The last time the Minnesota Vikings traded down in the NFL college entry draft, they landed Chris Cook rather than the player most presumed that they would have taken had they not traded down, running back Jahvid Best. When not injured last season, Cook looked every bit as lost as he apparently was as an academic. Best, meanwhile, despite his own injuries, provided the Lions everything that the Vikings lost when they cut ties with Adrian Peterson's former security blanket, Chester Taylor.
Now, it appears, the Vikings are preparing to mine the same unsavory waters that resulted in last year's unsatisfying yield, but with a far worse plan. Rather than targeting a specific player as players come off the board in the latter regions of the first round, the Vikings are openly talking about trading out of the first third of the opening round--the area where a bona fide starter absolutely will be available--to "load up on picks." In Minnesota, we know that's code for loading up nothing of value and hoping that reaches lead to something.
In the NFL, reaches rarely amount to anything other than a reach. That's why, in an era of near full draftee transparency, few teams outside of Raiders engage in reaching. Should they prefer to remain outside the Raiders' dubious area code, the Vikings, too, ought to turn their backs on such endeavors, before it becomes so commonplace within the organization that the organization begins to accept reaching as the norm and making the clearly correct choice the aberration.
Since coming to the Vikings in 2006 as the replacement for Fran Foley, Rick Spielman has had two unquestionably perfect draft selections--Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin. Everyone fully acknowledges that Peterson's selection was both a no-brainer and fortuitous. Nearly the same can be said of the Harvin selection.
Of Spielman's remaining draft selections, only Sidney Rice stands out as even remotely remarkable and, given his early-second-round selection, probably not any more remarkable than any other mid-second-round pick usually is.
Spielman's record in Minnesota is, thus, average. But he now has the second highest draft position since having Peterson fall in his lap in 2007. What Spielman does not need to do with that opportunity is dismiss it as if it was worth nothing more than a high second-round/low first-round pick, or some combination thereof. He also does not need to select a quarterback with training wheels--the only kind available in this draft--with that pick.
What Spielman needs to do is fill a position of need by selecting someone such as USC OT Tyron Smith, Florida G Mike Pouncey, Auburn DT Nick Fairley, or, should he fall, Alabama DT Marcell Dareus. All good picks. All potentially available at number twelve. And all likely off the board past fifteen.
If none of these players are available at twelve, and no other clear star falls that far, the Vikings could also do far worse than filling a position that they thought they filled last year--that of Peterson's sub and heir apparent. That role could quite capably be filled by Alabama running back Mark Ingram, a player who would be near the top of the board, but for exaggerated concerns about his ACL surgery last year.
Whichever direction the Vikings turn on Thursday, Vikings' fans will have reason to deride the team should it fail to use its pick at number 12 or should it do so to select yet another young arm.
Up Next: The Draft.