevin Williams, Pat Williams, Kimmy Kennedy, Fred Evans
LB: EJ Henderson, Chad Greenway, Ben Leber, Erin Henderson, Jasper Brinkley, Heath Farwell
CB: Antoine Winfield, Asher Allen, Frank Walker, Benny Sapp, Lito Sheppard
S: Madieu Williams, Husain Abdullah, Tyrell Johnson, Jamarca Sanford

Looking over this roster at the time, you could see that the biggest areas of need were quarterback, cornerback, defensive end, and backup running back.  Losing Chester Taylor was thought to be a pretty big deal at the time, but the big thing that occupied most fans minds was the question: Will Brett Favre come back or not?  But using hindsight you can see that our linebacker corp was on the verge of completely imploding.  We were relying on EJ Henderson to return to form (he didn't) and that Jasper Brinkley would be an adequate replacement (he wasn't).  We also had no real backup plan in place for the impending retirement of Ben Leber after the 2010 season (Erin Henderson was ok).  But in only 2 short years our linebackers would completely implode.  The same would be true of the safety position.  Madieu Williams would prove to be below average, and Husain Abdullah, while promising, would eventually depart the team for personal religious reasons, leaving Tyrell Johnson to fall on his face in short order.  This was a defense that was dominant in 2009, but would be shell of its former self by 2011.

So, armed with all of this roster information, how did the Vikings attack the 2010 Draft?  Let's take a look.  We had the 30th pick in each round of the draft, so let's see what transpired.

Round 1, pick #30: We traded out of the #30 overall pick.  We traded down four spots with the Lions acquiring their 2nd round #33 pick and also picked up their 7th round pick (214 overall) and swapped 4th round selections with them as well.

Trade Grade: A+
In principal trading down only a few spots to gain more picks is a good idea.  When you consider that the Lions picked RB Javhid Best, it makes the trade look even better. The four players we missed out on in the trade down have amounted to pretty much nothing.

Round 2, pick #33 (from Detroit): CB Chris Cook, Virginia

At the time, this pick looked pretty good.  It addressed one of our many needs, although he was the 6th cornerback taken in the draft behind guys like Joe Haden, Devin McCourty and Kyle Wilson.

Grade: D
As it turns out, Cook couldn't stay on the field for a variety of off-field and injury reasons.  He never lived up to his potential and was not resigned this past offseason.  He took a vet minimum 1-year deal to hopefully catch on with the 49ers this offseason.  All that said, according to Draft Metrics, the expectations for a cornerback drafted 33rd overall are about a 52% chance of starting 5 years and 60% chance of starting three years.  In other words, we should have expected Chris Cook to accumulate about 48 starts in his career with the Vikings (3 years' worth), but unfortunately for us, he only managed 29 starts in his 4 years on the team.  Considering he racked up exactly 0 interceptions during that time as well, I just don't see how there is any way we can classify this pick as anything but a bust.  Consider Safety T.J. Ward and Linebacker Daryl Washington were both on the board and chosen just a few picks later (both of which would have solved our impending Safety and Linebacker depth problems in the years to come), this pick looks even worse.  I like that we went after a cornerback here (preventing this grade from being an all-out F), but it's too bad this pick didn't turn out better.

Round 2, pick #62: Traded to the Texans to move up 11 spots to #51 overall.  We gave up this pick along with our 3rd round selection (#93 overall) to select RB Toby Gerhart, Stanford

Again, this addressed an apparent need of the team and was an attempt to replace the departed Chester Taylor.

Grade: C
Gerhart turned out to be a pretty good running back, but giving up a 3rd round selection in order to acquire a player like Gerhart who would have almost 0 impact on the team was kind of strange.  Gerhart left this past offseason to sign a more lucrative contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars to hopefully have an opportunity for a starting role.  As a player grade in a vacuum, I'd grade Gerhart a B: he was a good, reliable backup.  But considering that we traded up to get him and he had very little impact on the team, this was essentially a wasted, luxury pick when we couldn't afford it.  Consider that the following players were all on the board at this point in the draft: DE Carlos Dunlap, LB Sean Lee, LB Brandon Spikes, LB Navarro Bowman, TE Jimmy Graham and OG Jon Asamoah.  We could have addressed more long term positions of need with any of those premier players, and knowing that downgrades this selection for me.

Round 4, pick #100 (from our trade down with the Lions), DE Everson Griffen, USC

We swapped 4th round selections and were in position to take advantage of the #1 selection of the 4th round, thanks to our excellent trade down in the 1st round.  We selected a highly athletic and talented player in Everson Griffen, but who had some character concerns.

Grade: A
So far, this pick is looking great.  Griffen has been primarily the backup to Jared Allen for the past 4 seasons, but he was recently rewarded with a multi-year contract extension and will be the presumed starter at defensive end.  He has flashed a lot of talent during his 4 years on the team and appears poised to have a break-out year.  We'll see if it actually comes to fruition.  But getting a talent like this at the top of the 4th round is incredibly good value.

Round 5, pick #161, OG Chris DeGeare, Wake Forest

Grade: C
From this point onwards, according to Draft Metrics, the odds of even playing in the NFL for 3 or more years drops below 50% (47% to be exact) for all players drafted between 150-189.  For guards, there is a 15% chance that they will turn out to be 5-year starters at this point in the draft.  Chris DeGeare dealt with some injuries, but could not find his way onto the roster and was off the team by 2012.  He's been bouncing around various practice squads and injured reserve lists and has a futures/reserve contract with the Cowboys this offseason.  But he hasn't actually played any meaningful football.  In other words, he's essentially met the average expectation for a 5th round guard selection.

Round 5, pick #167, LB Nate Tripplett, Minnesota (compensatory selection)

Grade: F
Like I mentioned above, the odds of a player playing 3+ years in the league at this point in the draft are not real great, and the odds are even lower for a linebacker to become a 5+ year starter at this point (9%).  But Nate Triplett couldn't even make the roster or practice squad in 2010.  He bounced around to a couple of practice squads in 2010 after getting cut, and then tried to make a comeback in 2012, but couldn't stick.  This pick can't be viewed as anything but an F.

Round 6, pick #199, QB/WR Joe Webb, UAB

Grade: B
I know I might get some flack for this grade, but here me out.  The expectation for a player drafted at this point in the draft is not high.  Generally, only 38.6% of players at this point in the draft even last in the NFL for 3+ years.  Joe Webb has exceeded that with his 4 years on the Vikings and was just signed as a backup quarterback with the Panthers this offseason.  He had between a 5-9% chance of becoming a 5-year starter as either a quarterback or a wide receiver.   He hasn't exceeded expectations immensely, but he has beaten the average.  He showed some potential early on as a quarterback and even started a few games, but his transition to wide receiver was less than successful.  I think he should have never been a quarterback in the first place, despite his desire to play the position.  He was drafted as a wide receiver, and that's where he should have focused his development.  Never-the-less I really liked taking a late-round flyer on a highly athletic guy with tons of potential.  It's too bad he never amounted to much.

Round 7, pick #214 (as part of trade with Lions), TE Mikey Shuler, Penn State

Grade: C
Shuler had kind of a strange relationship with the Vikings.  After ultimately making the team in 2010, he was cut when the Vikings signed WR Hank Baskett to address the injury to Sidney Rice.  He was picked up by the Dolphins and then found his way back to the Vikings practice squad in 2011.  He ultimately failed to make the team again but has bounced around to various practice squads and was part of the Falcons practice squad last year.  He hasn't exactly made a real roster, or had any significant playing time, but for a 7th round selection with almost 0 expectations, this is an acceptable outcome.  He hasn't done anything to earn higher than an average grade however.

Round 7, pick #237, LB Ryan D'Imperio, Rutgers

Grade: D
The Vikings drafted linebacker D'Imperio in the 7th round and promptly converted him to a fullback.  He was a part of the Vikings practice squad for 2 years and then bounced around to a couple of others before falling out of the league.  I would normally grade this as a C, as again, his expectations are next to nothing, but I don't like the idea of converting a player to fullback when he had no prior experience.  It makes me wonder what kind of an impact he could have had as a linebacker.  Like Joe Webb, the coaching staff tried to outsmart itself by trying to convert a player into a position for which he wasn't drafted.  Ultimately, it didn't work out so I have to question the move as a result.

Overall Draft Grade: C

We scored a few reliable options in this draft like Toby Gerhart and Everson Griffen, but there were a few misses, like Chris Cook and Nate Triplett and a few questionable conversion attempts in Joe Webb and Ryan D'Imperio.  This was the quintessential "average" draft and we missed out on a ton of elite, Pro Bowl level talent in the 2nd round.  Imagine if Chris Cook and Toby Gerhart had instead been players like Navarro Bowman and Jimmy Graham?  Hindsight is always 20/20 of course, but this draft left a lot to be desired.

What did the so-called "experts" say immediately after the 2010 Draft?  Well, here are a few choice nuggets.

Fox News Nailed It, Sort of:

Minnesota: The Vikings tried to trade back into the first round for Boise State CB Kyle Wilson because cornerback was a need. They ended up with Virginia's Chris Cook, who ran a 4.49 at the combine. This position was a need because the Vikings probably won't have Cedric Griffin for the start of the season, plus veteran Antoine Winfield missed six games last season and will be 33 this season. In a trade with the Texans, the Vikings took Stanford RB Toby Gearhart, who rushed for 1,871 yards and 28 touchdowns last season. He was Jimmy Johnson's favorite college player. Gearhart should be able to spell Adrian Peterson and keep the offense moving. USC pass rusher Everson Griffin was a top-25 talent in the fourth round while Minnesota LB Nathan Triplett gives them some insurance in case E.J. Henderson doesn't fully recover. Grade: C+

Mel Kiper Was Close Too:

Minnesota Vikings

Summary: This draft just didn't impress me. After trading down, the Vikings got a guy in Chris Cook who has the chance to help them, but he also is a guy who rose late, impressing at the Senior Bowl. Can he deliver that kind of performance every week? I think the trade to move up and grab Toby Gerhart was odd, partially because there were some other good backs on the board, and also because although most think Gerhart will be able to catch the ball, it was never really his game. He's a true pounding running back. Everson Griffen looks like a value, but he is extremely inconsistent.

Draft grade: C-

Jarett Bell over at USA Today gave us C Grade, saying:

  • Minnesota Vikings: After trading out of the first round, they nabbed one of the draft's biggest corners in Chris Cook and college football's most productive running back last year, Toby Gerhart, who can relieve Adrian Peterson. Fourth-round end Everson Griffen slid significantly.

Nolan Nawrocki, then of Pro Football Weekly, said:

Minnesota Vikings
Personnel chief Rick Spielman and Brad Childress dealt down four spots out of the first round and filled a primary position of need with the selection of CB Chris Cook, who fits Leslie Frazier's press-cover zone defense. With Chester Taylor moving on, the Vikings also had a need for a complementary runner to Adrian Peterson and packaged their second- and third-round picks to Houston to move up 11 spots and land Toby Gerhart, fortifying the backfield. DE Everson Griffen was a solid value pick in the fourth round. Rounds 5-7 brought some potential ILB help in the form of Nate Triplett (5) and Ryan D'Imperio (7), both of whom could fight for roster spots on special teams. OG Chris DeGeare has the size coveted in their line. Converted QB Joe Webb could be groomed as a wide receiver. Collectively, the Vikings got bigger but may have reached a bit on Cook and took some risk adding Griffen to the locker room, although he should fit in well with their cast of characters. They will come away with a few starters if they are very lucky but filled mostly role positions.
Grade: C-plus

The folks over at the National Football Post liked the draft a bit more:

Minnesota Vikings

It's scary to think of RB Toby Gerhart joining Adrian Peterson in the Minnesota backfield, although the Vikings didn't make much of a splash with any later-round picks.

Grade: B-

So what do you know?  This time around most of the "experts" were pretty darn close in their analysis.  At least, their grades were pretty much spot on.  I had a hard time finding a grade higher than B, and most of them put us squarely in the C range, which is what I think we ended up with when it was all said and done.  What are your thoughts?  What grade would you give the 2010 Draft now that we've had ample time to evaluate the careers of our 7 selections from the 2010 NFL Draft?