Power Ranking the Vikings Draft Picks During Rick Spielman's Career in Minnesota

Bob GarmanAnalyst IApril 30, 2013

Power Ranking the Vikings Draft Picks During Rick Spielman's Career in Minnesota

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    The Minnesota Vikings make a remarkable turnaround in 2012. The team went from a 3-13 finish in 2011 to a 10-6 mark and a berth in the NFC playoffs.

    An outstanding draft class last year was one of the main catalysts in the Vikings' success. Minnesota drafted 10 players, nine of whom are still with the club. Of last season's rookies, six started at least one game for the team and two (Matt Kalil and Blair Walsh) performed well enough to be named to the Pro Bowl.

    The Vikings weren't content to rest on their laurels this season. General manager Rick Spielman came into the draft with two first-round picks, and turned four later picks into a third first-round selection.

    According to Bucky Brooks, an analyst with NFL.com and the NFL Network, Spielman and his staff may have done even better in 2013 than they did in 2012.

    Credit general manager Rick Spielman for putting together one of the most impressive first-round hauls in NFL draft history. The Vikings hit it out of the park by adding Sharrif Floyd and Xavier Rhodes to a defense that is on the verge of becoming elite.

    While it's too early to know for sure if the Vikings hit the mother lode again in 2013, most of the signs are positive.

    Since Spielman was named general manager of the team in 2012, he's put together two very promising draft.

    The following slideshow power ranks every Vikings draft pick during Spielman's two years in charge. Each pick will be judged on value, fit for the team and future outlook.

    Click on as we power rank every draft pick during Rick Spielman's career as GM in Minnesota.

    (Pro Stats are courtesy of Pro-Football Reference.com. College stats courtesy of Vikings.com.)

19. Trevor Guyton: DL

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    Acquired: 2012 - 7th Round - 219th overall (Cal)

     

    Value:

    Guyton was a solid value for the Vikings. Though he only had one season as a starter for Cal, he was able to play both the defensive tackle and defensive end spots. Guyton had solid, not spectacular, production at Cal and was considered somewhat of a steal in the seventh round.

     

    Fit:

    Obviously, Guyton wasn't a perfect fit for the Vikings, as he's the only member of the 2012 draft class that isn't still with the team. A bit undersized to play tackle in the NFL at just 285 pounds, Guyton became a victim of the numbers game. He was forced to play defensive end, a position where the Vikings are relatively deep. Guyton was among the last players cut in August 2012.

     

    Outlook:

    While Guyton is currently out of the league, there's a chance that he could hook on with a team that is in need of a situational substitute on the defensive line.  

18. Greg Childs: WR

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    Acquired: 2012 - 4th Round - 134th overall (Arkansas)

     

    Value:

    Had Childs been healthy throughout his college career, he never would have lasted until the fourth round. The Arkansas star had a strong junior season derailed by a torn patellar tendon in his right knee in 2010. Then, the unlucky young man tore the patellar tendons in both knees during a training camp practice in early August. If Childs can get healthy and if the knee injuries don't limit his mobility, he could still be a productive player for the Vikings.

     

    Fit:

    Childs would be a good fit at the flanker position currently manned by Jerome Simpson. He Has the ability to get downfield and go up for high passes. It remains to be seen if repeated knee injuries will rob Childs of his speed and fluidity.

     

    Outlook:

    Childs continues to say that he'll be back sooner rather than later. It took roughly 18 months for him to recover from a torn patella tendon as a college player, so it's hard to say that he will make a speedier recovery from injuries to both knees in the pros. When and if he does return to the active roster, Childs will be given every opportunity to stick with the team.

17. Everett Dawkins: DT

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    Acquired: 2013 - 7th Round - 229th overall (Florida State)

     

    Value: Dawkins was a solid value in the seventh round. He had a relatively productive career at Florida State, garnering second team All-ACC honors after his senior season. Dawkins only recorded six sacks in his FSU career, but was stout against the run.

     

    Fit:

    He's a solid fit for the Vikings' scheme. The problem for Dawkins is that he's best suited to play the 3-technique tackle spot currently manned by Kevin Williams.  First-round pick Sharrif Floyd is presumed to be the heir apparent to the spot when Williams retires.

     

    Outlook:

    If Dawkins can learn to play the other tackle spot, he could provide legitimate competition for Letroy Guion and Fred Evans. He'll need to learn to play more under control than he did in college, and could have a tough time making the roster if he doesn't bulk up some from his current weight of 292 pounds.

16. Travis Bond: G

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    Acquired: 2013 - 7th Round - 214th overall (North Carolina)

     

    Value:

    As a seventh-round pick, Bond is a good value. His tremendous size alone (6'6", 329lbs) makes him worth a look as a guard.

     

    Fit:

    Bond is a good fit for the Vikings' scheme. He's best at run-blocking, which is Minnesota's forte. Can struggle a bit with quick, agile pass-rushers, and is sometimes slow to move his feet while pass-blocking. That might cause him some trouble while he adjusts to the speed of the pro game.

     

    Outlook:

    Bond could make the roster based on potential alone. He has excellent size, and comes from a UNC program that seems to churn out NFL offensive linemen. If he continues to develop, he could find himself in tandem with the mammoth Phil Loadholt on the right side of the Vikings' offensive line.

15. Gerald Hodges: LB

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    Acquired: 2013 - 4th Round - 120th overall (Penn State)

     

    Value: A two-time second team All-Big Ten selection, Hodges was a good value in the fourth round. His production alone made him a worthwhile selection. Hodges totaled over 200 tackles over the course of his junior and senior seasons in Happy Valley.

     

    Fit:

    A converted safety, Hodges is a very good fit for the Vikings' Cover 2 scheme, which requires linebackers to be good in pass coverage. Hodges can run with tight ends and backs coming out of the backfield, and should make the team based on that attribute alone. Needs to work on shedding blocks in the run game and becoming a more dangerous blitzer.

     

    Outlook:

    Hodges has a chance to be an immediate contributor in Minnesota. He could even start at the weakside linebacker position if Erin Henderson is moved into the middle. Will need to bulk up some and work on his ability to take on and shed blockers in the running game.

14. Audie Cole: LB

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    Acquired: 2012 - 7th Round - 210th overall (NC State)

     

    Value:

    Cole was a good value pick in the seventh round in 2012. He led North Carolina State in tackles in each of his last three years with the team. He totaled 32.5 tackles for loss and 15 sacks with the Wolfpack. His 328 overall tackles were 12th in NC State history.

    Fit:

    Cole is a solid fit for the Vikings' Cover 2 scheme. He has shown coverage ability (as evidenced by his performance in a preseason game last season, when he returned two interceptions for touchdowns in a span of less than 30 seconds), but hasn't been able to crack the lineup other than a few appearances on special teams.

     

    Outlook:

    Cole will continue to contribute on special teams, and will get every chance to prove himself as a middle linebacker in this year's training camp. Cole is a smart player, and should do well making defensive calls for Minnesota. Needs to be more physical at the point of attack, and make sure not to get out of position when manning the middle-third of the field.

13. Jeff Baca: G

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    Acquired: 2013 - 6th Round - 196th overall (UCLA)

     

    Value:

    A second team All-Pac 12 selection as a senior, Baca was a good value in the sixth round. He started 45 games for UCLA, 20 at tackle and 25 at guard. Due to his average height (6'3") and weight (302), he will be a guard in the NFL. Would have been a second or third round selection if he hadn't missed the 2010 season due to academic difficulties.

     

    Fit:

    Baca blocks very well in both the running and passing games. Very tough and focused on the field, Baca will make a good addition to the offensive line. Needs to work on his upper-body strength in order to handle the biggest, strongest NFL defensive tackles.

     

    Outlook:

    Baca could be the biggest surprise of this draft class for the Vikings. He has a similar attitude to Brandon Fusco, the current starter at right guard, but has a stronger skill set than Fusco did coming out of college. Baca's learning curve will determine how much he plays. He has had academic troubles in the past, and might struggle with the intricacies of the NFL game. If he improves his upper body strength, he could be a force in the middle. 

12. Michael Mauti: LB

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    Acquired: 2013 - 7th Round - 213th overall (Penn State)

     

    Value:

    If Mauti can recover from an ACL injury to his left knee, he could end up being the steal of the draft for the Vikings. The former Nittany Lion is a cerebral player, and would have likely been a second-round pick if not for his injury history.

     

    Fit:

    If he's able to regain the form he displayed prior to his injury, Mauti could be an ideal fit for the middle linebacker spot in Minnesota. He is a heady player, and a team leader. Mauti was the voice of the Penn State football program in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Those leadership attributes bode well for his NFL future.

     

    Outlook:

    It's all about health with Mauti. He's had two ACL injuries, and various other infirmities that kept him off the field for a big part of his time at Penn State. When healthy, Mauti is an ideal middle linebacker for the Cover 2 scheme preferred by the Vikings. He's very instinctive and plays well against both the run and the pass.

11. Robert Blanton: DB

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    Acquired: 2012 - 5th Round - 139th overall (Notre Dame)

     

    Value:

    Blanton was a good value pick for the Vikings in the fifth round last year. A highly-regarded cornerback at Notre Dame, Blanton was switched to safety by Minnesota, and could one day form a starting tandem with fellow Fighting Irish alum Harrison Smith. Due to the position change, Blanton contributed mainly on special teams in 2012.

    Fit:

    Blanton is a better fit at safety than at corner for the Vikings, and is still making the transition to his new position. Though he lacks elite size, he's a solid hitter, and isn't afraid to take on blocks in the running game. He would likely be an average cover corner in the NFL, but his coverage skills are good enough to make him a very good safety.

    Outlook:

    If Blanton can conquer the demands of a new position, he could challenge Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond for the starting job next to Smith. Blanton is a solid tackler and is good in coverage. He's not the fastest defensive back on the team, but has enough functional speed to get the job done. Versatility is also a strong suit. Blanton could also challenge Josh Robinson and A.J. Jefferson for the slot corner position.

10. Jeff Locke: P

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    Acquired: 2013 - 5th Round - 155th overall (UCLA)

     

    Value:

    This is a tough area to judge. Most experts agree that Locke was one of the two best punters available in this year's draft class, but drafting a punter in the fifth round is usually a bit of a reach. That said, NFL.com's Gil Brandt stated that Locke is every bit as good as Jacksonville's Bryan Anger. The Jags took Anger in the third round last year, and averaged 47.8 yards per kick. All things considered, Locke is a strong prospect, but still probably a bit of a reach.

     

    Fit:

    Punters don't really have to do much to fit into a team's system. Locke is a good directional punter, something the Vikings value, and has plenty of leg. He's also a good holder for placekicks. If he executes as well as he did at UCLA, he should fit in fine in Minnesota.

     

    Outlook:

    Many people assume that Locke was drafted so that the Vikings could jettison veteran punter Chris Kluwe. Kluwe's gross average dropped somewhat last year, but that is at least partially because he was asked to make shorter, higher kicks to aid the punt coverage team. Something must have worked, as the Vikings didn't allow a punt return touchdown last season.

    It's a good bet that Locke, if he kicks well at the upcoming rookie camp, will force Kluwe out the door. If nothing else, he will make considerably less money than the veteran Kluwe. It's tough to think that the Vikings would have spent a fifth round choice on a punter just to cut him later.

9. Rhett Ellison: TE

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    Acquired: 2012 - 4th Round - 128th overall (USC)

     

    Value:

    Ellison was a bit of a reach pick in the fourth round. Most draft experts predicted that he would go in the fifth or sixth round. He was a solid contributor on special teams and started six games at tight end for the Vikings in 2012.

     

    Fit:

    Ellison is a good fit as a secondary tight end. He's a willing blocker and can catch the occasional outlet pass. In his rookie season, he caught seven passes for 65 yards. He was used primarily as a blocker, and was effective in the role.

     

    Outlook:

    Ellison will continue to contribute on special teams, and will develop into an even better blocker in the running game. Most likely, he will never develop into the type of pass-catching threat that Kyle Rudolph presents, but he can carve out a nice career as a run-blocking tight end in the mold of former Viking Jim Kleinsasser.

8. Cordarrelle Patterson: WR

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    Acquired: 2013 - 1st Round - 29th overall (Tennessee)

     

    Value:

    Most experts predicted that Patterson would go anywhere between the middle of the first round and the beginning of the second, so he represents a good value for the Vikings. Patterson's value lies more in potential than production, as he only played one year of major college football.

     

    Fit:

    Don't expect Patterson to put up Randy Moss-like numbers in his first season with Minnesota. Though probably as athletic as Moss, Patterson is nowhere near as polished a prospect. His contributions will be limited in his rookie year. Look for the Vikings to try to manufacture touches for Patterson around the line of scrimmage, as he is a very good runner after the catch. He should also contribute in the return game. Over time, Patterson has the potential to become one of the most feared deep threats in the NFL.

     

    Outlook:

    Patterson is extremely talented, but very raw at this stage in his development. Vikings fans should resist the urge to compare him to Moss (No. 84 notwithstanding), as Patterson isn't nearly as NFL-ready as Moss was when he came into the league. If Patterson continues to develop, he could turn into one of the best receivers in the league. If he doesn't, he should at least become a solid No. 2 receiver, and a dangerous weapon in the return game.

7. Jarius Wright: WR

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    Acquired: 2012 - 4th Round - 118th overall (Arkansas)

     

    Value:

    Some experts thought that Wright was a bit of a reach in the fourth round, but his contributions in 2012 justified the pick for the Vikings. Subbing for an injured Percy Harvin, Wright appeared in seven games (one start) and caught 22 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns.

     

    Fit:

    Wright is a good fit for the Vikings' scheme as a slot receiver. While he's not as explosive as Harvin was, he does have the ability to stretch the defense. His 65-yard reception against Green Bay in Week 17 was the longest pass completion of the season for the Vikings.

     

    Outlook:

    There's no reason to think that Wright won't continue to develop in Minnesota. The Vikings signed former Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings in the offseason to bolster their passing game and to tutor the younger receivers on the roster. Wright should benefit from the attention paid to Jennings by opposing defenses and by the leadership provided by the veteran receiver. While he'll probably never make the Pro Bowl, Wright should develop into an above-average slot receiver in the NFL.

6. Sharrif Floyd: DT

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    Acquired: 2013 - 1st Round - 23rd overall (Florida)

     

    Value:

    Most mock drafts had Floyd pegged as a top-10 pick. The Vikings were thrilled to grab him at No. 23. Floyd didn't have great college stats, but was a disruptive force along the defensive line for a ferocious Gator defensive unit. He earned third team All-America honors as a senior.

     

    Fit:

    Floyd is the heir apparent to Vikings standout Kevin Williams at defensive tackle. He has the speed and burst to be disruptive in the passing game, though he will probably never be a double-digit sack guy. His primary contribution will come in the run game, where his athleticism and quickness should make him a force to contend with.

     

    Outlook:

    Floyd should see some playing time spelling Williams in the middle, and at the other tackle spot on passing downs. He could even see some time at defensive end in passing situations. The 2012 season will likely be a learning exercise for Floyd, who will have the opportunity to learn from the veteran Williams before taking over the middle of the defensive line in 2014. If Floyd plays up to his tremendous potential, he should be a standout player for the next decade.

5. Josh Robinson: CB

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    Acquired: 2012 - 3rd Round - 66th overall (Central Florida)

     

    Value:

    Robinson was the fastest cornerback at the 2012 NFL Combine. His coverage skills and ability to play against outside receivers made him a good value in the third round. Robinson played in all 16 games for Minnesota last year, starting six. He managed 56 tackles and two interceptions.

     

    Fit:

    Robinson is a solid outside corner, though not quite as tall or heavy as the Vikings prefer. He will likely have to move inside to make room for new draftee Xavier Rhodes in 2013. Robinson wasn't as effective in the slot position as he was outside in 2012, sometimes struggling to bump receivers at the line of scrimmage and knock them off of their routes.

     

    Outlook:

    Whether Robinson starts, plays in the slot on nickel downs, or becomes the dime corner for the Vikings remains to be seen. Rhodes is a more physical press corner than Robinson, and isn't really suited for slot duty. That could force Robinson inside, where he hasn't been as effective. Robinson should be a solid contributor at any corner spot as long as he continues to develop.

4. Xavier Rhodes: CB

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    Acquired: 2013 - 1st Round - 25th overall (Florida State)

     

    Value:

    Rhodes was a great value pick for the Vikings at No. 25. Most draft experts had him slotted to go somewhere between picks 10 and 15. A three-year starter at Florida State, Rhodes brings an uncommon level of experience to the next level. He should start immediately for Minnesota.

     

    Fit:

    This is a bit iffy. Rhodes sometimes struggles in zone coverage, a staple of the Vikings' Cover 2 scheme. He is particularly vulnerable in the edges of the zone, often experiencing difficulty in picking up receivers entering his area from a different zone. Rhodes' strength is man-to-man press coverage. Expect Minnesota to make some changes to its defensive scheme to take advantage of Rhodes' coverage ability. He has the size to match up with some of the big receivers in the NFC North.

     

    Outlook:

    Rhodes should start from Day 1 with the Vikings. While he's not the most gifted zone corner in this year's draft class, he excels at one-on-one coverage. Minnesota defensive coordinator Alvin Williams will have to alter his defensive schemes somewhat to take advantage of Rhodes' strengths. For a bigger corner, Rhodes is not a particularly great tackler in the running game. This is something he'll have to work on in the NFL.

3. Matt Kalil: T

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    Acquired: 2012 - 1st Round - 4th overall (USC)

     

    Value:

    While it's hard to live up to the lofty expectations of being the fourth-overall selection in the draft, Kalil did just that in 2012. He helped pave the way for Adrian Peterson to rush for 2,097yards. Kalil struggled somewhat early in the year on pass protection, but improved significantly in this area over the course of the season. Kalil was effective enough to earn a Pro Bowl selection as a rookie.

     

    Fit:

    Kalil is a perfect fit for the Vikings' offense. An accomplished technician, he's an outstanding blocker in the running game, and better than average in the passing game. He plays with something of a nasty attitude, but doesn't take dumb penalties. Kalil started all 16 games at left tackle, and also contributed on special teams, blocking a field goal attempt.

     

    Outlook:

    Assuming he continues to progress as a pass blocker, Kalil should be one of the best left tackles for years to come. He's just what you'd expect from a high No. 1 pick. Kalil started every game and performed at an all-star level. He's also becoming a leader on the offensive line. Kalil was the perfect pick.

2. Harrison Smith: S

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    Acquired: 2012 - 1st Round - 29th overall (Notre Dame)

     

    Value:

    The Vikings traded back up into the first round to get a shot at Smith, who was a standout safety at Notre Dame. Even with the trade compensation, Smith was an excellent value. Smith helped shore up a porous Minnesota secondary, starting all 16 games and contributing 104 tackles, a sack and three interceptions (two of which he returned for touchdowns).

     

    Fit:

    Smith is a great fit for the Vikings. His aggressive attitude makes him a fearsome defender in the middle of the field, and he's a sure tackler. Smith is a smart player, as well. He's rarely out of position and shows a nose for the ball. If Smith stays healthy, he should continue to perform at a high level for years to come.

     

    Outlook:

    Barring injury, Smith will start at safety for the Vikings for many years. He should make numerous Pro Bowls as his reputation continues to grow and will eventually become a leader on the Minnesota defense. Smith showed a tendency to hit opponents late at times last year and will have to learn to make smarter plays without losing any of his aggressive tendencies.

1. Blair Walsh: K

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    Acquired: 2012 - 6th Round - 175th overall (Georgia)

     

    Value:

    While most teams wouldn't reach for a kicker in the sixth round, particularly one who struggled as much in his last college season as Walsh did, the Vikings got tremendous value with this pick. Walsh had one of the best seasons in NFL history, hitting more than 92 percent of his field-goal attempts and scoring 141 points. Walsh also set an NFL record by going 10-for-10 on field goals of more than 50 yards. Walsh was a first team All-Pro selection in 2012.

     

    Fit:

    There is no better fit for a team than a kicker who can kick long field goals, hit over 90 percent of his attempts and sent kickoffs through the back of the end zone for touchbacks. Walsh's 53 touchbacks were a Vikings record and put him near the top of the NFL leaderboard as well.

     

    Outlook:

    Barring any sudden setbacks, Walsh should be one of the NFL's top kickers for the foreseeable future. Many fans were outraged when the Vikings cut long-time kicker Ryan Longwell before the 2012 season started, handing the job to Walsh. None of them are angry now. Simply put, Walsh was one of the main reasons that Minnesota went 10-6 and made the NFC playoffs last year.

Conclusions

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    Rick Spielman is on a hot streak. In his first season as Minnesota's General Manager in 2012, he formulated a draft that brought six starters and two Pro Bowlers to the Vikings. Only one player from that initial class failed to make the team, and almost all of the others made some contribution to Minnesota's success in 2012.

    Time will tell if Spielman's 2013 class lives up to the high standard set by his 2012 selections. No one can say that he played it safe, as the Vikings' GM traded a bevy of picks to acquire a third first-round selection. While the trade cost Minnesota most of the middle of its draft, it could prove a savvy move if Cordarrelle Patterson lives up to his potential.

    The 2013 class could provide Minnesota with five or even six starters as early as 2013. If everything pans out the way the Vikings hope it will, Spielman will solidify his reputation as one of the shrewdest draft gurus in the NFL.

    Disagree with the rankings? Have some ideas on how the new class will fit in? Feel like Spielman is overrated? Speak your mind in the comments section below.

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