Anyone who has purchased a mutual fund has probably come across the warning, “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.”
The phrase – which cautions buyers against picking a fund simply because a successful recent track record – has been playing over in my mind as we approach this week’s NFL draft, for two reasons:
One, Rick Spielman’s crew nailed the 2012 draft. Two, the Vikings have a history of success when picking in the 20-29 range of the NFL draft. I'll elaborate more on that second point.
Over the last 20 years, the Vikings have made 10 selections in the 20’s. Prior to 1993, we need to travel way back to 1978 to find another pick in the 20-29 range so this article will focus in on the more recent past of 1993-2012. Before I further discuss the overall success of those picks, I need to add some context.
Judging the “success” of past NFL draft picks is a subjective process, as the observer must apply his or her opinion on if a player succeeded or not. But after reading a handful of review articles looking at the entire first round, a general breakdown would suggest around a 55% success rate, 30% misses, and 15% complete busts.
One would assume that a more focused analysis of only the bottom one-third of the first round (roughly pick #20 and on) would yield worse results. Thus, for the sake of ease and brevity, I would suggest that the Vikings should be considered league average if around 50% of their recent picks in the 20-29 range were successful. Let’s get to the selections…
2012 (29) – Harrison Smith, S: Early results suggest Smith has the makeup and skills to be a long-time starter with Pro Bowl upside.
2009 (22) – Percy Harvin, WR: Home run despite the red flags and forced trade.
2004 (20) – Kenechi Udeze, DE: Marked down as an unfortunate “miss.” Udeze looked promising in his rookie season, but then ruined his knee in year two and had his career cut short by leukemia.
2001 (27) – Michael Bennett, RB: Made one Pro Bowl and showed why he was a top pick, but injuries, inconsistency and fumbles led the Vikings to let him go after five seasons. Finished with only 3,703 rushing yards over his career.
2000 (26) – Chris Hovan, DT: 77 games and 70 starts over five seasons with the Vikings; 156 games and 149 starts over his 10 years. He was probably overrated during his time here, but he had a solid career.
1999 (29) – Dimitrius Underwood, DE: Let’s not relive this one.
1998 (21) – Randy Moss, WR: Grand slam.
1997 (20) – Dwayne Rudd, LB: Rudd had a few good moments over his four years with the Vikings, but with the 20th overall pick, you always hope to get much more. His career fizzled out at 27.
1995 (24) – Korey Stringer, OT: The big left tackle made 91 starts and one Pro Bowl over the six years before his untimely death from complications related to heat stroke.
1993 (21) – Robert Smith, RB: Two-time Pro Bowler finished his career as the franchise’s all-time leading rusher.
Out of those 10, we have clear-cut, no-brainer “hits” in Robert Smith, Stringer, Moss, and Harvin. Hovan is also in the positive column. He arguably wasn't as dynamic as one would hope out of a first-round pick, but his full career of work makes it an overall win. It’s too early to truly make a call on Harrison Smith, but he is a success thus far.
Underwood and Udeze didn’t pan out, nor did Bennett and Rudd despite each having a full season or two where they played well. The positive spin is that Underwood was the only complete “bomb” of the bunch.
In total, I’d say the Vikings have been well above average with their 10 picks in the 20's over the last 20 seasons. Their past performance won’t guarantee future success with the No. 23 and 25 selections this Thursday, but we should be very happy if they come out of this draft with the equivalents of Harvin and Hovan.