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Belated Thoughts On The Vikings’ 2017 Draft

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After taking a few days to let this digest, I have some more draft thoughts.

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Ohio State vs Clemson Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Now that we’ve had a few days to digest the results of the 2017 NFL Draft, I wanted to take another look back at what the Minnesota Vikings accomplished over the course of this past weekend. Overall, I think the Vikings did pretty well for themselves, but let’s break things down a little further.

The Bradford Factor

Subtitle: “Yep, gonna keep defending the Bradford trade.”

With the 14th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings (essentially) selected Sam Bradford, quarterback, Oklahoma. As far as actual draft picks are concerned, there were ten quarterbacks selected in this year’s draft. . .eleven if you count Bradford in the context of being Minnesota’s first-round selection.

Of the ten college quarterbacks that were selected in the 2017 NFL Draft process, exactly zero of them are currently penciled in as their team’s starter. Mitchell (don’t call me Mitch) Trubisky is currently not slated to start in Chicago, Patrick Mahomes is currently not slated to start in Kansas City, and DeShaun Watson is currently not slated to start in Houston. The Vikings used their first round pick on the only quarterback in this year’s draft that is guaranteed to be their starter on Opening Day of the 2017 NFL season. . .barring injury, obviously. Yes, it cost the Vikings the 14th overall pick, but it saved the team from a potentially worse situation.

I’ve spent months asking what the people that are displeased with the Bradford deal would be doing at quarterback for the Vikings in 2017 in Bradford’s absence, and nobody’s been able to offer anything beyond the football equivalent of “we’re just gonna throw a bunch of crap at the wall and see what sticks.” Minus last year’s deal for Bradford, the Vikings would have had a quarterback 1-2 “punch” of Shaun Hill and Joel Stave (because, remember, Taylor Heinicke was still recovering from losing a fight to an apartment door). Yes, Hill won his lone start for the Vikings last year. . .a start that saw the Vikings attempt six field goals, go 0-for-3 in the red zone, and score two touchdowns directly off of turnovers. And that was with the roster at full strength. With the injury bug hitting the Vikings the way it did, particularly on the offensive line, a full season of Hill/Stave at quarterback sure sounds like a recipe for a 3-13 record.

“BUT WE WOULDA HAD A FIRST ROUND PICK!” Yeah, and this team would still need a quarterback. The Vikings having a top-5 pick wouldn’t have automatically made this year’s quarterback class any good, nor would it have made any of those quarterbacks ready to start in 2017. Sure, maybe this team could start Case Keenum for an entire season. . .again, definitely not ideal. Or maybe they could go out and pay big money to someone like Jay Cutler or Ryan Fitzpatrick to come in here and provide significantly worse quarterback play than what Sam Bradford offers. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. . .where do I sign up for that?

To say nothing of the trades that were made by the three teams that moved up in Round 1 to select quarterbacks. Chicago absolutely clowned themselves. Big red nose, big floppy red shoes, multi-colored wig clowned. After that, Kansas City and Houston both gave up future first-round picks to move up and get their quarterbacks, much like Minnesota did when they dealt for Bradford. The main difference being that, at this point, we have no idea whether the quarterbacks that Kansas City and Houston selected after trading up can actually play in this league or not. It also sounds like we’re not going to find out if they can or not in 2017.

Honestly, the people that are still angry about the Bradford trade at this point are really whining just to whine. Given that the Vikings are the only team that used a 2017 draft pick. . .in any round. . .on a player that is, unquestionably, their starting quarterback for the 2017 NFL season, the trade automatically enhances the value for the rest of their draft class. People that are doing “grades” at this point should probably take that into consideration.

I Have To Say (Day 2) Was A Good Day

So, after a relatively boring Thursday night of draft weekend, the Vikings finally got into the action on Friday. In both of Friday’s rounds, they made trades to move up to get players that they wanted, and both of them were pretty killer selections.

In the second round, the Vikings moved up to select Florida State running back Dalvin Cook, swapping with the Cincinnati Bengals to move up seven spots. Speaking of seven, that’s exactly where Mocking the Draft’s Dan Kadar had Cook ranked on his draft Big Board. Not the seventh-best player available on Day 2, the seventh-best player in the entire 2017 NFL Draft. For the Vikings to get him in the second round was pretty damn impressive. Yes, we knew that the Vikings needed offensive line help in this year’s draft, but they also needed a serious injection of playmaking ability on the offensive side of the ball, and Cook gives them that in spades. Yes, he’ll start out as a part of the rotation with Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon, but he’s going to be the main guy in the backfield sooner rather than later.

As far as the third round. . .well, when you declare a player to be your “draft crush” and then your favorite football team actually manages to get that player, it’s a pretty easy move to like. The selection of Pat Elflein is going to play a huge role in the reconstruction of the Vikings’ offensive line, and it’s a move that’s going to pay off immediately. I fully expect that Elflein will be a starter on Day 1, whether it’s at guard or center. He only started at center for one season in college after starting out at guard. . .and all he did in that one season was go out and win the trophy that recognizes the best center in college football. Pat Elflein is going to be a very good offensive lineman in this league for a long time, and it’s great that he’ll be doing it in purple.

Day Three Thoughts

Day 3 got off to a nice start with the selection of Iowa offensive defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson. Given the uncertainty at the defensive tackle position for the Vikings, Johnson is likely going to have a chance to contribute immediately. Of course, this means that the Vikings now have three offensive defensive tackles with the last name of Johnson, which should be fun to keep track of.

(Yeah, I’m not sure why I had everyone as offensive tackles earlier, outside of a pretty solid case of the derp.)

The selection of Michigan linebacker Ben Gedeon was one that I was a little thrown off by. Yes, the Vikings needed some help at the linebacker spot, but Gedeon seems to be in kind of the same mold as Kentrell Brothers. Both of those players will certainly be in the linebacker mix in camp, and they’ll both likely contribute on special teams this season as well.

The one third day selection that I’m irrationally excited about is Virginia Tech tight end Bucky Hodges, who the Vikings managed to snag in the sixth round. I mean, the guy’s physical stats sound like something straight out of Madden “create-a-player” land: 6’7”, 260 pounds, a 4.57-second 40-yard dash, and a 39” vertical leap? That’s crazy talk. Now, I’m not sure if he can block anybody, and I’m not sure how much he was asked to actually block in college. . .it sounds like he spent a lot of time off the line of scrimmage and wasn’t asked to do it much. But, at the very least, you’d think that he could be a red zone presence pretty early on for a team that had difficulty getting the ball into the end zone once they got inside the 20 last season.

I know that at least a few people weren’t thrilled about the Vikings amassing four picks in the seventh round, but once you get to the final round of the draft, it’s a pretty fine line between the guys that are getting selected there and the guys that wind up in undrafted free agency. The Vikings obviously had players in that group that they wanted to prioritize, and selecting them in the seventh round meant that they didn’t have to fight the rest of the NFL for them. I know that probably doesn’t sound like great logic, but you have to figure that the Vikings are going to “hit” on at least one of those seventh-round selections, and ensuring they got that opportunity rather than potentially losing a contributing player to another team makes it worth the risk, as far as I’m concerned.

Just a few random, belated thoughts on the Minnesota Vikings and the 2017 NFL Draft for your consumption.