By all accounts, the Vikings’ draft class last year was an immediate success. GM Rick Spielman and his staff show how their plan developed and thrived.
Coach Leslie Frazier and General Manager Rick Spielman flanked the two biggest prizes of the Vikings’ 2012 draft class, offensive tackle Matt Kalil and safety Harrison Smith. The two first-rounders quickly became fixtures in the starting lineup for a team that improved from 3-13 in 2001 to 10-6 and in the playoffs.
The golden rule at Winter Park is nonnegotiable. A draft class cannot be fully evaluated until after three seasons.
So there will be no celebration of the Vikings’ 2012 haul until January 2015. At the earliest.
To rejoice now would be premature, like declaring a Las Vegas trip a success after a hot 30-minute blackjack run.
“What if all those guys we picked last year come back in 2013 and stink it up?” asked General Manager Rick Spielman.
That, of course, is not the expectation. Not with a group whose talent and hunger paid immediate dividends. So even with the three-year rule in place, those within the Vikings organization have no problem expressing unbridled enthusiasm about the momentum built through last year’s draft.
It was a weekend that included 10 picks and four trades, a draft that delivered difference-making starters on offense and defense in Round 1 (Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith); a Pro Bowl steal in Round 6 (Blair Walsh); and plenty of promising complementary parts throughout (see: Josh Robinson, Jarius Wright, Rhett Ellison and Robert Blanton).
Sure, we may only have one season of on-field results to assess. But the internal hunch is that last year’s draft may long be looked at as a landmark turning point.
Said director of college scouting Scott Studwell, entering his 22nd season in the player personnel department: “As long as I’ve been doing this, that class is one of the best if not the best that we’ve had here. A lot of things just clicked.”
So how did it all come together?
And which key elements will the Vikings hope to find again when they charge into another critical draft this weekend?
Here’s our look back …
Day 1: Having a plan, attacking with purpose
In the final days before last year’s draft, two certainties emerged. First, the Vikings were set on making Kalil their top pick. Yet even with that, Spielman also was growing increasingly eager to plunge into one of his favorite activities of the weekend: trade talks.
Convinced Kalil was a can’t-miss future Pro Bowl player, Studwell feared Spielman’s urges to wheel and deal might interfere with the opportunity to land the superb left tackle.
So before leaving Spielman to his fun, Studwell made sure to reassert his stance: Kalil was a must get, no matter what kind of chatter caught the GM’s ear.
“But what if we were to get some crazy, RG3-type compensation offer for that No. 3 pick?” Spielman asked, mostly trying to instigate Studwell.
Studwell didn’t budge.
“Don’t [bleep] this up,” he said. “Seriously. Get Kalil.”
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