On the national scene, there is nobody more revered for predicting and analyzing the NFL Draft than ESPN Television’s Mel Kiper. Specializing on predicting the league’s draft since 1984, year-by-year Kiper’s accuracy gets better.
While Mel’s claim-to-fame will always be his legendary mock drafts, he also analyzes draft classes by each team the day after the draft concludes. Looking back to April of 2014 you can see Kiper’s grade on the 2014 Minnesota Vikings NFL Draft Class came in at a “B-”.
Kiper’s analysis centered around criticising the Vikings for reaching with the ninth overall pick and selecting Anthony Barr.
“I thought Anthony Barr was a pretty big reach based on my evaluations,” Kiper stated. “He’s a talented but raw player who lacks instincts on defense.”
With hindsight being 20/20 and having the 2014 season behind us, Kiper has now gone back to the draft boards that he graded before the season and has re-graded the 2014 draft class for each team. For the Minnesota Vikings, it was a mixed bag of criticism, but ultimately the grade did go up.
Not forgetting that third round offensive lineman David Yankey never played and sixth round cornerback Kendall James was cut before Week 1, Kiper raised his overall grade of the Vikings 2014 NFL Draft class to a “B+” in his recent re-evaluations.
The reasoning is pretty self explanatory, but here is what Kiper had to say after the fact.
“I actually knocked this draft down a peg last spring because I simply wasn’t as high on Anthony Barr as a player who could come in and provide early returns as a pass-rusher. The Vikings got him at No. 9 and I thought it was a reach; [after one season] it’s clear the Vikings have a player.”
Barr finished his rookie season with 55 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 passes defensed and 2 fumble recoveries despite missing the team’s final four games.
On the offensive side of the ball, the praise continued to rain down from Kiper.
“They also have a player in Teddy Bridgewater, who was the top QB on my all-rookie team. Sure, you can question whether he’ll become a star, but you can’t question that he looked more ready for this level of competition than any other rookie QB, and that he’s simply tough. I really like Bridgewater’s chances, and as I said then, “moving decisively to get [him] made sense, and they have the pieces around him to help him succeed.”
Teddy, one of the finalists for the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award, finished with 2,919 passing yards, 14 TDs, 12 INTs and a passer rating of 85.2 after coming on strong down the stretch of the season.
Maybe the best praise though, at least for the immediate future of this Vikings squad, came for running back Jerick McKinnon.
“Jerick McKinnon got called into action earlier than we thought and looked pretty good -- I do think if he gets a lot of carries, he’s going to hit a lot of home runs.”
“All in all, Minny has to be excited about this class. Barr was pretty good, and Bridgewater has a chance to be the answer at QB. Great Start.”
For those of us who watched every one of the Vikings games this season, I think that anaysis would be tough to argue.
But since we did watch every game this season, let’s take Kiper’s surface analysis one step further.
Hitting on Shamar Stephen in the 7th round should be a BIG bonus for the Vikings draft class in 2014. Stephen was active for all 16 games and even started 3 spot-starts for injury. Backing up Linval Joseph at the nose, Stephen made his presence felt on the regular and did a good job flashing from time-to-time but plugging up the middle often.
Antone Exum and Jabari Price were both active most of the season and did a good job filling in on the special teams and giving this team a little depth in the defensive backfield when needed.
Looking back at the last three draft classes for the Minnesota Vikings, it becomes increasingly clear that Rick Spielman is figuring out his style for draft day and it’s leading to some pretty good success.
For more offseason analysis of Vikings Football including "The Top 50 Free Agency Targets For Minnesota" head over to VikingsJournal.com.