The expectations for the Minnesota Vikings' three draft picks is extremely high, perhaps to the point of being unrealistic. After all, the last time the Vikings had a bust of a first-round draft pick was 2005.
That was the year they selected wide receiver Troy Williamson from South Carolina with the seventh overall pick. Since then, the Vikings have been extremely successful picking in the first round.
Williamson's career lasted five years—three in Minnesota and two in Jacksonville. He finished with a total of only 87 catches for 1,131 yards and four touchdowns. And he was supposed to replace Randy Moss, who the Vikings had traded to the Oakland Raiders following the 2004 season.
Since then, the Vikings have had six first-round picks over the past seven drafts (they traded away their picks in 2008 and 2010). All six of those selections have become starters in their first season.
Linebacker Chad Greenway missed his rookie season in 2006, with a knee injury suffered in the first preseason game, but came back the following season. Not only did he start all 16 games in 2007, but he has not missed a game since and has started 95 of 96 games he's played in.
Along with Greenway, Adrian Peterson (2007), Percy Harvin (2009), Christian Ponder (2011), Harrison Smith (2012) and Matt Kalil (2012) have combined for nine Pro Bowl appearances, and Peterson and Harvin earned AP Rookie of the Year awards.
Rick Spielman obviously recognizes the value of players selected early in the draft. After being promoted to general manager in 2012, he has traded his way back into the first round, acquiring an extra pick the past two drafts.
This year, Spielman and the Vikings drafted three players who filled some of the biggest needs for the team. The defense was addressed first with the selections of defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and cornerback Xavier Rhodes with the 23rd and 25th picks in the draft. Then, working his magic, Spielman was able to acquire the 29th pick and selected wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
The three first-round draft choices in 2013 marks only the second time in franchise history that has occurred. In 1967, they drafted running back Clint Jones, wide receiver Gene Washington and defensive tackle Alan Page.
So, what should we expect from this trio of first-rounders?
Defensive Tackle Sharrif Floyd, Round 1, Pick 23
Even though the historic results of past first-round draft picks shouldn't have any bearing on the performance of these three, here's a look at how these positions fared as well as a prediction as to how they will fare for the Vikings this season.
The Vikings have drafted eight defensive tackles in the first round, the most recent being Kevin Williams in 2003. Other notables include Chris Hovan (2000), Keith Millard (1984) and Page (1967).
Without question, the greatest of these was Page, who was named the NFL MVP in 1971. A member of the Purple People Eaters, along with Carl Eller, Jim Marshall and Gary Larsen, Page played 16 seasons in the NFL and never missed a game. A six-time first-team All-Pro, he started 11 of 14 games as a rookie.
In 1985, after playing a season in the USFL, Millard started five games as a rookie for the Vikings. Despite only five starts, he still led the Vikings with 11.0 sacks. A knee injury suffered in 1990 caused him to miss more than an entire season and limited his career to eight seasons.
Kevin Williams has been as durable as Page. Since being drafted in 2003, he has missed only two games—and those were missed while serving a suspension for the Star Caps controversy in 2011.
A five-time first-team All Pro, Williams had 10.5 sacks his rookie season. He started all 16 games that year.
At 6'3", Floyd is not as tall as any of these players, and at 297 pounds, he's only lighter than Williams (311 pounds). He doesn't bring great numbers from Florida, where he recorded only 4.5 sacks in two seasons. Walter Football had him as the top-ranked defensive tackle in the draft and projected him as a top-16 pick.
He will have the benefit of playing on an extremely tough D-line in 2103. He won't end up with a lot of sacks, but he will most definitely help to plug up the middle and improve the Vikings run defense.
Prediction: Although Leslie Frazier's first depth chart will have Floyd in a backup role, he will start all 16 games and finish with 5.5 sacks and 45 to 50 tackles—better numbers than Letroy Guion had in 2012.
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes, Round 1, Pick 25
Surprisingly, when the Vikings selected Rhodes with the 25th pick in the first round, he became only the second cornerback ever taken in the first round in franchise history.
The only other cornerback drafted in the first round was Dewayne Washington in 1994. Washington played 12 seasons in the NFL with the Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Kansas City Chiefs. The 18th overall pick in 1994, he played four seasons with the Vikings before signing with Pittsburgh as a free agent before the 1998 season.
As a rookie, Washington started all 16 games and finished with three interceptions—returning two of them for touchdowns. He also added a fumble recovery for a touchdown. The only other rookie with two interception returns for a touchdown is Harrison Smith, last year from the safety position.
The following table contains the rookie stats for cornerbacks drafted by the Vikings in the first three rounds.
At 6'1" and 210 pounds, Rhodes brings size to the position, taller than every cornerback on the roster except Chris Cook (6'2" and 212 pounds). The Vikings scored another top prospect with the selection of Rhodes. Walter Football ranked him the second-best corner in the draft.
Like Floyd, Rhodes comes to the NFL as a junior. In his three seasons at Florida State, he finished with only two interceptions—both of those coming in his freshman season. That's eight fewer than last year's third-round pick, Josh Robinson, had in his three seasons at Central Florida.
With the departure of Antoine Winfield, there will be a battle to replace him in the lineup. Look for most of that battle to be waged between Robinson and Rhodes—with the loser most likely ending up as the nickel corner.
Prediction: Rhodes' rookie campaign will go a lot like that of Robinson's. He will open the season as a backup and eventually become a starter. He finishes with eight starts with one interception and 50 tackles.
Wide Receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, Round 1, Pick 29
With as many great wide receivers as the Minnesota Vikings have had over the years, only five have been drafted by the team in the first round. On the positive side, two of the last three selected have been named AP Offensive Rookie of the Year—Randy Moss in 1998 and Harvin in 2009. On the negative side, the third was Williamson.
Patterson resembles a little bit of both Moss and Harvin. At 6'3" and 205 pounds, he's got size comparably to Moss (6'4" and 215 pounds), and like Harvin, he brings the flexibility of being an effective runner out of the backfield.
In his only season at the University of Tennessee, Patterson had 46 catches for 778 yards and five touchdowns and 25 rushes for 308 and three touchdowns. He also scored a touchdown on a kickoff return and another on a punt return. In total, he had 1,858 receiving, rushing and return yards last season.
While he will most likely not replicate all that Harvin did for the Vikings, Patterson will provide another target for Ponder. With the addition of wide receiver Greg Jennings and Kyle Rudolph coming into his own as a pass-catching tight end, Patterson is in a good position to have a great season.
Prediction: Patterson will climb up the depth chart and open the season as the Vikings' No. 2 receiver. He will finish with 40 receptions for 600 yards and seven touchdowns.
By the end of the season, the Minnesota Vikings will have found another three starters in the draft.
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