Vikings fans are well-versed in draft failures of past seasons, with the 2011 first-round selection of Christian Ponder sticking out as one of those moments on Rick Spielman's resume that he would like to hide underneath a staple on Page 2.
The thing about that draft, though: Cam Newton was the first QB chosen, and he was taken No. 1 overall. After Jake Locker (8) and Blaine Gabbert (10) were picked, the QB-needy Vikings reached for Ponder at No. 12. But in doing so, they didn't ignore any future hall of famers either below them or immediately above them in a possible trade.
Sure, they would have received steady play from Andy Dalton (No. 35 overall, second round) and it's fun to imagine how an offense featuring Adrian Peterson might have been complemented by Colin Kaepernick (one pick after Dalton), the regret is primarily limited to Ponder not panning out instead of wishing for someone else.
Imagine for a moment, though, that the Vikings had not only chosen Ponder ... but had also passed up what proved to be two of the best QBs of the era in the process.
Now you are beginning to comprehend the pain Bears fans feel, probably every day, when thinking about the 2017 draft.
As was laid out and re-litigated in painstaking detail by Chicago Tribune Bears writer Dan Wiederer (who coincidentally covered the Vikings for the Star Tribune during Ponder's rookie season in 2011 and again in 2012), the Bears locked in on Mitchell Trubisky in the 2017 draft.
In doing so, GM Ryan Pace:
*Reportedly worked to throw other teams off the scent that the Bears coveted Trubisky but yet barely interacted with former Clemson QB DeShaun Watson before the draft. Watson, picked later in the first round by the Texans, faces the Bears for the first time in his career Sunday (the occasion for Wiederer's article).
*Reportedly didn't bother to tell John Fox, head coach at the time, that he was going to pick a QB (and Trubisky specifically). Fox reportedly had no idea the front office was choosing a QB just a handful of weeks after signing Mike Glennon to a free agent contract. And Fox reportedly liked Watson the most of all QBs available.
*Traded UP from No. 3 overall to No. 2 overall, dealing away two third-round picks and a fourth-round pick to make sure he got his guy. The Bears chose Trubisky at that slot. Watson was chosen No. 12 by the Texans. Two spots before Watson, a fella named Patrick Mahomes was scooped up by Kansas City at No. 10 overall.
So the Bears — as their fans will tell you, just ask them — could have had either one of those QBs without giving up any draft capital. Heck, they could have even traded DOWN and still had Watson or Mahomes.
But as Wiederer wrote:
That landmark draft-night trade to move up only one spot also served as an emphatic declaration that the Bears weren't willing to settle for Watson or Mahomes. It was an unspoken pronouncement that Trubisky had, in Pace's mind, separated himself that much from the other quarterbacks in the class. Furthermore, one league executive pointed out, after the Bears went to extreme lengths to conceal their interest in Trubisky during the draft process, Pace still felt anxious enough to send away a handful of draft picks to get his guy.
Trubisky has not been a bust. He was good for the Bears in 2018 when they won the NFC North — posting a Total QBR that ranked No. 3 in the NFL thanks to accurate passing and his running ability. But he slumped to No. 28 in those rankings last season as the Bears nosedived. This year they are 5-7 and he's trying to re-solidify his status as a starter.
Watson has been considerably better. Mahomes is already on his way to legendary status. Both could wind up in Canton someday.
I dare say the NFC North would look markedly different if the 2017 draft had not become such a self-inflicted disaster for the Bears.
If you're a Vikings fan still frustrated by the 2011 draft, you should read the entire Wiederer story for some perspective.