Since arriving in Minnesota, current Minnesota Vikings' General Manager Rick Spielman has had two particular knacks in the draft. One has been the ability to tab the first-round player that everyone agrees will be a successful NFL player, such as Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, and, from all initial impressions, Matt Kalil. Spielman also was sagacious enough to trade a first-round draft choice for Jared Allen.
Spielman's other knack, however, has been his much less scintillating performance identifying starting caliber talent beyond the obvious--often trading down (sometimes even up) to take players that, by most accounts, the rest of the league considered far more lightly.
From 2007 to 2011, the Vikings had 33 selections outside of the first round of the draft. Of those 33 picks, the Vikings arguably identified NFL talent in 12--Sidney Rice, Brian Robison, Letroy Guion, John Sullivan, Phil Loadholt, Jasper Brinkley, Chris Cook, Toby Gerhart, Everson Griffin, Kyle Rudolph, Christian Ballard, and Brandon Fusco. Of those twelve, only John Sullivan has yet cemented a starting position in the NFL, however.
In 2012, the Vikings again took the consensus safe pick atop the draft board, selecting USC left offensive tackle Matt Kalil. Again, Spielman appears to have plucked a proven, long-term starter from a small pool of options. After Kalil, however, Spielman appears again to have transformed into his later round form, selecting primarily players that fit a Vikings' need, but who also had much to prove--at the college level, let alone in the NFL.
Clearly, there are many unknowns about the Vikings' latter round selections in this year's draft, much as there are for all NFL teams. If form holds, however, the Vikings will have one bona-fide starter to show for this draft and one or two replacement level players. That, despite the Vikings' and Spielmans' oft-ballyhooed chorus that the team was poised to make significant personnel strides given its recent caches of draft picks.
Whatever happens with the Vikings' 2012 draft picks, it is already certain that one reach was a reach too far. Despite knowing of a torn patellar tendon that cost wide-receiver Greg Childs part of his junior season at Arkansas and made him mostly irrelevant in his senior season, Spielman drafted Childs in the fourth-round of this year's draft. On Saturday, Childs went down with not one but two patellar tendon tears, putting him out for the season and probably ending his NFL career.
Draft-day gambles are part of the game, but gambling in the fourth on a player who likely would have fallen out of the draft is a bigger gamble than most teams take. Childs was one such gamble that already has failed--and he was the less risky proposition in terms of transforming to NFL talent than, until Saturday's injury, was fellow Arkansas receiver Jerious Wright.
With Childs gone, the Vikings are left with one less option at a position already beyond thin after Percy Harvin. Despite ongoing recovery from his 2010 injury, Childs was already the number two receiver at left wide-out, behind Jerome Simpson. With Simpson serving a three-game suspension to start the season, that made Childs the incumbent starter on the left side. Now, that battle will be between a bunch of players that the Vikings do not consider part of even their short-term plans.
Up Next: Patching the Hole.