Minnesota Vikings 2012 NFL Draft Report Card: Grades for Every Pick

Mike NelsonCorrespondent IApril 30, 2012

Minnesota Vikings 2012 NFL Draft Report Card: Grades for Every Pick

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    The Minnesota Vikings were active early, trading back to the fourth pick and then trading back into the first round to acquire the safety they coveted.

    After that, it was a pretty standard draft.

    But it was a draft that had to go well and it did, for the most part.

    Minnesota addressed many of its major needs but failed to do an adequate job later on.

    Here is my take on each selection.

First Round No. 4: Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle, USC (Grade: A)

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    The Minnesota Vikings not only drafted the player they wanted in Matt Kalil, but they acquired the Cleveland Browns' fourth, fifth and seventh-round picks to make it happen.

    Kalil fills a void at the second-most important position on the football field; left tackle. Kalil is expected to come in from day one and protect Christian Ponder's blindside.

    Vikings personnel ranted and raved about Kalil's ability. USC Trojans coach Lane Kiffin told 1500ESPN's Tom Pelissero that the Trojans "never" gave Kalil help regardless of the opposition.

    Kalil is expected to come in from day one and be Minnesota's left tackle, with Charlie Johnson moving to left guard.

    That is a very safe bet and Minnesotans will be pleased with Kalil's selection. He'll be Minnesota's left tackle for the next 10 years and will play the position at a high level.

First Round No. 29: Harrison Smith, Safety, Notre Dame (Grade: A)

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    Minnesota traded the No. 35 overall pick and its fourth-round pick (No. 98) for the Baltimore Ravens' first-round pick to select Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith.

    It was a ballsy move and a move that will pay off long-term.

    Smith was the census No. 2 safety available in this draft and many expected him to be a late-first-round pick, making him unavailable to Minnesota at pick 35.

    With the three picks Minnesota acquired from the Cleveland Browns ,the Vikings had, before this trade,13 draft picks and three fourth-round picks. Giving up the No. 98 pick wasn't a big deal considering what was at stake.

    The Vikings haven't had a playmaker at the safety position since Darren Sharper left Minnesota after the 2008 season.

    Smith is a big (6'2" and 213 pounds) but also can make the big interception if he's in position to make it. He boasts a 34-inch vertical.

Third Round No. 66: Josh Robinson, Cornerback, Cenral Florida (Grade: A)

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    This pick continued the process of Minnesota revamping its secondary.

    Chris Cook and Antoine Winfield are expected to be the starting cornerbacks for the Vikings, but nothing is definitive at the cornerback position.

    Josh Robinson will have the opportunity to come in and be Minnesota's third cornerback from day one. He was the fastest man at the 2012 NFL Combine (4.29 40-yard dash), and plays that fast on the field too.

    Robinson struggles in man-to-man coverage, according to his 2012 NFL Combine scouting report, and is a stronger defender in a zone scheme.

    The former Central Florida defensive back also has the ability to return punts, which will keep Percy Harvin healthy.

    Robinson was arguably the top cornerback available yet at this stage, and there's nothing wrong with his selection.

Fourth Round No. 118: Jarius Wright, Wide Receiver, Arkansas (Grade: C)

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    Yes, the man can return kickoffs, which will keep Percy Harvin off the field for special teams and leave him healthy for offensive drives. But Jarius Wright's specialties match those of Harvin.

    Wright is short (5'9") and is at home in the slot position. He is a fast receiver—4.42-second 40-yard dash—but isn't known for his ability to go deep. He's known for his ability to catch it in the slot and run from defenders.

    Minnesota needs help on the edge. And while this player didn't get selected until the 198th pick, I would have rather seen Minnesota select Tommy Streeter of Miami.

    Streeter is taller (6'5") and faster (4.4-second 40-yard dash) than Wright. But he cannot return punts. He also wasn't as productive in college as Wright but may have the greater upside in the NFL.

Fourth Round No. 128: Rhett Ellison, Tight End/Fullback, USC (Grade: D)

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    This is the pick that leaves me shaking my head. What the heck?

    I had never heard of Rhett Ellison before the pick was made and for good reason. Everything I've read and heard about Ellison suggests he'll be nothing more than a special teams player who could develop into a lead blocker one day for Adrian Peterson.

    That's not what you draft in the fourth round. That's what you pick up in the seventh round.

    Ellison said he didn't expect to even be drafted and was already preparing for a career beyond football.

    Rick Spielman characterized Ellison as a "character guy" who can help fill the voids left by Jim Kleinsasser and Visanthe Shiancoe.

    At this point in the draft Minnesota could have added a talented and versatile offensive lineman like Colorado's Ryan Miller in this spot (Miller was selected 160th overall by the Cleveland Browns).

Fourth Round No. 134: Greg Childs, Wide Receiver, Arkansas (Grade: B+)

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    I like this pick a lot better than the Jarius Wright selection at No. 118.

    Greg Childs is a receiver who likes to play outside. He's at his best running slants from the outside or the fade route. At 6'3" and boasting a 36.5-inch vertical, Childs does not compare to Minnesota's No. 1 receiver Percy Harvin.

    Childs isn't the fastest receiver—4.55-second 40-yard dash—but builds up speed as he goes.

    While at Arkansas Childs showed glimpses of greatness but was slowed after a torn patella tendon in 2010. The injury continued to hamper his productivity in 2011.

    Before the injury in 2010, Childs had 46 receptions for 659 yards and six touchdown receptions in eight games.

    Minnesota hopes that receiver can come to life in the NFL.

Fifth Round No. 139: Robert Blanton, Defensive Back, Notre Dame (Grade: B+)

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    The official grade on this selection won't really come about until the Vikings finalize where they'll play Robert Blanton.

    While at Notre Dame, Blanton primarily played cornerback. But at the next level rumor has it that he's better suited to play safety. If Minnesota was looking for primarily a safety then it should have selected Oklahoma State's Markelle Martin.

    If Blanton plays primarily cornerback, then this was the pick to make.

    The knocks on Blanton are that he's too slow to be an NFL cornerback and that he doesn't cover well one-on-one (i.e., he will not have an island named after him).

    Neither of those should be overly concerning for the Vikings. They primarily play the Tampa-2 cover scheme, which puts pressure on the safeties to not let anyone behind them, which helps the corners.

    And if he's a safety, then he just needs to keep players in front of him, which comes down to intelligently placing himself within the football field.

    Overall, a good selection.

Sixth Round No. 175: Blair Walsh, Kicker, Georgia (Grade: D)

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    When you're a team as bad as the Minnesota Vikings, you don't worry about a position like the kicker.

    Ryan Longwell missed one extra point last season and only missed one field goal that could have affected the outcome of the game (he had a field goal blocked in the season finale against the Chicago Bears in a game that ended 17-13).

    He still gets the job done. And for a team with linebacker, defensive tackle and running back issues that didn't get adequately addressed in this draft this pick could have been better utilized.

    Instead, the Vikings drafted Blair Walsh. Walsh has a strong leg with the ability to drill 60-plus-yard field goals. But he struggles with accuracy at times because he often focuses on power over accuracy.

    Walsh has no problem knocking the ball into the end zone on kickoffs, but that type of talent can be found outside of the NFL draft.

    Best case scenario Walsh solves his accuracy issues and can become a reliable NFL kicker. Worst case scenario, he lasts a few years and fizzles out of the league.

Seventh Round No. 210: Audie Cole, Inside Linebacker, N.C. State (Grade: C)

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    Minnesota had the right intent with this pick, but the execution was poor.

    This was the perfect opportunity to select a middle linebacker, but the Vikings grabbed the wrong one. They should have selected Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict.

    Despite all of his off-the-field concerns, on the field his tape shows a talented playmaker who WalterFootball.com compared to Ray Lewis.

    Burfict had issues with late hits and personal fouls, but it sounds like he's getting that in order. Either way, he was projected as a first-round selection prior to the NFL draft process. It wasn't until the poor workouts and interviews that he dropped.

    At this point in the draft the point should be to find diamonds in the rough. And Burfict has a much higher ceiling than Audie Cole.

    Cole is projected to be a a two-down linebacker who gets taken off the field in third and long situations. His NFL combine profile all but states he cannot play pass defense in the NFL.

    To adapt a quote from the film "Rat Race": The Vikings should have bought a Burfict.

Seventh Round No. 219: Trevor Guyton, Defensive End, California (Grade: B)

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    The seventh round is about finding players who can stick to an NFL roster or who have plenty of upside. Trevor Guyton could be both.

    Guyton started only one year at the University of California, where he was blocked by Tyson Alualu and Cameron Jordan, who were selected in the first round in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

    In his senior season he recorded 46 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 13 games.

    While he played defensive end in college, Guyton should possess the ability to move inside and play defensive tackle. At 6'3" and 285 pounds and having posted a 5.07-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, he may be too slow for a defensive end and just about the right size for a defensive tackle.

    Concerns with Guyton are based in the lack of film available on him and where he'll fit in at the next level, according to his 2012 NFL Combine report.

Overall Grade: B+

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    The Minnesota Vikings did have one of the better drafts of 2012. They made the selections they needed and had to make on days one and two.

    In the later rounds I believe they faltered, missing out on talented players.

    Averaging out the strength of the beginning of the draft with the weaker back half of the draft earns Minnesota a B+.

    The first three rounds went very, very well for Minnesota. It picked up its starting left tackle, a starting safety and a cornerback that will start in the NFL in the near future.

    In the later rounds Minnesota addressed some of its needs but could have done a better job in selecting different players at certain positions.