The 2017 NFL Draft is officially in the books, so let’s evaluate how the Vikings did, assessing the value of the picks, the trades, and how well they fill the needs on the Vikings roster.
To add some objectivity, I’ll use the Pro Football Focus (PFF), CBS, and Drafttek Big Boards of player rankings, to help in determining the value of the pick, and the trade value chart Jimmy Johnson came up with years ago and is still used as a guide for determining relative worth of draft picks, to evaluate the value of each trade.
Beyond that, I’ll add a some subjective grade based on how well the pick fills a need, either by filling a hole, or level of upgrade over existing player(s) on the roster.
Obviously the Vikings didn’t have a first-round pick in this year’s draft, having traded it to Philadelphia for Sam Bradford. But, while unconventional, let’s evaluate this “pick” and trade as follows as a relevant comparison:
Value of Pick: A. Bradford had the 6th highest QB rating in the league last year for the Vikings, and will be a proven veteran starter this year. By contrast, none of the QBs selected in this year’s draft are expected to start this year, let alone have a top QB rating, and are unproven. Obviously if Bradford were put in this draft, he’d be far-and-away the highest ranked QB, which the Vikings “drafted” with their 14th overall pick, plus next year’s 4th round pick. All the other QBs drafted in the first-round were much more expensive in terms of draft capital, and were unproven, while Bradford actually has a known NFL QB rating.
Value of Trade: A. Giving up #14 overall and a 4th round pick, and Bradford’s $12.5m avg. annual salary- much higher compared to a first-round rookie contract, but lower than average for non-rookie contract starting veteran QBs, is still a great value for acquiring a veteran QB compared to drafting a developmental QB not ready to start this year in this draft.
Fills a Need Value: A. Bradford was a significant talent upgrade over Shaun Hill.
I realize this first evaluation is unconventional as Bradford is a veteran and not a draft prospect, but in some ways it is more valid too as we know what we got from Bradford last year, and can be about as certain as possible he’ll be better than any QB drafted this year by far. Having played for the Vikings last year and achieved the 6th highest QB rating also gives him much more tangible value than any QB that has yet to start a game in the NFL.
Okay, now that we’re on to the actual draft, we can evaluate more conventionally.
DALVIN COOK, RB, FLORIDA STATE
The Vikings traded up in the second round to draft Cook, who was generally seen as one of the top tier RBs in the draft, and expected to be drafted in the first round.
Value of Pick: A. Cook was rated the 9th highest player overall by PFF, and was both their highest rated RB and highest rated offensive player in this year’s draft. Drafttek had him ranked #20 overall, and CBS #19. The Vikings drafted him with the 41st pick overall, an excellent value at this spot in the draft.
Value of Trade: A. Spielman traded up from #48 to #41 to draft Cook, which according to the draft chart should cost 70 points. Spielman gave pick #128, worth 44 points, a 26 point discount, which is the equivalent of a mid-5th round pick.
Fills a Need Value: A. While the Vikings acquired Latavius Murray in free agency, and also have Jerick McKinnon at RB, neither have Cook’s overall talent or big-play ability.
PAT ELFLEIN, C/G, OHIO STATE
The Vikings once again traded up to draft Elflein, whom many regarded as the best Center in the draft.
Value of Pick: B. PFF had Elflein ranked #118 overall, while Drafttek had him #68, and CBS #60. The Vikings drafted him #70 overall, a bit of a discount to the latter two, but a premium to PFF, which was more of an outlier.
Value of Trade: A. The Vikings moved up from #79 to #70 overall to draft Elflein, worth 45 points, and giving up pick #160 for the privilege, worth 27 points- an 18 point discount, equivalent to a bottom 5th round pick.
Fills a Need Value: A. As Elflein is set to play Center, this allows Joe Berger to move to Right Guard an upgrade that position significantly, while Elflein provides a significant upgrade over Nick Easton, next on the Center depth chart after Berger.
JALEEL JOHNSON, NT/DT, IOWA
The Vikings traded back with their 3rd round pick into the 4th round, and selected Johnson, generally thought of as a solid DT in college, more of a run stopper than a pass rusher.
Value of Pick: B. PFF had Johnson ranked #112 overall, while Drafttek had him #96, and CBS had him ranked #84. The Vikings drafted him #109 overall.
Value of Trades: D. The Vikings moved back first from #86 to #104, a 74 point move, for which they received picks #132 and #245 from Kansas City- worth 41 points. They then traded back again from #104 to #109 with this pick, and both from Round 3 to Round 4 and Day 2 to Day 3. There is some value to being near the top of the Day as those picks garner more trade action, but the move is worth 10 points on the chart, but the Vikings only received pick #219 from San Francisco, worth 3.4 points, 6.6 less- the equivalent of a late 6th round pick. Overall, the Vikings received 39.6 points less than the trade value chart for these trades- equivalent to a late 4th-round pick.
Fills a Need Value: A. I look at Johnson as an upgrade over Shamar Stephen, who currently has been a backup/rotational NT/DT for the Vikings, and is in the last year of his contract, and later could take over for Linval Joseph, who has 2 years left on his contract.
BEN GEDEON, LB, MICHIGAN
Gedeon is generally thought of as a two-down thumper-type linebacker, poor in coverage, but also with special teams value.
Value of Pick: C. Gedeon was ranked #187 by PFF, #152 by CBS, and #179 by Drafttek. The Vikings drafted him #120 overall, a significant premium to all those rankings.
Value of Trade: N/A. There was no trade on this pick.
Fills a Need Value: C. I look at Gedeon as a needed addition for special teams, but not an upgrade over Kentrell Brothers.
RODNEY ADAMS, WR, SOUTH FLORIDA
Value of Pick: C. PFF had outside their top 300, CBS ranked him #246, and Drafttek ranked him #295. The Vikings drafted him #170 overall. I’m not giving this a lower grade because generally, at the back-end of the draft, there isn’t as much difference between #170 and #250, whereas the difference between #15 and #45, or between #75 and #125, is much more substantial.
Value of Trades: B. The Vikings moved back first from #132 to #139- worth 4 points, and got #230 from the Eagles, worth 1 point. They then moved back from #139 to #170- a 13 point move- and received #180, worth 19 points. Overall a 5 point gain- equivalent to a late 6th round pick.
Fills a Need Value: A. The Vikings needed to add depth to the WR corps, having let Cordarrelle Patterson and Charles Johnson go, and has kick-return ability.
DANNY ISIDORA, G, MIAMI
Value of Pick: A. PFF ranked him #116, CBS had him #103, and Drafttek #111 overall. The Vikings drafted him #180 overall.
Value of Trade: N/A. There was no trade of this pick after it was acquired earlier in the draft.
Fills a Need Value: A. Isidora adds depth at guard and possibly tackle, and maybe an upgrade over one or more offensive linemen currently on the roster. Isidora has some potential to eventually earn a starting job too.
BUCKY HODGES, TE, VIRGINIA TECH
Value of Pick: A. PFF ranked Hodges #88 overall, CBS #133, and Drafttek #119. The Vikings drafted him #201.
Value of Trade: A. The Vikings moved down two spots from #199- a 0.8 point move- and in exchange moved up from #230 to #220 in the 7th round- a 2 point move. A gain of 1.2 points, or the equivalent of a 7th round pick. Point-wise this isn’t a big deal, but moving back 2 in exchange for moving up 10, all in essentially 7th round territory was a good move with next-to-no risk.
Fills a Need Value: A. Hodges fills a hole as a backup pass-catching TE, and looks to be an upgrade over the last TE in that role, Mycole Pruitt.
STACY COLEY, WR, MIAMI
Value of Pick: B. PFF ranked him outside their top 300, CBS had him #211, Drafttek #204. The Vikings drafted him #219 overall.
Value of Trade: N/A. This pick was not traded.
Fills a Need Value: B. Another WR added for depth, which was needed, but while the measureables and talent may be there, there is a question about motivation.
IFEADI ODENIGBO, DE, NORTHWESTERN
Value of Pick: C. PFF ranked him #246, CBS #306, and Drafttek did not rank him. The Vikings drafted him #220.
Value of Trade: N/A
Fills a Need Value: C. Adds to depth at DE, but not necessarily an upgrade to existing roster either.
ELIJAH LEE, LB, KANSAS STATE
Value of Pick: A. PFF did not rank Lee, CBS had him #233, and Drafttek had him #132 - a big range. I looked at a couple other draft boards and got in the 150s. The Vikings drafted him #232.
Value of Trade: N/A
Fills a Need Value: A. Lee could be used as a backup LB or a hybrid LB/S player, in addition to filling a need on special teams.
JACK TOCHO, CB/S, NC STATE
Value of Pick: B. PFF ranked him #176, CBS #349, and Drafttek had him unranked. He was a marginal draft pick really, and that’s where he was drafted at #232.
Value of Trade: N/A
Fills a Need Value: C. Vikings are looking at him as a safety, but hard to see him as an upgrade to any currently on the roster.
UNDRAFTED FREE AGENTS
I’m going to include the UDFAs here, as essentially part of the Vikings “draft”, even though they technically were not drafted, as I suspect in some cases the decision to draft a player or not in the 7th round, rather than attempt to sign them as a UFA, may have something to do with how confident the team is in signing them after the draft.
The Vikings and Rick Spielman have made a bigger effort into evaluating/recruiting/signing UFAs this year, spending more money on them Spielman said, perhaps in recognition that they can work out on occasion (Adam Thielen and Marcus Sherels are recent examples), and if they do, they’re next to nothing on the salary cap for a few years.
I’m just going to rate these as added value to the extent they could have been drafted players, as there are no rounds or limitations on picks, except the 90-man roster limit. There are no trades here, so no trade grades. And, while we all hope each UFA is the next John Randle for the Vikings, they’re signed more as wild cards, in hope they prove to be an upgrade over an existing drafted player or veteran. Most won’t be. But, I’ll give a grade on potential to make the roster, which is the immediate goal.
DYLAN BRADLEY, DT, SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI
Value of Pick: B. PFF ranks him #235 overall, CBS #240, Drafttek unranked, nfl.com 6-7th round. Bradley had some draftable rankings, so to get him as a UFA was a ‘good get’ for the Vikings, who had worked him out.
Roster Potential: A. I look at Bradley as a 3-technique, who could end up replacing fellow Southern Miss alumni Tom Johnson, who turns 33 this summer, is in the last year of his contract, no dead cap, and who’s performance declined last year. He’ll also compete with Datone Jones at that spot. Jones is on a one-year prove-it deal.
HORACE RICHARDSON, CB, SOUTHERN METHODIST
Value of Pick: C. None of the Big Boards had draftable grades on Richardson.
Roster Potential: A. Jabari Price is on the last year of his deal, $15k dead cap, hasn’t seen much action. Richardson ran a 4.46” 40, is 5’11”, 200lbs, and had 11 INTs last year.
ERIC WILSON, LB, CINCINNATI
Value of Pick: B. PFF ranked him #283, CBS #248, Drafttek had him unranked, nfl.com 5-6th round.
Roster Potential: B. Wilson is yet another of the hybrid LB/S prospects Zimmer keeps looking at. Similar to Elijah Lee, but also something of a special teams demon.
AVIANTE COLLINS, OL, TEXAS CHRISTIAN
Value of Pick: B. PFF had him unranked, CBS #278, Drafttek #180, nfl.com 5-6th round.
Roster Potential: B. There is every sign the Vikings are moving to more of a zone-blocking scheme, which Collins is suited for. Wouldn’t be much of a surprise if he displaced Beavers or others further down the OL depth chart.
JOSIAH PRICE, TE, MICHIGAN STATE
Value of Pick: C. None of the Big Boards had draftable rankings on him.
Roster Potential: B. Chance to make it as a 4th TE
OVERALL ‘C’ GRADES:
These are more like practice squad candidates and camp bodies without draftable grades and not much chance to make the active roster.
Tashawn Bower, DE, Louisiana State
Caleb Kidder, DE, Montana
Wes Lunt, QB, Illinois
Derrick Griffen, WR, Texas Southern
Jack Nelson, QB, Winona State
Tommy Armstrong, WR/RB/QB, Nebraska
Terrell Newby, RB, Nebraska
Richie Sampson, S, Coastal Carolina
RJ Shelton, WR, Michigan State
Austin Tennessee, DB, Stevenson
Drew Wolitarsky, WR, Minnesota
Overall Draft Grades
Without knowing who is gonna turn out to be a great pick and who isn’t, we can’t assign any definitive grade on this draft, and probably won’t be able to for a few years. But we can make some initial grades based on perceived value, the value of the trades, and how well the draft prospects project to fill known needs in the Vikings roster.
In all the grades, it makes sense to give more weight to the early rounds, and less to the later rounds, as the early round moves are likely to have more impact overall.
OVERALL VALUE OF PICKS
To make this grade, I’m looking first at the actual draft picks, with a bonus for the Sam Bradford trade, considering the added value that resulted vs. doing nothing and drafting a QB with the first-round pick this year, in addition to giving the early round grades a more weight.
Overall 2nd round grade is an A, 3rd round a B+, 4th round a B, 5th round a B+, 6th round an A, 7th round a B, UFAs a B+
Grade: A (A- without Bradford trade)
OVERALL TRADE VALUE
To make this grade, it makes sense to look at the overall point value of the picks given vs. those received. Christopher Gates did that earlier, resulting in a slight gain overall in points of 1.6 points- equivalent of a 7th round pick. Using that alone would give you something like a B grade.
But it also makes some sense to consider the point value gains came first- in the early trades up, whereas the losses came afterward in the trades down in the 4th round.
Had Rick Spielman paid full price to move up early, he would have given up both 4th round picks and the 5th round pick, and got a 6th round pick and maybe a 7th, in return. That would leave the Vikings with only their later 3rd round pick, two 6ths and a 7th or two possibly. That’s not a lot of draft capital to work with, and only 6 or 7 picks overall.
It’s reasonable to assume the Vikings could have still traded down with their later 3rd round pick and drafted Jaleel Johnson as they did, and picked up a 4th round pick and Ben Gedeon, but there would be no 5th round picks, and at least two fewer 7th round picks.
As it was, Spielman was able to trade up for the two key picks that fill the two biggest holes on offense- RB and OL - trading back but still filling a significant DT need, while still accumulating picks to fill lesser depth needs later.
This is manufactured value beyond the point spread, and adds value to the draft haul.
Consider the opposite as well: Chicago traded up, over-paying by at least 100 points depending on where they pick next year, giving up their #67 & #111 pick this year, and next year’s 3rd round pick as well. They traded back with their 2nd round pick, getting a 4th but also losing their 7th rounder, leaving them in the end with a 1st, 2nd, 2 4ths and a 5th - a total of 5 picks and only 2 in the first 3 rounds. The Vikings, starting without a 1st round pick, but and extra 3rd, had 3 picks in the first three rounds, and finished with 11 picks overall to the Bears’ 5.
OVERALL ‘FILLS A NEED’ GRADE
The Vikings were able to address their 3 biggest needs with a quality starting caliber player: RB, OL and DT. They also filled pass catching TE depth pretty well. Lesser needs such as WR, S, OL, DL and LB depth were met with more speculative or development players, but there was not an immediate need to draft starters in these areas.
It would have been nice to get more immediate starter-quality players, but considering the lack of a first-round pick, having at least two players that could start this year is a pretty good result.
An offensive line of Rieff, Boone, Elflein, Berger and Remmers isn’t going to rival the Cowboys or Browns line this year, but it should be a considerable upgrade with the potential to be at least above-average.
Beyond that, adding an explosive play-maker that is also a 3-down RB is a big upgrade at a skill position on offense, which is the side of the ball in most need of improvement. Hodges could add some play-maker ability at TE in Shurmur’s scheme.
On defense, adding depth to the DL was the most important need, and it was addressed well with Jaleel Johnson- and potentially Dylan Bradley as a UFA. The DEs we drafted could be upgrades to depth, but with Griffen, Hunter and Joseph solid fixtures up front, Barr and Kendricks 3 down LBs, Rhodes and Newman and/or Waynes at CB, and Newman/Alexander at the nickel, Smith and Sendejo at safety, the defense is pretty solid all around. Between Datone Jones, Tom Johnson, Jaleel Johnson, Shamar Stephen, Toby Johnson and Dylan Bradley, I’m sure DT will be filled adequately if Floyd is unable to play.
Adding up the respective draft grades:
Overall 2017 Draft Grade: A-
How do you grade the Vikings draft initially?
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