Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.
Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
The Vikings made eight selections in the 2010 NFL Draft following a 12-4 season that ended a win away from a spot in Super Bowl XLIV. Only four of those players selected were on the roster last season and all will be free agents this season.
The team has since gone 24-39-1 with more coaching changes, two, than playoff games, one.
The Vikings didn’t operate with a general manager at the time but general manager Rick Spielman was Vice President of player personnel and handled the draft, but former head coach Brad Childress had final veto power on all personnel moves. Spielman didn't have the final say as he does now.
“Different philosophy back then,” Spielman said. “It was a different structure back then. Some haven’t panned and some have, but I think what we’ve done since then is go back and assess and analyze and I know exactly what went wrong with the ones that didn’t make it and what went right with ‘em. But we’ve used that as we’ve gone forward especially over the last two draft classes. Basically that’s my total responsibility now."
Well, a lot didn’t pan out. When asked about the philosophy in the draft, Spielman repeated, “I’ll just leave it at that it was a different philosophy.”
It’s a big reason why the Vikings have struggled to remain consistent and now have an emphasis to build through the draft. Here’s a look at who they picked and some notable players they missed in each round.
The Vikings traded their 30th overall selection to the Lions for a second (34th) and seventh (214th) pick. They also swapped fourth round selections.
The Lions drafted Cal running back Jahvid Best, who retired due to his concussion history.
Noteworthy players after selection: OT Rodger Saffold to the Rams (33rd overall pick; second round)
With the second pick in the second round acquired from Detroit, the Vikings selected Virginia cornerback Chris Cook. The team needed a cornerback and Cook had the size and athleticism listed at 6-2 and 212 pounds at the time, but he turned out to be a bust.
Cook hits free agency without an interception in four seasons with the Vikings. He missed the final 10 games in 2011 due to an ongoing domestic assault arrest that was he was later found not guilty. He was cleared on gun charges that same year prior to the arrest.
On the field, Cook couldn’t stay healthy. He played 12 games last season, a career-high, but he wasn’t productive. He was ejected in Week 13 against the Bears after making contact with an official after allowing a 46-yard touchdown catch to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who previously had an 80-touchdown against Cook and set the franchise record with 249 receiving yards.
Noteworthy players after selection: S T.J. Ward to the Browns (38th overall); TE Rob Gronkowski to the Patriots (42nd overall); LB Daryl Washington to the Cardinals (47th overall)
The Vikings traded up to the 51st overall pick, swapping second round picks with the Texans and giving their third round pick, to select Stanford running back Toby Gerhart.
He served as Adrian Peterson’s backup and had his most productive season when Peterson tore his ACL in 2011. Gerhart has a career-high 109 carries for 531 yards.
Both Cook and Gerhart are free agents this offseason and it doesn’t appear that either will return. Gerhart wasn’t a bust however and will draw some interest from other teams as a possible starting running back.
Noteworthy players after selection: DE Carlos Dunlap to the Bengals (54th overall); LB Sean Lee to the Cowboys (55th overall);
The Vikings didn’t have a third round pick due to the Gerhart trade.
Noteworthy players after selection: WR Brandon LaFell to the Panthers (78th overall); WR Eric Decker to the Broncos (87th overall); LB NaVorro Bowman to the 49ers (91st overall); TE Jimmy Graham to the Saints (95th overall)
After swapping fourth round selections with the Lions, the Vikings drafted USC defensive end Everson Griffen with the 100th overall selection.
He was considered to be a first round pick but there were questions about his effort and off the field issues. Following his rookie season, Griffen was arrested twice in three days for public intoxications and driving with an invalid driver’s license.
Griffen made just one start in four seasons behind defensive ends Brian Robison and Jared Allen. He’s so versatile that the Vikings used him at all four positions on the defensive line during his tenure.
Griffen and Gerhart were clearly the two best players the Vikings selected in the draft but both were primarily backups over the last four years. Though Griffen has expressed interest to return, the Vikings will have a difficult time bringing him back. There aren’t many good 4-3 defensive ends in the draft and free agency.
Noteworthy players after selection: CB Alterraun Verner to the Titans (104th overall); TE Aaron Hernandez to the Patriots (113th overall); TE Dennis Pitta to the Ravens (114th overall); DT Geno Atkins to the Bengals (120th overall): S Kam Chancellor to the Seahawks (133rd overall; fifth round); WR Riley Cooper to the Eagles (159th overall; fifth round)
With the 161st overall selection, the Vikings drafted Wake Forest offensive tackle Chris DeGeare. He was wavied and signed to the practice squad in 2011 and released right before the start of the 2012 season. He spent that season on the Titans’ practice squad.
DeGeare has signed a reserve/future contract with the Giants in January.
The Vikings also had a compensatory pick and selected Gophers linebacker Nathan Triplett with the 167th overall pick. He was cut in preseason and spent three seasons with four teams after the Vikings. He wasn’t signed with a team last season.
Noteworthy players after selection: DE Greg Hardy to the Panthers (175t5th overall; sixth round); RB James Starks to the Packers (193 overall; sixth round); WR Antonio Brown to the Steelers (195th overall; sixth round); WR Trindon Holliday to the Texans (197th overall; sixth round)
With the 199th overall pick, the Vikings selected UAB quarterback Joe Webb. The team got good value for Webb, who served as a wide receiver, running back, quarterback and special teams.
However, his tenure with the Vikings will be remembered for his performance in the franchise’s last playoff game. He was the starting quarterback in the 2012 NFC Wild Card matchup against the Packers due to a deep tricep bruise quarterback Christian Ponder suffered in the final regular season game against Green Bay.
Webb became the fourth quarterback in the Super Bowl era to start a postseason game after not starting in the regular season. He went 11 of 30 for 180 yards with an interception and a fumble in the 24-10 loss.
Noteworthy players after selection: WR Marc Mariani to the Titans (222nd overall; seventh round); DE George Selvie to the Rams (226th overall; seventh round)
The Vikings selected Penn State tight end Mickey Shuler Jr. with the 214th overall pick and Rutgers linebacker Ryan D’Imperio with the 237th overall selection. Shuler Jr. was cut twice by the Vikings in 2010 and 2012. He spent last season on the Falcons practice squad.
D’Imperio switched from linebacker to fullback was cut in 2012 by the Vikings. He retired before the start of last season after signing with the Giants.
The Vikings released linebacker Erin Henderson on Friday. The move, which will save the team $2.1 million in cap space next season, was inevitable, given Henderson's rocky end to last season.
Henderson, 27, was arrested twice on drunken driving charges in a little more than a month, first on Nov. 19 in Eden Prairie and next on New Year’s Day in Chanhassen. The first arrest caused Henderson to miss the Packers game in Week 12 because of “personal reasons.”
Henderson, who declined comment Friday, said after the first arrest that he needed the time away to self-reflect, sensing a change was needed ... until he made the same mistake again after the season ended.
The 2008 undrafted free agent out of Maryland spent six seasons with the Vikings. He played in 14 games last year and finished second on the team with 134 tackles.
Audie Cole made his first career start against Green Bay, replacing Henderson at middle linebacker, and had 11 tackles. Henderson’s reps decreased, with Cole receiving a larger role on defense until he was placed on injured reserve with a sprained ankle heading into the final game of the season.
Cole will be entering his third season. Second-year players Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges are also expected to play larger roles next season.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is questionable to return due to an ankle injury suffered in the second quarter.
Peterson injured his ankle when he was tackled on a third down catch with 11:27 left in the first half. He was helped off the field and eventually carted into the locker room. Peterson had X-rays according to the broadcast and walked on his own power inside the tunnel.
Peterson had seven carries for 13 yards in the snowy conditions. Toby Gerhart replaced Peterson at running back on the next series.
Update: Peterson has been officially ruled out. The broadcast said Peterson has left the stadium to a nearby hospital for an MRI.
It'll be the Gerhart show in the backfield in the second half.
The Vikings finished their preseason with a 24-23 victory over Tennessee on Thursday night and now comes the hard part.
The team must trim the roster from 75 to 53 by Saturday's 5 p.m. deadline. Leslie Frazier, his coaching staff and general manager Rick Spielman will meet today to begin setting the final roster.
The team could begin informing players today but the Vikings won't announce the moves officially until Saturday afternoon.
These two days are anxious times for players on the bubble.
"It is without question one of the toughest parts," Frazier said of releasing players. "When you sit down and realize that for a lot of the guys that played tonight, they will probably never wear an NFL uniform again and we have to sit down and discuss who those guys might be. When you sit down with them on that Saturday, or Friday, they come by the office and you explain to them their career in Minnesota for sure is going to be over, and there’s a possibility it may be over for good, it can get emotional."
Spielman has final say over roster decisions, but Frazier said personnel matters are a collaborative effort with the coaching staff.
"Rick is going to give his input and I’m going to share my input, but he is going to make that final decision," Frazier said. "One of the things that he’s learned and I’ve learned is that you don’t want to make that decision about a player if the coaches, the head coach in particular, are totally against it. It’s hard if as a coach, you have to get this guy going and so on and then you don’t necessarily believe in it. It’s a tough deal, but we’ve been very fortunate in our relationship where we can discuss every single guy, talk about what needs to be done and what’s best for our football team. Whether it be the draft or whether it be the 75 or the 53, we have always been able to come to an agreement and make it work for our team."
Asked if he has a chip he can use if he wants a certain player, Frazier laughed.
Blair Walsh kicked a 25-yard field goal with 1:41 left to give the Vikings a 24-23 victory over the Tennessee Titans at the Metrodome on Thursday night, helping the Vikings avoid a winless preseason.
Marcus Sherels' 109 yard kickoff return to start the second half was the game's highlight play.
Sherels' return gave the Vikings a 21-17 lead, but the Titans got field goals of 30 and 24 yards from Rob Bironas to take a 23-21 lead.
Walsh missed a 42-yard field goal attempt with 7:36 remaining.
But led by quarterback Bethel McLeod-Thompson, the Vikings drove to set up Walsh's winning kick in the final minutes.
Tennessee got the ball back but a botched snap was recovered by the Vikings' Collins Ukwu with 53 seconds left.
Rusty Smith hit Jack Doyle with a 2-yard touchdown pass with 26 seconds left in the first half to give Tennessee a 17-14 halftime lead.
Bethel-Thompson connected with Joe Banyard for an 11-yard scoring pass two minutes before Doyle's TD to give the Vikings a short-lived 14-10 lead.
The Banyard TD came shortly after Vikings guard Seth Olsen was taken off the field on a stretcher. Olsen appeared to hit his head on the knee of a Titans player while blocking, snapping his head back a bit. Olsen was strapped to a board before being wheeled off on the stretcher, but did give a thumbs up to the crowd. The Vikings said Olsen had a neck injury.
Cornerback Bobby Felder also left the game because of an ankle injury late in the third quarter. Felder is in a battle with Sherels to make the team at both cornerback and punt returner.
The Titans scored in the first half on a 28-yard field goal by Bironas and a 17-yard pass from backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to rookie Justin Hunter. The Vikings' first touchdown came on a 1-yard run by Matt Asiata, who had eight carries for 32 yards in the opening drive.
The Vikings' offensive and defensive starters did not play. They wore their uniforms, but did not bring their helmets or shoulder pads.
The team must cut its roster from 75 to 53 by Saturday at 5 p.m. The regular season opens at Detroit on Sept. 8.
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