Those who religiously follow the NFL draft, and, more specifically, those who religiously follow the Minnesota Vikings can attest to the fact that the Vikings failed to show for this year's draft. That's not to say that the Vikings might not make something out of the players that they drafted this year, but, almost certainly, they could have done far better--at first blush and probably with the benefit of time and hindsight.
Minnesota's problems began with some unexpected trading up the draft board that allowed other teams to take many of the players whom the Vikings coveted. The team's problems were accentuated, however, when just enough of the Vikings' primary targets remained on the big board to give the team's draft wonks hope that they could drop out of the first round, pick up some middle round pick, and still get the player that they wanted.
Of course, things did not work out as well as the Vikings had hoped--a common occurrence when one hopes for the best case scenario and something less than that suffices to foil one's most modest plans. That left the Vikings holding the bag but without anything yet in the bag. After that, the Vikings panicked, picking a cornerback widely regarded as a player that would be on the board when the Vikings selected at 62 (the team's original second-round slot) and possibly much later, and panicked even more by trading up to take a running back that may or may not be suited for a large role in the NFL.
After day two of the draft, the Vikings, thus, were left with a true reach at the top of the second round--a player who might not even be capable of starting for the Vikings in 2010--and a player who, by almost all accounts, is a far inferior player to two other running backs on whom the Vikings passed in favor of taking a player who could have been gotten much later. For that, the Vikings ceded their own first-, second-, and third-round picks.
If none of that makes your head yet spin or explode, consider what else the Vikings did when they played this year's draft. Prior to free-agency, the New England Patriots tendered restricted free agent, Logan Mankins, at the first- and third-round level. Mankins, a dominating offensive lineman who can play on either side of the ball would have solidified the Vikings' offensive line to an extent not seen in Minnesota perhaps ever. Signing Mankins would have required some work--perhaps another poison pill--$15-20 million in guaranteed money, and a first- and third-round pick. But the doing was not the devil in the details.
For the Vikings, as for most other teams, the hurdle in signing a restricted free-agent of Mankins' caliber was in parting with the draft picks. Two high draft picks are the things of which good teams are made.
Apparently, however, the Vikings do not so highly covet their high picks. That's why they bandy them about like monopoly money when maneuvering for players for whom no maneuvering is required. And that's why, now, even more than prior to the draft, a first- and a third-round pick in this year's draft sure seem like they would have been draft picks well spent as the price for the Vikings having acquired Mankins. Given a ledger of Mankins and a second-round pick to fill a need versus what the Vikings hauled in rounds one and two of this year's draft, Mankins and a second-round pick sure look good.
Up Next: Doing Detroit.