The Minnesota Vikings filled two of the most glaring holes in their starting lineup within a span of three hours Thursday night, selecting USC left tackle Matt Kalil and Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith with a pair of first-round selections.
It was a crazy and entertaining evening for die-hard NFL fans, and it went by quickly despite the eight draft day trades and slower-than-necessary start.
And by slower-than-necessary start I mean: why wasn't Andrew Luck already standing on the stage as Commissioner Roger Goodell opened the draft? Everyone knew Luck and Robert Griffin III were the first two picks, so why waste everyone's time? Why wait for Luck to take a call on his 2004 flip phone and talk to what could only have been every member of the Colts' front office?
Put him next to the commish, let them exchange a bear hug, give him a hat and jersey, snap a few thousand photos and move on. The action-packed first round could have come in under three hours had the parties involved not felt the need to milk the moment. But milking the moment year-round is one of the things the NFL does best. Fans just can't get enough of it and the NFL knows it.
Nevertheless, Vikings' fans had to appreciate every moment of last night's three-hour tour since their team came away with one of the best hauls.
A shrewd pre-draft trade by general manager Rick Spielman sent the Vikings' third overall pick to the Cleveland Browns for their fourth overall pick plus their selections in the fourth (118th pick), fifth (139th pick) and seventh (211th pick) rounds. The result: the Vikes got the left tackle they would have taken at three plus an additional three assets for Day 3 of the proceedings, bringing their total number of picks to 13 in the seven rounds.
Trading back up to grab Smith – a smart, versatile defender that looks like the future quarterback of this secondary -- with the 29th
overall pick sealed the deal on what has the look of the most successful Vikings' first round since Adrian Peterson
fell into their laps in 2007.
Well played, Mr. Spielman.
The Vikings' braintrust is receiving universal praise for their craftiness and quality selections on Thursday, and I suspect Spielman isn't done wheeling and dealing.
Of course grading any team immediately following the draft – much less following one round of the draft – is silly. Yes, the Vikings have to like what happened Thursday and they are in position to fill even more holes in their roster over the course of the next six rounds, but let's wait two or three years before we hand out grades.
All of these first-round picks are destined to be Pro Bowlers in the eyes of those who drafted them and their adoring fans, but if history is any indicator only a third of them will be.
I did some digging for SportsData last week and found that over the past decade, 319 players were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft (the Patriots didn't have a pick in 2008 because of "SpyGate") and only 98 of them (31 percent) have made even one Pro Bowl. Just 55 (17 percent) have made multiple Pro Bowls.
What did the numbers say about players selected at Kalil and Smith's positions? Just eight of the 39 offensive tackles selected in the last 10 first rounds of the NFL Draft have been to a Pro Bowl while nine of the 16 safeties picked in the last 10 first rounds have made the trip to Honolulu.
Notwithstanding the fact that the NFL may soon do the wise thing and eliminate future Pro Bowls, there is no guarantee the Vikings' two "can't-miss" picks will turn out to be Pro-Bowl caliber players.
For now, at least they look like two new starters, and that's good news for Vikings fans because there were a lot of holes that needed filling on this team.