Merry Draftsmas everyone! We’re only a few hours away from the 2017 NFL Draft, where we’ll likely watch a bunch of guys get picked by other teams tonight while we patiently wait for our turn tomorrow. But still, this is one of the most exciting days of the year on the NFL calendar. Everyone is 0-0 and our dreams haven’t been crushed yet. It’s fitting that the league holds the draft in the Spring, when hope blooms its brightest for all 32 fan bases.
I love the NFL Draft, although I’ll be the first to admit that I am not the world’s biggest draftnik. I’m not a mock draft guy because I’m not big on predicting things that are 100% certain to be proven incorrect almost immediately. (It’s why I enjoy my weekly NFL picks so much, which are only 86% certain to be proven incorrect.) As much as I like looking at game film, I simply don’t have the bandwidth to scour through tape of hundreds of prospects and grade their strengths and weaknesses.
That said, I still pay close attention to certain players that I’d like to see in purple by the end of the weekend. I’m looking more at guards, 3-technique defensive tackles, running backs, safeties, slot corners, and tight ends because I think those are the positions that the Vikings might look at closely in the draft. I still consume as many articles, podcasts, and tweets about the draft as possible without jeopardizing the future of my day job and marriage. When it comes to the draft, I’m like Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can: I’m not an expert but I have learned enough to make it sound like I know what I’m talking about.
So if you’re looking for scouting reports or specifics on how potential draft picks are ranked, look elsewhere. That’s why we have diehards like Arif. (If you haven’t checked out his annual Consensus Big Board yet, bookmark it now. Once again, he has done the Lord’s work in collecting and analyzing draft data. It’s basically my cheat sheet at Winter Park every year.) But if you’re looking for sweeping generalities of what I’d like to see the Vikings do over the next three days in Philadelphia, you have come to the right place!
Speaking of the Lord’s work and sweeping generalities, I present unto you my latest article gimmick:
The Ten Draft Commandments
(for the Vikings in the 2017 NFL Draft)
1. Thou shalt not reach.
I cannot stress this one enough, especially when it comes to the offensive line. Given the dearth of OL quality in this year’s draft, Rick Spielman and the Vikings front office need to be wary of picking a lineman just to pick one. Yes, the Vikings are still in desperate need of O-line help even after picking up Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers in free agency. But so are lots of others picking in front of the Vikings. If teams have swooped in and snatched top-end guys on your board at a certain position, it’s time to look at the best player available elsewhere. If you have a third or fourth round grade on Pat Elflein, don’t take him in the second just because all your top guards are already gone.
2. Thou shalt steal whenever possible.
Trust your own scouting reports and rankings to find as many steals as possible. Some of the best picks of Spielman’s tenure as General Manager have been at positions that weren’t necessarily thought of as huge needs at the time. (Danielle Hunter, anyone?) Other successful picks went against expert opinions of when the player should go, but they turned out to be great values. (Rhett Ellison didn’t even think he was going to get drafted when the Vikings picked him up in the fourth round. Ellison was Pro Football Focus’ unsung hero of the team his rookie year and he just got $8 million guaranteed from the Giants.) So if the Vikings see a guy they really like fall to their pick, they should take the player every time—regardless of perceived positional need or popularity.
(Of course, Spielman will try to convince us that every pick they make this weekend was a steal, but hopefully he’s actually right about a few.)
3. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's Round 1 pick.
This one is going to be hard for a lot of us to deal with. It’s going to be sooooo tempting if players like Forrest Lamp, Malik McDowell, or Reuben Foster (depending on how diluted your opinion is of him) are still on the board when the picks start inching toward the mid-20’s Thursday night. Twitter will be full of armchair GMs pounding the table for Spielman to pull a blockbuster trade to get the one player they think will be perfect for the team.
Between Spielman’s annual modus operandi of stockpiling double-digit picks and the fact that the price for trading into the first round will be incredibly steep, I wouldn’t anticipate too much action from the Vikings on Thursday. And that’s probably for the best. Unless the deal is too good to pass on, I really doubt the Vikings will mortgage that much draft currency.
But as for trading up earlier in the second round to get a player on Friday? Covet away!
4. Thou shalt not commit draft adultery.
Every year I see all sort of Vikings fans getting wandering eyes when it comes to how other teams drafted. Don’t look at someone else’s draft and think “oh man I wish we had THAT group of players that [team XYZ] drafted,” especially before anyone has even played a snap. When it comes to the NFL Draft, the only certainty is its uncertainty. Once the draft is completed, we might as well stay focused on how the new players might help the team instead of worrying too much about players on other teams could have helped.
We’re married to the Vikings here. Stay faithful regardless how attractive another draft class might be.
5. Thou shalt not commit murder of your PR department.
This one pertains to all the “character issue” guys like Gareon Conley, Cameron Robinson, Caleb Brantley, and especially our favorite divisive prospect in these parts, Joe Mixon. The 2017 NFL Draft seems to be more littered with character question marks than usual. When a team mulls over drafting someone that has made headlines for the wrong reasons, they better be extremely confident in their vetting process. If the Vikings do happen to go with Mixon or someone else with a checkered past, you better believe that every level of the hierarchy has signed off on it. From Mike Zimmer to Spielman to the Wilfs, everyone has to be on board with taking such a big public image risk.
If the Vikings draft the next Tyreek Hill, that’s something the PR department can deal with. If the Vikings draft the next Johnny Manziel, Radisson won’t be the only logo missing from the press conference backdrop.
6. Thou shalt not worship false draft idols.
The “My Guys” phenomenon seems to be spreading as the NFL Draft continues to grow in popularity and coverage. With so much information available to pore over, everyone seems to have a handful of players that they deem more worthy than the rest. You can’t read your Twitter feed for more than a couple minutes before coming across a “I hope we take [Player X] with the 48th pick, that’s MY GUY!” tweet this time of year. And then inevitably when the Vikings don’t pick “your guy,” you get super upset. The player you were certain was going to single-handedly turn the franchise’s fortunes around is now on another team and you’re furious.
Personally, I don’t get the transfixing on only certain players. Sure, I like some draft picks over others, but I also know that the Vikings pay scouts a lot more than I get paid to second guess them on the internet. I’m too excited to see the new guys at Training Camp to get bent out of shape about they players we didn’t get. I treat the draft a lot like I treated the bars in college: I might not always get my top choice, but I’m glad there are so many options out there and I’m excited to see where this choice goes.
7. Thou shalt have a plan B. And C. And D. And...
Much like life, the draft comes at you fast. Each draft day move has a Butterfly Effect that ripples all the way down to Mr. Irrelevant. Your entire draft strategy can be altered by one trip to the podium. If you don’t have a contingency plan, you could be screwed. Like that time you paid $60 for Todd Gurley in your auction draft and didn’t leave any money for other running backs.
I think Spielman’s ability to adjust on the fly during the draft is one of his better qualities. He doesn’t seem to get flustered and has an alternate plan for everything the draft throws at him. (And if he doesn’t have an alternate plan, he’s certainly good at giving the impression that he did, which might be just as valuable.)
8. Thou shalt withhold your reactions until the Sabbath.
I know that draft grades are all the rage this time of year. We’re in the age of instant takes—we must share our opinions immediately or risk becoming irrelevant. I’m sure we’ll be providing you with draft grade polls right here at Daily Norseman throughout the weekend. But can we at least wait until the dang thing is over before offering definitive opinions? If the Vikings stand pat at 48 and take, say, a safety, people will be going bonkers that the offensive line isn’t being addressed before we get to pick #49.
I still maintain that it’s silly to grade drafts until at least three years after the fact. But if we insist on grading drafts, hopefully we can withhold our hot takes until the dust has settled on Saturday night.
9. Thou shalt not take Teddy's name in vain.
In fact, we shouldn’t hear Teddy Bridgewater’s name much at all this weekend. No offense to Teddy, but this weekend really isn’t about him. We still have soooooo much time to debate his merits and his future—let’s not turn every draft pick into a debate about our injured quarterback. Again, keep your focus on who the Vikings choose. And in that same vein, I present my final commandment:
10. There is only one true team. Thou shalt not have any other team before them.
Remember folks, we’re all in this together as Vikings fans. No matter who they draft, even if they didn’t get a single one of “your guys,” you should wholeheartedly root for each and every draft pick to succeed. There's no point in hoping he fails just so you can say "I told you so" down the road. You being right and being validated in your grumpiness doesn’t help the Vikings win games.
In the end, we’re all just cheering for laundry anyway. Let’s hope some great players get some new purple laundry this weekend.
Stay tuned for much more coverage throughout the NFL Draft. I’ll be covering all three days of the draft live from Vikings headquarters at Winter Park. We should also have a lot of content posted over at our Facebook page. If you haven’t liked our page yet, now would be a great time!