Vikings fans have a lot to be happy about as the limelight of the 2012 draft winds down. It's safe to say that Minnesota was able to address positions of need, and all players drafted have the potential to be playmakers, starters and contributors. On paper, this was one of those drafts that doesn't look glamorous or glitzy, but will shine like a diamond.
When compared against the other 31 teams in the NFL, the Vikings had one of the ten best drafts of the year. I have my opinions as to which other teams land in the top ten, but the focus here is to look at the Vikings 2012 draft and compare it to other drafts in Vikings history.
After sifting through 51 previous drafts, there were several things I had to consider before penning this article. For instance, I wanted to stay away from drafts where there were too many trades involving the Vikings, which ruled out many of their past drafts.
All in all, I decided to look at two other drafts that particularly stand out in terms of depth and contribution to the team's roster. I tried to pull together a collective class that could field several starters, potential Pro Bowlers, and possibly a Hall of Famer.
So, here are two other drafts that made great contributions to the Vikings organization.
Minnesota’s first draft came in 1961, and it was a good one. Being a new franchise, it had to be. There were 20 rounds and so the team had 20 picks, and a good draft was essential.
First, let me say that in 1961, and for a few years thereafter, both the AFL and NFL had two separate drafts. Minnesota was part of the NFL. If you do some research, you may see a player drafted by the Vikings in the first round, but also drafted by the Raiders in the second round. That player would have the option of choosing where to play. Can you imagine if we still had something like that today? Anyhow, here are the results for 1961.
1...... TOMMY MASON (1st overall), RB, Tulane: 1961-1971: 3 Pro Bowls
2...... RIP HAWKINS (15), LB, North Carolina: 1961-1965: 12 INTs, 3 TDs, 1 Pro Bowl
3...... FRAN TARKENTON (29), QB, Georgia: Do I need to explain?
4...... CHUCK LAMSON (43), DB, Wyoming: 1961-1965, an uneventful career
5...... ED SHAROCKMAN (57), DB, Pittsburgh: 1961-1972, 40 INTs, 6 TDs, 121 starts
6...... GERALD BURCH (71), WR, Georgia: 1961, 18 receptions, 235 yds, 1 TD, traded to Raiders
7...... ALLEN FERRIE (85), WR, Wagner: no information
8...... PAUL LINDQUIST (99), T, New Hampshire: went to Boston Patriots
9...... DAN SHEEHAN (113), T, Tennessee-Chattanooga: no information
10...... DOUG MAYBERRY (127), RB, Utah: 1961-1962, 87 carries, 314 yards
11...... JERRY MAYS (141), T, SMU: went to KC, played until 1970, 5 Pro Bowls
13...... RAYMOND HAYES (169), RB, Central Oklahoma: 1961 roster
14...... KEN PETERSON (183), T, Utah: 1961 roster
15...... MIKE MERCER (197), K, Arizona State: Played for six teams from 1961-1970, Vikings 1961-1962
16...... TED KARPOWICZ (211), RB, Detroit: not on 1961 roster
17...... WILLIE JONES (225), RB, Purdue: not on 1961 roster
18...... BOB VOIGHT (239), T, Los Angeles State: not on 1961 roster
19...... BILL HILL (253), RB, Presbyterian: not on 1961 roster
20...... MIKE McFARLAND (267), QB, Western Illinois: not on 1961 roster
Draft information provided by: pro-football-reference.com.
Yes, there were a lot of players selected, but as an expansion team, Minnesota was also able to grab many well-established players from other teams. For this draft, six players went on to have decent careers in Minnesota, while two others went on to have good careers elsewhere. And, of course, the Vikings drafted one Hall of Famer. So, overall, it was a significant draft that helped build the beginnings of a championship squad.
For the Vikings, the '90s was a decade where several of their drafts were affected by trades. I will not mention the one that took years to overcome. However, it should be mentioned that some trades worked out pretty well.
1993 was the first year since 1988 the Vikings had an actual first-round pick. They made the most of that pick with Robert Smith; but outside of Everett Lindsey and a few decent years from Qadry Ismail, that draft class just didn’t measure up.
In some ways, that 1993 class helped the Vikings finish first in their division the following year with a record of 10-6.
Okay, enough of that. Here is the class of 1994, which helped construct the strong teams of 1998-2000.
1...... (B) TODD STEUSSIE (19), T, California: One of my favorites from the '90s, 1994-2000 (2x Pro Bowl), 2001-2007 for three other teams.
2...... (A) DAVID PALMER (40), WR/RB, Alabama. Choice from Atlanta in Chris Doleman trade: Return specialist who probably could have been a little more productive, but played for the Vikings from 1994-2000 in a solid career.
2...... NO CHOICE. Compensation choice to Atlanta in Chris Doleman trade.
2...... NO CHOICE. To Los Angeles Raiders for second and fourth-round picks in 1994.
2...... (B) FERNANDO SMITH (55), DE, Jackson State: 1994-1997, 2000 (Minnesota), 1998-2000 for three other teams
3...... NO CHOICE. To Pittsburgh in Adrian Cooper trade.
4...... NO CHOICE. To Houston in Warren Moon trade.
4...... MIKE WELLS (125), DT, Iowa. Choice from L.A. Raiders in exchange for draft picks: Did not make roster, but went on to Detroit to play four years and then on to Chicago for three more before ending in Indy in 2001.
5...... SHELLY HAMMONDS (134), CB, Penn State. Choice from Washington in Rich Gannon trade: 1995 only
5...... NO CHOICE. To Kansas City in Barry Word trade.
6...... NO CHOICE. To Pittsburgh in Adrian Cooper trade.
7...... PETE BERCICH (211), LB, Notre Dame: Outstanding special teams player and back up from 1995-2000
Draft information provided by pro-football-reference.com
Not a glamorous draft but an effective one.
The drafts of 1961 and 1994 are proof that championship caliber teams are not built overnight. Yes, there are some things teams can do to try and accelerate the process, but most championship style teams use the draft to find success.
In looking at how the Vikings can make this year’s draft compare to drafts of years past, at least five or six of these players would have to make significant contributions starting in 2013.
Let’s look at how the 2012 draft class stacks up.
Matt Kalil: Has the intangibles to be a Pro Bowl left tackle. By all accounts should be here at least ten years.
Comparison: Ron Yary, a Hall of Famer.
Harrison Smith: Heir apparent to the free safety position. Although Mistral Raymond will give him a run for his money, Smith should eventually be the main staple at FS by season’s end.
Comparison: Darren Sharper. Even though not drafted by the Vikings, Smith’s size, smarts, and intangibles are similar.
Josh Robinson: Robinson is the wild card here. He could certainly work his way into the starting line up by the end of the year; or at the latest, next year.
Comparison: John Turner, drafted in 1978, had very good speed coming out of Miami, and played ten years, nine for the Vikings.
Jarius Wright: Wright’s role this year will most likely be that of return specialist and Harvin’s back up. All Vikings fans are hoping that Harvin stays a Viking for all his playing days, but we cannot avoid the business end of football when Harvin becomes a free agent. I would imagine that Wright would be ideal if the Vikings go to a four receiver set. Wright’s future seems to be all about Harvin. He strikes me as a Robert Meacham type for New Orleans.
Comparison: Qadry Ismail, as a second round selection, Ismail was probably a mild disappointment for the Vikings because he was taken early. Ismail was always a complimentary receiver, whether it was playing beside Anthony Carter and Cris Carter, or Cris Carter and Jake Reed, Wright will most likely have a similar role if he is able to be that type of player for the Vikings.
Rhett Ellison: I am going to surprise you here by saying that Ellison might be a Viking for a long time, or will be on the developmental squad by the end of training camp. Yes, that is a wide margin of analysis, but the justification is this: The Vikings also have Allen Reisner, and Mickey Shuler was on the practice squad last year, so Ellison could certainly challenge for a significant role if he is ready.
Comparison: It’s tough to compare Ellison with previous Vikings, but given size and ability, Andrew Jordan, drafted in 1994, or Jeff Dugan, drafted in 2004.
Greg Childs: Here is another pick the Vikings may look back on fondly, or regret. Childs certainly has the tool set to big a have a big role, but it's unlikely that he'll see a lot of playing time this year.
Childs will be competing with Devin Aromashadu and newly acquired Jerome Simpson. Odds are in favor of the veterans. Childs overall impact as a Viking will most likely will not be realized for a few years.
Comparison: Jake Reed, round three 1991, 6'3", 216 pounds. Childs is 6'3", 219 pounds but is faster than Reed. Reed was a very durable player, so it will be interesting to see if Childs is a player who spends a lot of time in “the tub.”
Continuing on with the draft class of 2012, here are rounds five through seven
Robert Blanton: A cornerback in college who will most likely transition to safety in the NFL. Blanton will come in and compete right away, but whether his impact can be felt this year is still unknown. First, he has to show that he can even play the position.
As much as I like him, Blanton is a longshot to make the roster. He may be able to carve out a role on special teams this year, ensuring a spot on the roster and leaving the door open to compete for a starting job next year.
Comparison: Todd Scott, drafted in 1991, 5'11", 200 pounds. Blanton is 6'0", 208 pounds; so, his size compares well to Scott. Scott played six seasons, four with the Vikings. He was a productive strong safety while here, albeit for a short career.
Blair Walsh: He’s a kicker, what more needs to be said?
Comparison: He’s got a strong leg. Minnesota has had too many great kickers to even compare Walsh with.
Audie Cole: Admittedly, I missed on Ross Homan last year. I thought he'd be able to come in and make some type of contribution to the team last year. The Vikings spent another late round pick on Cole, but my feelings for Cole, who is 6'4", 245 pounds, and runs anywhere from 4.70-4.75, are different than they were for Homan, who was 6'1", 240 pounds and ran a 4.7.
I believe that Cole will make this team, contribute on special teams, and back up Brinkley. Though, I'd like to see him get stronger. In order to compete with big linemen, he will need to build up his upper body strength.
Comparison: Pete Bercich, drafted in round seven in 1994. Bercich enjoyed a very good special teams career. Though he was not very tall, at 6'1", Bercich made the most of his opportunities. The former Notre Dame linebacker played five years for the Vikings.
Trevor Guyton: Guyton will need to work on several aspects of his game if he wants to make the team. I like his upside, and his scouting report suggests he's a young, promising pass rusher.
Jared Allen is one of the best, but he is getting older and it’s time to start thinking about guys who can replace him someday. I'm not saying that Guyton will do that, but the Giants have proved you can never have enough defensive linemen who can get after the QB.
Comparison: Talance Sawyer, 6'2", 270 pounds, drafted in round six of 1999 draft. Sawyer played five seasons with the Vikings and had 11 sacks in a reserve role.
In conclusion, the Vikings have certainly put together a draft that can rival the 1961 and 1994 drafts, but it’s going to take a tremendous amount of effort by the coaches to get the most out of their picks.
If the comparisons hold up, this draft class will prove to be one of the best in Vikings history. Let’s hope it works out that way.
Of course, you may differ with this assessment, so feel free to add your input. Remember though, we are looking at overall depth of draft and the impact that draft class made to the Vikings.