If you're looking for draft grades of the 2017 NFL Draft, less than 24 hours after it has finished...then you're looking in the wrong place! As has become an annual tradition, I'll be offering draft grades for the draft that happened FOUR YEARS AGO, or in other words, the 2013 draft. Why am I looking back four years ago you ask? Well, 4 years just happens to be a significant number when considering NFL careers. During the 2010 lockout the NFLPA calculated the average length of an NFL career to be about 3 years, while the NFL pushed a number closer to 6 years. A couple of years ago, a blogger over at Sharp Football Analysis calculated that it was probably closer to 5 years, at least since 2002. That means that if an average NFL career is somewhere between 3 and 6 years (and probably closer to 5 depending on how you calculate a "career year") it means we need to wait at least 3 years before we pass judgement on a draft prospect’s career, but probably longer. So, I prefer to wait 4 years until I issue my grades for a draft. That means you can expect to find my grades for the 2017 NFL Draft in...(doing some math…carry the one)…2021! In the meantime, now is the perfect time to pass judgement on the 2013 draft.
Let's flashback in time to put the 2013 off-season in context before we get to the grades. In the lead-up to the 2012 season the state of Minnesota had just approved funding for a shiny new stadium (which we got to experience for the first-time last season), and optimism was high going into Leslie Frazier’s second full season as head coach. We fully entered the Christian Ponder era as he took over as the starting quarterback. The Vikings ultimately finished the year 10-6 just barely making the playoffs thanks to a career year from Adrian Peterson in which he nearly broke the NFL rushing record as he amassed 2,097 rushing yards on the season. The Vikings lost their playoff game that year when Ponder became injured and Joe Webb was not up to the task of leading the offense during a road playoff game in Lambeau on short notice. The season may not have gone as well as hoped, but it was a fun year regardless.
There were a few roster moves the team made during the season and immediately following that impacted the draft. First is that they traded for cornerback AJ Jefferson during the season. They gave the Cardinals their 6th round pick, and got AJ Jefferson and the Cardinals 7th round pick. There was also some speculation that Chris Kluwe’s days with the team were numbered. He had been butting heads with the coaches and owners over his social advocacy, and after a bad game mid-season, the team brought in some punters to compete with him in October. He had knee surgery that off-season, but it seemed likely the team might either draft a punter or sign one immediately following the draft to compete with Kluwe. They did sign punter T.J. Conley to a reserves-futures contract immediately following the regular season signaling that they were unhappy with Kluwe.
The Vikings made several big off-season roster moves prior to the draft. The biggest and most shocking offseason move came on the eve of free agency when the Vikings sent Percy Harvin packing in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks. The Vikings secured a 1st and 7th round draft pick from Seattle in return for Harvin. The Vikings also cut Michael Jenkins and Antoine Winfield and restructured John Carlson’s contract. They let the following in-house free agents go: Jasper Brinkley, Devin Aromashodu, Marvin Mitchell and Geoff Schwartz. They re-signed the following in-house free agents: Joe Berger, Jerome Felton, Erin Henderson, Jerome Simpson, Jamarca Sanford, Marcus Sherels, Andrew Sendejo and Phil Loadholt, among others. But they were also active in bringing in outside players. While they missed out on the Mike Wallace sweepstakes, they landed Greg Jennings and Matt Cassel.
When draft day finally arrived the Vikings roster looked something about like this:
QB: Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, McLeod Bethel-Thompson
RB: Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Matt Asiata, Jerome Felton,
WR: Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright, Stephen Burton, Joe Webb
TE: Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson, Rhett Ellison, Chase Ford
OL: Matt Kalil, Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan, Brandon Fusco, Phil Loadholt, Joe Berger, DeMarcus Love
DE: Jared Allen, Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, D’Aundre Reed, George Johnson
DT: Kevin Williams, Fred Evans, Letroy Guion, Christian Ballard
LB: Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson, Audie Cole, Larry Dean
CB: Chris Cook, AJ Jefferson, Josh Robinson, Marcus Sherels, Brandon Burton
S: Harrison Smith, Jamarca Sanford, Robert Blanton, Andrew Sendejo, Mistral Raymond
P: Chris Kluwe
PK: Blair Walsh
LS: Cullen Loeffler
Looking back at the roster heading into the 2013 draft is a pretty depressing endeavor. The Vikings traded away their best wide receiver, but landed Greg Jennings in free agency. While the starting offensive lineman looked pretty good, aside from Joe Berger, there was almost no depth at all behind them. If we’re looking to point fingers at how and why the offensive line collapse of 2016 happened, look no further than the roster in 2013. That lack of depth should have been alarming. Christian Ponder was still an unproven commodity at this point, but the signing of Matt Cassel provided a bit of veteran insurance. The defense still had some elite pieces like Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Chad Greenway, but that trio was nearing the end of their collective careers and their replacements would need to be found soon. Christian Ballard looked to be the future after Kevin Williams, but there was a gaping hole at nose tackle. Similarly, the linebacker group was in complete disarray. We were also unsettled at safety next to Harrison Smith as the team was actively rotating the likes of Blanton, Sanford and Sendejo hoping one of them would stick. After the team cut Antoine Winfield, they were seriously hurting at cornerback. The defense in particular, needed a major overhaul. There were plenty of needs the Vikings had to address in the draft: wide receiver, safety, defensive tackle, cornerback, linebacker and offensive line depth.
Back in the 2012 draft, the Vikings had traded a 7th round pick to the Titans for a future 6th round pick, which they added to their total for the 2013 draft. As mentioned above, they had swapped picks with the Cardinals in the AJ Jefferson trade and along with the Seattle picks from the Harvin trade, the Vikings had 10 total draft picks. So, what happened in the 2013 draft? Let’s check it out!
Round 1, Pick 23: DT Shariff Floyd, Florida
I loved this pick at the time. This was the second draft that I had started doing the Consensus Rankings and Floyd was the consensus best defensive tackle in the draft class with a Top 5 average rank overall. He fell in the draft due to “short arms”, which has proven to be totally unfounded. He has flashed enormous talent on the field, but unfortunately has dealt with serious injury issues the past few years. In 23 career starts he has accumulated 9.5 sacks, 4 passes defended, 1 forced fumble and 57 tackles. He is currently facing complications due to knee surgery this offseason that may ultimately end his career.
If not for the injuries this pick would be an A. But it’s hard to justify giving an A grade for a player that has only started 23 out of a possible 64 games since being drafted. In the games he has played, he’s shown talent and high upside, but if he can’t return from his knee surgery this season, the pick will end up being an unfortunate disappointment.
Round 1, Pick 25: CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
The Vikings used the draft pick gained in the Percy Harvin trade to grab one of the best cornerbacks in the draft. Rhodes was regarded as the #2 corner in the draft behind Dee Millner, but after four productive seasons for the Vikings, he is in the conversation of being one of the league’s best “shut-down” corners. After playing a part-time role his rookie season, he became a full-time starter in 2014 and has only missed 2 starts since then. In 52 total starts he has 207 tackles, 50 passes defended, 7 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles. He has become a playmaker and the Vikings picked up his 5th year option prior to the start of the 2016 season. Barring a complete collapse in the 2017 season, it seems likely he’ll land a big contract.
The Vikings landed arguably the best cornerback in the draft. Rhodes has been very good, and we haven’t seen a Vikings cornerback this good since Antoine Winfield.
TRADE ALERT: Round 1, Pick #29: WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
After making two picks in the 1st round, many Vikings fans tuned out of the final few picks of the draft and missed this live, but Spielman was not done yet. “Slick Rick” gave the Patriots four picks for the rights to the 29th pick (2nd, 3rd, 4th and 7th). It was a huge amount of picks for a player that was regarded by many as the #1 wide receiver in the draft. My cumulative rankings that year had him as the #1 wide receiver ahead of Keenan Allen, DeAndre Hopkins and Tavon Austin. He was an athletic freak with prototypical size, speed and measurables, but was also very raw with limited experience and was viewed as something of a project.
I may end up taking some flack here for this grade, but this is a pick that didn’t really pan out. The fact is that after four seasons, Patterson was not able to develop into a full-time receiver. While he became arguably the best kick returner in the NFL, and also made the Pro Bowl as a kick returner, the Vikings didn’t draft him to be “just a kick returner.” When you consider the careers of other receivers in this class like DeAndre Hopkins and Keenan Allen, it makes this pick look even worse, especially given the draft capital that Speilman had to give up to get him. The Vikings ultimately did not give Patterson his 5th year option and let him walk in free agency this offseason after four disappointing seasons, a tacit acknowledgement that the draft pick didn’t work out. After four seasons, Patterson started only 22 games catching only 132 passes for 1,316 yards and 7 touchdowns. He also added 31 carries for 331 yards and 4 touchdowns on the ground. The Vikings were never able to develop him into a reliable, NFL receiver. I was tempted to give him a grade of F, but he did provide the team some value as a Pro Bowl caliber kick returner so I upped it to a D to account for that. But this trade and pick simply can’t receive a passing grade.
Round 4, Pick 23 (120): OLB Gerald Hodges, Penn State
Hodges was viewed as a fast, cover linebacker and it was hoped that he could eventually develop into a starter. The Vikings linebacker group was not the strongest unit with Greenway getting older and Erin Henderson and Audie Cole being inconsistent and inexperienced in the middle. The Vikings needed a starting outside linebacker and the hope was that Hodges could become that player. To this point in the draft, the Vikings addressed the four biggest needs of the team with their first four selections.
Hodges was merely a backup his rookie year, but he stepped in to start 7 games during both the 2014 and 2015 seasons. The Vikings ultimately traded Gerald Hodges to the 49ers midway through the 2015 season, getting a 6th round pick and center Nick Easton in return. This makes it tough to issue a grade, but due to the fact that he never became a starter and was ultimately traded, this pick simply can’t be an ‘A’. That said, they got some value out of him as he started a total of 17 games for the Vikings racking up 64 tackles, 8 passes defended, and an interception. He also netted the team some good value in a 6th round pick and a backup center in trade, so the pick has to be viewed as ultimately good, hence a ‘B’. He has since become a key contributor for the 49ers having started 16 games since being traded.
Round 5, Pick 22 (155): P Jeff Locke, UCLA
This pick was widely criticized at the time, as punters are almost never drafted, and certainly not as high as the 5th round. He was a left-footed punter that had the potential to confuse punt returners with backwards spin. He also had the reputation for having a huge leg. But still, it was a “stinkin punter.”
If a team is going to spend a 5th round pick on a punter, they better end up being one of the best punters in the history of the NFL. That is the expectation that Jeff Locke has to live with due to his draft position, unfortunately. Not only did Locke not live up to that expectation, he struggled from day one and never put up dominant numbers as a punter with the Vikings. When he reached the end of his contract this past off-season, it was not renewed. The Vikings have already signed two free agent punters to compete for the job vacated by Jeff Locke. While he did provide some value as a starter for four years, I cannot bring myself to grade this pick as anything other than an F.
TRADE ALERT Round 6, Pick 28 (196): OG Jeff Baca, UCLA
The Vikings traded down in the 6th round with the Buccaneers to acquire an extra 7th round pick. With the pick they had gotten from the Titans in the 2012 draft, the Vikings slid down 5 spots and netted an extra pick in the process. Baca was something of a project as a guard, but he had the size and athleticism to potentially develop into a starter, or so it was thought. Expectations for a 6th round pick are not necessarily that high, but it’s hoped that a 6th round pick can make the team and maybe even stick with the team for a few years in a backup and/or special teams role.
After spending a year with the team as a backup and seeing only a handful of snaps, he failed to make the team in 2014. He landed on the Chargers practice squad the following year and made their active roster late in the 2014 season, but was waived after that season. He has been out of the league since then. He almost met the expectations of his draft position, but the fact that he only lasted a year and is no longer in the NFL has to be viewed as something of a disappointment.
Round 7, Pick 7 (213): ILB Michael Mauti, Penn State
This was the pick acquired from Arizona in the AJ Jefferson trade, and they used it to draft Hodge’s Penn State teammate Michael Mauti. He was a highly regarded prospect that had 1st round talent, but fell to the 7th round due to injury concerns with multiple ACL tears. It was thought that if he could return from those gruesome injuries, the Vikings might have gotten themselves a major steal.
Mauti never really amounted to much for the Vikings. But he made the team and carved out a role on special teams. After 2 seasons with the Vikings and 0 starts, the team released him following the 2014 season. He caught on with the New Orleans Saints and has carved out a similar role as a special teams player. After undergoing several surgeries this past off-season, he remains a free agent. But the Saints have expressed interest in re-signing him for the 2017 season. As a 7th round pick, expectations are low, but he found more of a role on the team than Jeff Baca above, and hence he earns a slightly better grade. But he has been merely a backup, special teams player, so this can’t go any higher than an average ‘C’ grade.
Round 7, Pick 8 (214): OG Travis Bond, North Carolina
The other part of the Harvin deal included this selection in the 7th round, and the Vikings used it on offensive lineman Travis Bond. Bond was not a highly regarded prospect at the time, but he did have monster size for the position.
Unfortunately, Travis Bond did not make the team coming out of training camp. While he is “only a 7th round pick”, and did find a place on the practice squad, this ended up being a waste of draft pick. This pick can be nothing other than an F.
Round 7, 23 (229): DT Everett Dawkins, Florida State
With the extra pick from the Buccaneers in that trade down in the previous round, they used that extra pick here on defensive lineman Everett Dawkins. Dawkins was an athletic defensive tackle that was viewed as a raw, developmental prospect. It was possible he could provide some additional depth at a position of need.
Unfortunately, Dawkins never made the final 53-man roster for the Vikings, or any other team. He landed on the Vikings practice squad following the 2013 training camp, and then bounced around to a few other team’s practice squads in 2014 (Cowboys, Buccaneers and Giants), but never found a place on an NFL roster. Like Travis Bond above, this pick has to be viewed as a failure on the part of the Vikings.
Overall Draft Grade: C-
I view this as the quintessential “league average” type of draft. For every pick the Vikings hit, they missed on another one. For example, Spielman hit on 4 of 9 draft picks: Xavier Rhodes, Shariff Floyd, Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti. But he also whiffed on 5 of 9 picks: Cordarrelle Patterson, Jeff Locke, Jeff Baca, Travis Bond and Everett Dawkins. I think we gave up too much for Patterson, and when you look at the players that the Vikings could have drafted instead of Patterson it makes the trade look even worse. Players like Travis Kelce, Eddie Lacy, Larry Warford, Tyrann Mathieu, Keenan Allen and Jordan Reed could have been had in the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the draft. Imagine the Vikings with Travis Kelce or Jordan Reed and Larry Warford instead of Cordarrelle Patterson. Sure this is something of a “hindsight is 20/20” analysis, but the fact is that the Vikings gave up a lot of draft capital to move up for Patterson and sacrificed the opportunity to draft four other players that might have made an impact. The Vikings were desperate for an impact wide receiver and Spielman went all-in on Patterson. But it didn’t work out.
So, how was this draft viewed back in 2013 immediately after it happened by the “draft experts”? This is always my favorite part of these annual draft grades, so let’s see what they had to say.
This is all about the three-man first round for Minnesota. DT Sharrif Floyd, CB Xavier Rhodes and WR Cordarrelle Patterson should all play huge roles for the next several years. Does it really matter, then, that the rest of this draft (save for maybe OLB Gerald Hodges) was pretty ho-hum? The Vikings went for broke in Round 1, and came out looking golden. Grade: A-
Minnesota Vikings: The thing about their three first-rounders taken in the 20s — Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes and Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson — is that they all were considered top-dozen picks at some point. Floyd fits as a run stopper in their 4-3 to a tee, and likewise, Rhodes' size and zone coverage ability works just as well on the back end for Leslie Frazier. After having no scary outside threats last season, the Vikings go to a Patterson-Greg Jennings combination. They've come out aggressive to boost their playoff status. Grade: A-
The Vikings got a gift when Sharrif Floyd fell to them at No. 23. We heard going into Thursday that he might tumble a little, but that was a pretty big drop. My guess is they'll rotate him in with Kevin Williams, who will be 33 when the season starts. The top two needs on my board for the Vikings were wide receiver and cornerback, and that's where they went with the next two picks. Xavier Rhodes at No. 25 made sense, because several teams after that could have targeted corner. The Vikings then gave up a tremendous amount to move into Round 1 again at No. 29 overall, where they got Cordarrelle Patterson. He needs work in terms of learning how to play the position, but Patterson is a player who can create explosive plays once he gets the ball, which is what they lost when they dealt Percy Harvin. Thing is, Patterson needs to work out because they sent New England a few picks to get him. But the strategy makes sense: They saw a chance to add a starter and took it. Jeff Locke was the best punter available, so I don't mind the use of a fifth-round pick to get him. Gerald Hodges, who they took at No. 120 overall, could push to start at middle linebacker. Hey, they got starters, but they needed to add impact in this draft considering they dealt Harvin and had a few pretty big needs. I also thought they should've found a way to get their hands on Manti Te'o in this draft. Grade: A- for need, B- for value
The Vikings pulled off an unlikely triple play by landing three elite prospects in the first round -- the result of GM Rick Spielman's ability to cleverly manipulate the draft board. Sharrif Floyd is a disruptive interior defender capable of manning the point at the 1- and 3-technique positions. He collapses the pocket with force, displaying enough athleticism to get to the quarterback up the gut. Xavier Rhodes is a big, physical corner with the size and athleticism to be effective in a press or Cover 2 scheme. Rhodes' size will encourage the Vikings to line him up against the big-bodied receivers (such as Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall) dominating the NFC North. Cordarrelle Patterson is an explosive vertical threat with the speed and burst to blow past defenders on the turf. With Adrian Peterson in the backfield and veteran Greg Jennings functioning as the No. 1 receiver, Patterson should feast on single coverage on the outside. If Patterson can master the go-route, post and comeback, he could wind up leading the NFL in yards per catch as a rookie. Grade: A+
Having traded away wide receiver Percy Harvin and losing cornerback Antoine Winfield via free agency (both to Seattle), the Vikings needed to make a splash in the draft to settle an angry fan base. That's precisely what they did, using their first two picks in the first round (No. 25 overall acquired in the Harvin trade) and then aggressively moving back up in the round to nab a dynamic playmaker to fill his role. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was an absolute steal at No. 23 overall who fell, it seems, simply because he possesses shorter-than-ideal arms. This didn't stop him from terrorizing the SEC, and it won't stop him from proving a standout early in his career with the Vikings. Xavier Rhodes, selected two picks later, has the length and athleticism to help cover the terrific receivers in this division, including Cordarrelle Patterson, whom the Vikings took with their third pick of the first round. Much bigger but just as athletic as Harvin, expect Patterson to serve in a similar multi-purpose capacity as the former Vikings standout. Due to their trade up for the SEC's all-purpose yardage leader, the Vikings didn't have a pick in the second or third rounds but used their selections on Day Three to great success, nabbing two underrated linebackers out of Penn State in Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti as well as versatile UCLA offensive lineman Jeff Baca. Don't be surprised if all three wind up competing for starting jobs early in their careers. I expect as many as six of the Vikings' 2013 selections to ultimately play significant roles for this club, which makes Minnesota one of the big winners this year. Grade: A
Keep in mind GM Rick Spielman dumped game-changing slot receiver and return specialist Percy Harvin for the 25th and 214th picks, in addition to a 2014 third-rounder. That deal must be factored into Minnesota's grade. Spielman acknowledged the big loss and responded by targeting big-play ability from his hat trick of first-rounders. Floyd is a penetrating three-technique tackle ideally suited for Leslie Frazier's 4-3 scheme. The Vikings paired Rhodes (6-foot-2, 210) with Chris Cook (6-foot-2, 212) to form one of the NFL's biggest, longest corner duos as they attempt to slow Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Brandon Marshall, and Alshon Jeffery in the NFC North. The Patterson pick at the very least offsets Harvin's special teams value because Cordarrelle offers similar game-breaking return skills and arguably just as much receiving upside. Patterson is a freak. I liked athletic mover Baca as a late-round value. Grade: B-
Floyd, viewed in some quarters as the best defensive player in the draft, dropped to them at No. 23, quite a heist for a team with an aging D-line. CB Xavier Rhodes (No. 25) has his flaws but is built to battle big WRs such as Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall. However as enviable as it appears on the surface to have three first rounders, did the Vikings really do the right thing by turning over a second-, third-, fourth- and seventh-round pick to get WR Cordarrelle Patterson, who comes with quite a few question marks (along with great physical tools), at No. 29? Time will tell. Grade: C+
Except for Nate Davis, most of these “experts” loved the Vikings 2013 draft at the time. Most were enamored with three 1st round picks, and most were willing to overlook the massive number of picks we gave up for Patterson. Only Davis rightly questioned the move at the time, noting the risk in taking an inexperienced and raw prospect. Based on the limited information all these experts had at the time, this draft looked great when it happened. But nobody really knows what is going to happen with any draft pick until they actually get onto the field and play. What do you think? Did the Vikings make the right call in trading up for Patterson? Did Spielman find good value in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft?
How would you grade the Vikings 2013 Draft?
This poll is closed
A - An Excellent Draft!
B - A Good Draft!
C - A Typical Draft.
D - A Disappointing Draft.
F - A Downright Terrible Draft.