Fifty years of drafts. It began in 1961 with the selection of running back Tommy Mason from Tulane. That first year the Vikings also selected quarterback Fran Tarkenton of Georgia in the third round. As the new franchise struggled in the early years, their draft picks were causal to the futility. Only 1964 first round pick DE Carl Eller from Minnesota was considered significant. Then in 1967 the Vikings landed a slew of talent with the three first round selections of RB Clinton Jones, WR Gene Washington, and DT Alan Page. Then came the real change to whom the Vikings would become. In 1968 the Vikings selected OT Ron Yary from USC; and in 1969 chose OG Ed White of California with their first pick in the second round. The Vikings then had the foundation for their four Super Bowl visits.
In the first forty-nine years the Vikings have used their first first-round pick a total of three times to select an offensive lineman. Those three players were Yary, Randall McDaniel (1988), and Bryant McKinnie (2002). Considering that OL make up over 20% of all every down starters on a football team, Minnesota's percentage of 6.1% is paltry. In the year 2010, at this the 50th NFL draft for Minnesota, most are hoping for the gift of an offensive lineman. Of course, with the success of 2009, the Vikings have been relegated to the 30th selection, followed by the 62nd, 93rd, 128th, and two 5th round picks at 161st and 167th. There are more picks, but rare is a 6th or 7th rounder of value.
A look at the last ten years of drafting suggests good picks often, but also great picks lost. A quick review, with Vikings picks bold and missed picks to follow....
2009 WR Percy Harvin 22nd, OT Michael Oher 23rd, DB Vontae Davis 25th.
2008 S Tyrell Johnson 43rd, RB Matt Forte 44th,WR DeSean Jackson 49th.
2007 RB Adrian Peterson 7th, DB Darrell Revis 14th, WR Sidney Rice 44th.
2006 LB Chad Greenway 17th, DB Antonio Cromartie 19th.
2005 WR Troy Williamson 7th, DB Antrel Rolle 8th, DE DeMarcus Ware 11th, Shawne Merriman 12th, OT Jammal Brown 13th, DE Erasmus James 18th, OT Alex Barron 19th, DE Marcus Spears 20th, DB Fabian Washington 23rd, QB Aaron Rodgers 25th, WR Roddy White 27th.
2004 DE Keneche Udeze 20th, RB Steven Jackson 24th, DB Ahmad Carroll 25th.
2003 (the year of the blunder) DT Kevin Williams 9th, QB Byron Leftwich 7th, OT Jordan Gross 8th, LB Terrell Suggs 10th, DB Marcus Trufant 11th, DB Troy Polamalu 16th, RB Willis McGahee 23rd, TE Dallas Clark 24th, RB Larry Johnson 27th.
2002 OT Bryant McKinnie 7th, DB Roy Williams 8th, TE Jeremy Shockey 14th, DT Albert Haynesworth 15th.
2001 RB Michael Bennett 27th, WR Reggie Wayne 30th, QB Drew Brees 32nd, DE Kyle Vanden Bosch 34th.
2000 DT Chris Hovan 24th, LB Keith Bulluck 30th, LB Rob Morris 28th, WR Dennis Northcutt 32nd, DE John Engleberger 35th, OT Chad Clifton 44th, DT Fred Robbins 55th, DE Michael Boireau 56th, DB Deon Grant 57th.LB Marcus Washington 59th, OL Brad Meester 60th.
In my humble opinion, the 2010 Draft needs to address offensive line and defensive back. Throughout our history we have neglected these two position despite the fact that they are nine of the twenty-two regular positions.
Further, the Vikings have a track record that includes some great picks. I hope that we can include 2010 with years like 1961, 1967, 1998, 2003, 2006, 2007, and maybe 2009. Included in those years is Mason, Tarkenton, Washington, Page, Randy Moss, Matt Birk, Williams, EJ Henderson, Nate Burleson, Chad Greenway, Cedric Griffin, Ray Edwards, Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, and Phil Loadholt.
That would be a better present than years like: 2005 Troy Williamson, 2004 Keneche Udeze, 1995 Derrick Alexander, 1994 DeWayne Washington, 1989-1992 when we had no 1st rounders, and many more. The list of missed All-Pros and needed position players is too extensive to review in full.
The draft is only a few days away. The excitement has begun to grow. It has grown enough to bring me away from my passion for the Twins in this early Spring, and re-focused my sport love for football. 2009 was very close indeed. Dominating the Saints and Cowboys showed we are not far away form the prize. A solid draft in 2010 could be the difference.
The Top 10 reasons it will be the Vikings and not the Saints heading to the Super Bowl in 2010.
10. The Saints defense. It was the first game of the season when the Saints won 45 to 27 over the Lions. Only later would I learn just how wrong it is to give up that many points to Detroit. Then, the Dolphins would score 34, mostly in a single half. The Redskins 30, which was about 20 more than average. The Saints are not winning by defense.
9. The 40 omen. This is the 40th NFC Championship. Our new quarterback, Brett Favre, just turned 40. Gives you goose bumps, doesn't it? I remember when George Blanda quarterbacked as a 38 year-old. I thought that was ancient.
8. The 0-39 streak. The Saints, along with the aforementioned Lions, are the only two teams in the NFC that have never won an NFC Championship. This is the Vikings 8th try, while New Orleans is 0-1. Makes you almost content with losing four Super Bowls. Almost.
7. Chris Kluwe. Kluwe is wise. Kluwe learns from mistakes. Last year when the Vikings won in New Orleans on Monday Night Football, Reggie Bush performed a Billy "White Shoes" Johnson show on the Vikings kick coverage. After watching him perform masterfully against the Cowboys, I am expecting Kluwe to avoid Bush.
6. MNF. Last year's game against the Saints had fans partying all day to prepare. As someone who has partied with the people of New Orleans, I can state that it would easily rival Packers fans. They were obnoxious, they were loud. They chanted "Who Dat". And we won. That game was the best preparation for this one possible.
5. Childress and Staff. Not so much for their play calling, but for adding Phil Loadholt, Percy Harvin, and Brett Favre to our offense in 2009. We are far better. And people are always grateful when you pick them up at the airport, should one do that.
4. The Hurricane. No, not the effects of Katrina, I am not going there. It was that drink that I had too many of... people in New Orleans drink a lot! Maybe the reason teams never win it all in Louisiana is that they party too much. This atmosphere is not counducive to winning Championships. Fun, but not dedicated.
3. Superdome experience. The Vikings played and won last year in the Superdome. Brett Favre won his Super Bowl with the Packers there. It is safe to say every Viking player has enjoyed their time in the Superdome. Call it a home away from home.
2. Who Dat Syndrome. At first it was catchy, like the Icky Shuffle. The it was familiar, like the electric glide of LT. Now, it feels more like Rain Man. Without the ability to count numbers.
And the number one reason the Vikings will win on Sunday ....
1. Destiny. Seriously, think about it... Remember when you were watching us lose to the Eagles last year in the Dome? Now fast forward to the team that just beat the Cowboys 34-3. That type of change is not human. The addition of Favre transformed us to the mystical. Nothing can stop us now. There is no point in denying what will be.
Life is brutal. Whenever anyone gets ahead, thinks they have life 'by the tail', fate comes along and slaps you across the face. Kismet. Swwaaappp. Every time, it seems.
Vikings' Land was confident. The Saints were using up every bit of good luck a team can have to survive a loss in Washington D.C., and Minnesota was waiting for the Sunday Night game against the Cardinals. The place where Tarvaris Jackson lit up Arizona last year. Where time and time again, the Cards have struggled in 2009. It was looking too good. But then winter came. The Arizonans closed the domed roof due to chilly temperatures (60s), and lit up Minnesota to the tune of a 30-17 victory. Worse yet, the Vikings had numerous injuries in the game, including losing stellar MLB E.J. Henderson. Rookie Phil Loadholt and fellow tackle Aaron McKinnie were also out with injuries, along with others. The blooming season of 10-1 experienced a change in the weather, to the extreme.
First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter.
Now we stare at a team with a hurting offensive line, the most important part of Brett Favre's health, if not his success. When Hicks, Cooper, and whomever are in, we know our limitations. We are suddenly missing an All-Pro level MLB. Our secondary is suspect. For the first time all season, we feel the defensive line did little. Adrian Peterson held to near nothing in rushing yards. When the athletes on this team do not perform, we realize that our play calling is non-lethal. Favre in December? Childress? Suddenly, it is raining and sleeting doubt. Blizzards of worry loom, ready to pounce on the Twin Cities.
In the garden, growth has it's seasons.
OK, Henderson is gone. Maybe for 2010, too? But many others are still ready. Yes, we are short some linemen, but guys like Sullivan and Herrera are having good seasons. McKinnie, too. Antoine Winfield is coming back soon. Ben Leber and Chad Greenway will both continue to play well, and help whomever replaces E.J. And I guess Childress and Bevell aren't actually the ones making the plays. It will be fine.
Yes! There will be growth in the spring!
Or how about before the playoffs start? Seriously, we face the inevitable falls of injuries and losses that are a part of every season. We realize that as long as our nucleus is solid, we are still the same team. It will be fine. Really.
Just listen to Chance. It's simple.
I confess to have studied football far too much in my childhood. I was the only kid on the block that could tell you the five starting linemen of the 1970s Super Bowl teams of Minnesota: Grady Alderman; Ed White; Mick Tingelhoff; Milt Sunde; Ron Yary; and later Steve Riley.
I understood early the value of the offensive line. When my Vikings were great, we had many linemen that were of the All-Pro variety. Over the years that changed. We drafted White and Yary early in the 1968 and 1969 drafts. The results were three Super Bowls. After drafting Riley out of USC in 1974, the Vikings went 20 years without drafting a quality lineman early. Finally, in 1994 they drafted Todd Steussie of California. Then in 1995, they drafted Korey Stringer from Ohio State. It was in 1998 that the Vikings went 15-1, and should have begun a Super Bowl run like the 1970s.
In 2002 the Vikings selected Bryant McKinnie with the 7th selection overall. He would be the left tackle that would return Minnesota to prominence in the passing offense once again. He came in highly touted, as a Miami Hurricane All-American who did not give up sacks. Period. In my opinion, he played great early in his career, but the last few years he has shown some weaknesses. If you look at film of Favre getting crunched this year, more than half the time it is because McKinnie got beat. Bull rush, around the corner, twisting, looping, it has not mattered. McKinnie was looking easy to beat in most of 2008.
In the 2009 NFL Draft the Vikings knew that their line was in trouble. Matt Birk was gone to Baltimore, and the right side had been severely exposed throughout the season, nowhere more than in the playoff loss to the Eagles. Combine that with the failures of McKinnie, and something had to be done. On the board when the Vikings were to select their player with the 22nd pick was offensive tackle Michael Oher. A big, powerful, good-story tackle from Mississippi. But the Vikes chose Percy Harvin, the wide receiver from Florida. In the next round with the 54th selection, Minnesota addressed tackle issues with the choice of Phil Loadholt, from Oklahoma. Oher would be claimed by the Ravens right after Harvin was chosen, having traded with the Patriots to move up.
This year the Vikings' Percy Harvin has been worth it. He has electrified an offense by presenting as a player with a variety of skills, be it return, running, or receiving. Meanwhile, McKinnie looks a little better, helped by the quick decision-making of Brett Favre. It was the right decision to draft Harvin.
My family and I just went to see "Blind Side", the film using a Michael Lewis story about Michael Oher. The opening scene is highlighting the importance of left tackle in the NFL. It is a must see for anyone who is a football fan, or likes a feel-good story. Michael Oher was available to us with that 22nd pick in the draft. We needed him very badly. Instead, we went skill position and chose Loadholt later. After returning from this move, I question if we made the right move. My history tells me when we pick offensive linemen early, we see good results. This time, we found an incredible athlete in Harvin, but missed maybe a more incredible story of an offensive tackle. And McKinnie? Right Guard? Well... we are waiting.
Two thumbs up?
For many years the Viking pass defense has been the great cause for concern. Despite a spectacular run defense, Minnesota has struggled to shut down teams over the last few years via the air. In the first two rounds of the last six draft the Vikings have not selected some very good DBs. Sometimes the player they choose has been worth it, such as Adrian Peterson. But looking at the Draft's missed defensive backs over the years gives us reason to the "why" we are not an elite defense. The last six years:
2004 Draft results: 20th Pick, Kenechi Udeze, DE. 48th Pick, Dontarrious Thomas, LB.
Missed DBs: 25th Pick, Ahmad Carroll, Green Bay; 28th Pick, Chris Gamble, Carolina; 44th Pick Bob Sanders, Indianapolis; 53rd Pick, Michael Boulware, Baltimore.
2005 Draft results: 7th Pick, Troy Williamson, WR. 18th Pick, Erasmus James, DE. 49th Pick, Marcus Johnson, OT.
Missed DBs: 8th Pick, Antrell Rolle, Arizona; 9th Pick, Carlos Rogers, Washington; 23rd Pick, Fabian Washington, Oakland; 29th Pick, Marlin Jackson, Indianapolis; 50th Pick, Ronald Bartell, St. Louis; 51st Pick, Nick Collins, Green Bay; 56th Pick, Darrent Williams, Denver.
2006 Draft results: 17th Pick, Chad Greenway, LB. 48th Pick, Cedric Griffin, DB 64th Pick, Tarvaris Jackson, QB.
Missed DBs: 19th Pick, Antonio Cromartie, San Diego; 24th Pick, Jonathan Joseph, Cincinnati.
2007 Draft results: 7th Pick, Adrian Peterson, RB. 44th Pick, Sidney Rice, WR.
Missed DBs: 14th Pick, Darrelle Revis, New York Jets; 19th Pick, Michael Griffin, Tennessee; 53rd Pick, Eric Wright, Cleveland.
2008 Draft results: 43rd Tyrell Johnson.
2009 Draft results: 22nd Pick, Percy Harvin, WR. 54th Pick, Phil Loadholt, OT.
Missed DBs: 25th Pick, Vontae Davis. 55th Pick, William Moore. 59th Pick, Sherrod Martin.
I have been upset for years as we have only chosen two DBs in the last six years in the first two rounds. And surprise, the two we have selected (Cedric Griffin and Tyrell Johnson) are both starters.
If the Vikings want to win Super Bowls their defense will have to improve against the pass. No amounts of Williamses is going to change that. If you replaced Troy Williamson in the 2005 Draft with Antrell Rolle, we would be favored to beat the Steelers this week. If you added another to our roster, like Nick Collins, Darrelle Revis, or Antonio Cromartie, then we would be favored every game this year.
The loss (or potential) of Antoine Winfield (a free agent sign), points to out hole in the Vikings Defense. With Karl Paymahs' struggles, and the name of Benny Sapp being offered in hope, fans are now worried about what will occur versus Ben Roethlisberger this Sunday. That is our cause for pessimism.
Hopefully, the Vikings will overcome the injury issues and move to 7-0. If they win this one, they will shut up the leftover critics. That would be nice...
If they lose, the doubters will gain great numbers and momentum. And we will talk more about Drafts and DBs.
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