With their first pick in day one of the 2007 NFL draft, the Minnesota Vikings selected Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson. The move came one pick after Washington selected the player many expected the Vikings to select with their pick, LSU safety LaRon Landry. By selecting Peterson, the Vikings substantially upgraded their running back position from one featuring a hard-working Chester Taylor to one capable of going to a two-back system, despite the woes of the right side of the offensive line.
The question is whether Vikings' head coach Brad Childress will make use of Peterson's considerable talents--assuming Peterson is able to play. Peterson offers a big target out of the backfield and could be a passing target in an offense that throws the ball. The problem, of course, is that the Vikings prefer to run unless forced to pass. If Childress can get his head around a vertical game on first and second downs, Peterson could become more than a mere rushing back and emerge as the face of the Vikings' offense.
The curiousity is that, as good as Peterson portends to be, Childress signed off on this pick. Seemingly entrenched in his extremely short- to negative-gain offensive philosophy that features a bastardized version of the West Coast system, Childress would seem to have no tolerance for a running back whose mold falls outside the traditional West Coast offense back mold. Unlike players such as Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk, Peterson seems better suited to working in crowds rather than squeezing through non-holes to daylight. Perhaps, that's more a function of how Peterson was used at Oklahoma and his large frame than it is a function of ability. Time will tell.
Spielman Versus Childress
After the draft, Vikings' head of pro personnel Rick Spielman appeared on ESPN radio to offer his thoughts on the Vikings' number one pick. More forthcoming than the autistic Childress who, for no apparent reason, mechanically refused to answer any questions regarding Peterson's injury, Spielman suggested both that the Vikings were long high on Peterson and that Peterson was not the Vikings' first choice from among the players that the Vikings had expected to select from before the draft began.
While noting the Vikings' on-going interest in Peterson and stating that the team had had Peterson come to Minnesota so that team doctors could inspect the running back's shoulder injury, Spielman strongly hinted that Landry was the Vikings' primary target in the draft. Despite his early 80s, Don Johnson look, Spielman as a personality is a refreshing relief from the non-personality, automoton that is Childress.
Though Spielman wins plaudits for his relative candor, the jury remains out on whether the Vikings did enough on day one of the draft to improve on the team's weaknesses. Entering the draft, the Vikings were in need of one or two offensive linemen, one or more receivers, a cornerback, and a defensive end.
In round two, the Vikings picked up 6'3", 200 pound South Carolina wide receiver Sidney Rice. The Vikings already have taken pains to note that Rice is a more polished receiver than was fellow South Carolina wide receiver Troy Williamson. The numbers might bear out that contention. And they might not.
In 2005, Rice caught 70 passes for 1,143 yards and thirteen touchdowns in twelve games. Last season, Rice caught 72 passes for 1,090 yards and ten touchdowns. In his final season at South Carolina, Williamson caught 43 passes for 835 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Raw reception totals appear to favor Rice over Williamson, until one recalls that Williamson played for the stodgy Lou Holtz while Rice played in the wide-open offense of Steve Spurrier. But even comparing numbers suggests that there is not much quantitative separation between Williamson and Rice as it would appear at first blush. In fact, Williamson might even have the edge in raw numbers, boasting a 19.4 yards-per-catch average to Rice's 15.1 yards-per-catch average in 2006.
While the numbers don't tell us how well a player will adapt to the NFL, Vikings' fans ought to be cautioned about one other nit-picky detail about Rice. Despite the front office's purported commitment to character players, the Vikings, in Rice, picked up what more than one scouting agency referred to as an "immature player." That seems like an odd character decision for a team that could have selected either of USC's starting wide-receivers rather than Rice.
To give you an indication of how much the wonks at ESPN really know about any team's needs in the draft, consider the network's comments regarding the Vikings' selection of Adrian Peterson. While complimenting the Vikings selection of the best player available, ESPN suggested that the Vikings might have been unwise to overlook "more pressing needs at defensive end and running back."
It might have been a typo--in which case one wonders what other type of "back" ESPN had in mind. Or, it might just have been what it is--more of the mailing it in type of garbage for which ESPN and most others covering anything are increasingly known for.
Up Next: The Rest of the Rest. Plus, outside views of the Vikings' draft and how other NFC North teams fared.