Coming into this draft as a 3-13 team, we had a lot of holes to fill, which was a given (and, coincidentally, what she said). But Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman crafted a masterful first day of the draft to remedy two of our largest problem spots. Below the jump, you’ll find the individual grades and commentary from each of your three humble correspondents as we recap and relive all the twists and turns of the Vikings’ 2012 draft.
Round 1 Pick 4-4th Overall: Matt Kalil, T, Southern California:
Bruff: Grade: A. It’s the pick I’ve been waiting for the Vikings to make for almost four years. I loved everything about us taking Kalil at number four overall. I love that it happened at number four, and I love that we kind of fleeced the Browns so they could get a guy we were never going to pick. I love the smokescreens that Spielman deployed regarding this pick that had Tony muttering, “We’re gonna take Claiborne. We’re gonna (mess) this up,” in the minutes before the pick. I love that he loves cold winters and is already talking about being here for 10+ years. I love that our line is now Kalil/Johnson/Sully/Whoever/Loader instead of who we had across the board last year. If he’s anywhere near as good as his older brother, this pick will pay very large future dividends, just like a #3 overall pick should.
Silky: Grade: A+. He had to be the pick. It’s as simple as that. Tackle depth in this draft was weaker than receiver and corner. Kalil will have a greater day-one impact than either Claiborne or Blackmon. By selecting him, the Vikings fix no less than two positions. The fact that we traded down, picked up three more selections, and still got him, is astounding. Impeccable savvy by Mr. Spielman. A+ all the way.
Tony: Grade: A+. In my “Mr. Positivity” draft preview, I analyzed the advantageous position the Vikes were in by holding the third pick in the draft. While we didn’t have the opportunity to make a blockbuster trade like the Rams did with the second pick, it was clear we had a real possibility to trade down and still get a great player. Kudos to Spielman and company for trading to the fourth spot, gaining some extra picks, and still drafting Matt Kalil, our number one target. Kalil should not only start day one, but he should excel immediately at the position. This solves the LT position, as well as LG, creating a win-win situation. WIN + WIN = A+ draft pick.
AVERAGE GRADE: A+
Round 1 Pick 29- 29th Overall: Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame:
Silky: Grade: A-. I love this pick. I had the Vikings taking Smith in my round 2 write-up, which was written before the draft even started, and then they went ahead and drafted him anyways at the end of the first round. Safety was not a deep position in this draft. In fact, I think only Smith and Mark Barron are the only two that are of starter-level quality right now. Props to the Vikes for thinking the same thing, and for knowing they needed a starter-level quality safety right now.
I gave them an A- and not an A because I’m not sure how I feel about the trade up. I get that sometimes you gotta move up and get your guy, and when you have a bevy of picks like we did, it makes trading up easier to do. However, all the players taken between where we would’ve picked and where we did pick were offensive players. If we were really concerned about trading up to get Smith, why didn’t we jump back in front of the Packers, who were in need of help at safety following the release of Nick Collins? It worked out alright, in the end, but the timing of the trade seemed kinda silly.
Tony: Grade: A-. Like Silky, I really like this pick. Our safeties have been absolutely terrible since Sharper left a few years ago. Even more-so than corners, our safeties were embarrassingly bad last year (they failed the eye-test more than any position). Yes, this is going after a position of need rather than best player available, but I think it is pretty good value, and I’m glad they didn’t wait to see if he would make it to their second round pick.
Overall, trading up was the right move, and the only way to guarantee they get their guy. Not the best player on the board, but great trade and great pick. He should start day one, which is what you look for in the first round of the NFL draft.
Spencer: Grade: A. Also a huge, huge fan of this pick. The Bucs or the Rams could have squatted on their spots and swiped him if we hadn’t moved up to grab him at the end of the first round. So I was just fine with the trade, especially considering we picked up a 2013 4th rounder in one of our Day 3 trade-downs to sort of make up for the one we gave to the Ravens to move up here. Smith was the consensus #2 safety in the draft, and the drop-off from Smith to the next safety drafted (Illinois’ Tavon Wilson, #48 overall to the Pats) was very dramatic grades-wise And if we had to watch another season of (Jamarca) Sanford and Sons at the back of our secondary without any changes being made, it may have driven me to pick up a new hobby, like matchitecture or something.
AVERAGE GRADE: A-
Round 3 Pick 33-66th Overall: Josh Robinson, CB, Central Florida
Tony: Grade: A-. It is a bit curious that the Vikes didn’t use one of their late picks to trade up a few spots and select Reuben Randle from LSU before he was taken 3 spots ahead of them in the second round… Randle was the last pick of the second round, and the Vikes held the third pick in the third round.
With that said, I love what they did by taking the fastest player in the draft at a position of need. This will bolster the defensive backfield a little, and while he may not be an immediate impact starter, he should be able to help in special teams a bit (as a returner and gunner).
Bruff: Grade: B+. I didn’t really follow Central Florida very closely last season (Did you either? NO.) but ESPN and NFL.com both graded him as at least an eventual starter, so we got that going for us. Like Tony said, the kid’s a burner, which will really help in the improbable scenario that Troy Williamson experiences a career renaissance with a fellow NFC North team. He also had a vertical jump of 38.5” at the combine, near the tops for defensive backs. I’ve heard he likes to come up and support the run defense, too, so it’ll be great to have him share a backfield with ‘Toine Winfield for as long as he remains a Vike.
Silky: Grade: B+. I’m pretty happy with this pick. I’d have been happier if we had done like Tony suggested and moved to get Randle, but I fully support bolstering out secondary. This guy seems to have a lot going for him. He’s fast, and like I always say, you can’t teach speed. He’s coming into a great situation where he will have the chance to compete for a starting job right away, and at least contribute on special teams. Great value pick, too, as some draft sites had him rated as a round-2 talent.
AVERAGE GRADE: B+
Round 4 Pick 23-118th Overall: Jarius Wright, WR, Arkansas
Bruff: Grade: C-. Though he put up monstrous numbers throughout his career as a Razorback (63 catches, 1,029 yards, 11 TDs in his senior year alone), many draft sites had him rated as a 5th-6th round pick because of his lack of height and strength. Also, were you like me? Did you look at his measurables (5' 10", 182 pounds, 4.42 40 yard dash) and think, wow, that sounds like a guy we already have! Percy Harvin: 5' 11", 184 pounds, 4.41 40 yard dash. I can't see us throwing many 4 WR sets out there when Rudolph, Carlson, and now Ellison are on the roster as TEs.
Silky: Grade: C. I agree. Too much, physically, like Harvin. The production does stand out, though. If he impresses enough in training camp to beat out Jenkins, Simpson, or even Harvin, then good on him, I just hope he backs it up with production. The only way I see him finding the field would be on special teams, or as a fill-in for Percy when he eventually misses time due to migraines. I’m also a fan of the Vikes taking both Wright and Childs, who have known each other since the third grade.
Tony: Grade: B-. I am higher on this pick than Spence and Silky, perhaps because I greatly value production over height, weight, speed, and other measurables. It doesn’t bother me he is similar to Harvin, either, as this team needs playmakers, no matter what position they play. Besides, Harvin is a liability with his migraines (and other injuries), so drafting a talent like Wright as a second slot guy, who can also play outside, is a smart move. He isn’t very big and he isn’t the fastest player in the draft, but he has a knack for getting open and making plays. Note: I would have graded this pick higher if Nick Toon wasn’t still available.
AVERAGE GRADE: C
Round 4 Pick 33- 128th Overall: Rhett Ellison, FB/TE, Southern California:
Silky: Grade: C-. I like the addition of Ellison as a player. You don’t have to think too hard to see that Ellison was drafted to be a de facto replacement for the irreplaceable Jim Kleinsasser. He is known for his incredible work ethic and quiet leadership, very much blue collar like Jimmy. I think Lane Kiffen even said that the offense at USC ran through Rhett Ellison. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have a familiar face for Kalil on the new team.
I don’t, however, like the value of this pick. I feel that Ellison would have been available in the fifth round for sure, maybe even the sixth. Picking him in the fourth is a bit of a reach. I also don’t really understand where he’s going to fit in with the offseason additions of Lex Hilliard and Jerome Felton at fullback.
Tony: Grade: C. Silky summed it up pretty well with Rhett. He will have to fight to make the team, along with Jerome Felton and Lex Hilliard. My guess is Hilliard is cut before the season starts. Hopefully he can come in and provide a nice blocking option for AP out of the backfield, as well as contribute on special teams.
Bruff: Grade: C-. Yeah, I concur with you guys for the most part. I was a huge Jim Kleinsasser fan. I was in the Hormel Row of Fame at what was probably his worst game as a Viking (2 fumbles in a loss at home to the Bears in 2001)...completely irrelevant, but I still loved the guy. But Kleinie was actually kind of a pass-catching force in college. So I see Ellison's upside as more Jeff Dugan than Special K. Spielman says he knew for a fact that another team would have taken him in the 4th round. He should've let someone else do it and taken, like OLB Terrell Manning instead.
AVERAGE GRADE: C-
Round 4 Pick 39-134th Overall: Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas
Tony: Grade: C. This guy was a highly-touted wide receiver as a sophomore at Arkansas, however a blown out knee cap injury has hampered him since. If he can regain his strength, and get back to his normal ability, this will be a nice pick this late in the draft.
It may be worth throwing a waiver out on this guy, but if he can’t get his athleticism back, it will prove to be a wasted pick. The majority of picks after the third round don’t last long in the NFL, anyway. We’ll see.
Bruff: Grade: B. I like this pick quite a bit more than the Wright pick 16 selections prior. Childs' numbers were sub-par in his senior season, but a patella injury like the one he sustained can take 18 or so months for a full recovery. Even so, he ran a 4.55 40 at the combine and a 4.41 at Arkansas' Pro Day. If he can harness that explosiveness and stay healthy, his big frame may allow him to play more like Sidney Rice than Stephen Burton.
Silky: Grade: B+. The more I hear about this kid, the more I like. Size, speed, jumping ability and hands; this guy has all the tools to potentially become the no. 1 receiver the Vikes have been lacking for a while. I believe he will earn his way into the starting lineup this year not just for his receiving ability, but also for his effort in blocking downfield for the run game.
AVERAGE GRADE: B-
Round 5 Pick 4-139th Overall: Robert Blanton, DB, Notre Dame
Bruff: Grade: B-. I don't expect a ton out of Blanton in his rookie year, but I'm excited to see where he might eventually fit onto this football team. He played a lot of zone at Notre Dame along with 1st round pick Smith, and he's got the height and the hands to disrupt a lot of plays out of the Cover 2 if he can stay with NFL-caliber receivers. His big downsides are his lack of speed against deep routes and, as Sideline Scouting put it, the fact that he "looks like he thinks too much on the field."
Silky: Grade: B. I’m always a fan of picking college teammates in the NFL Draft. I have no frame of reference for this, but I think it makes the transition into the pros a little bit easier for the players involved. The fact that he provides good depth at a position of need is a plus, too. As Bruff said, he projects well into the Cover 2, so if he develops into starter, or even a replacement level backup, then good on us for selecting him. One thing we need less of, though, is people over-thinking on the football field.
Tony: Grade: A-. It is rare for teams to find starter-quality players this late in the draft, but Blanton may be the exception. In fact, Minnesota may be the best fit for Blanton of any NFL team. Not only does he project well in the Tampa 2 defense (as Spence mentioned), but he will have the opportunity to compete for two positions with the Vikings (backup cornerback and starting safety). There is a very real possibility he is the starting safety, opposite Harrison Smith, at some point this season.
AVERAGE GRADE: B
Round 6 Pick 5- 175th Overall: Blair Walsh, K, Georgia:
Silky: Grade: B-. Well, we got a new kicker. It looks like we’ll be carrying two kickers on the roster for this season, at least. I presume he’ll be handling the kickoffs, because if he’s got less power than Longwell, then what’s the point of taking him. He’ll have a chance to learn his trade under the tutelage of one of the finest, though, as Longwell still remains one of the most accurate kickers in the league.
Tony: Grade: C. Peculiar pick, but I suppose it makes sense with Longwell getting old. No one really follows kickers in football, so I’m not going to spend much time on this one. Hopefully he pans out.
Bruff: Grade: C+. A kicker? Sure. At least we didn’t take him in the 3rd round! JAGUARS. Can you put a kicker on the practice squad? I don’t know anything about this guy, and I don’t really care to until he misses a clutch potential game-winning 39-yarder some time in 2014.
AVERAGE GRADE: C+
Round 7 Pick 3-210th Overall: Audie Cole, ILB, North Carolina State
Tony: Grade: B. This guy was one of the better linebackers in all of college football last season. However, he is a little small, didn’t lift or run well at the combine (he had the lowest total reps of all LBs with 15), and didn’t go to a big-time program (NC State). Therefore, he falls to the early seventh round. Most experts had him going in the fourth or fifth, so you have to like the value, but he will still need to make the team as a special teamer.
Bruff: Grade: B. I wanted us to take a linebacker waaaaay sooner, as I was quite unimpressed with the play of the Henderson boys last season. But like Tony said, this was a value pick-up, and NFL.com had Cole as one of the best graded players in the later rounds. Scouting reports say he's an intelligent, tough kid (He boxed in high school, apparently. Not as a sanctioned high school sport, I assume.) and with any luck, he could have a similar impact to, say a Greg Biekert, a fellow former 7th round selection and former Vike.
Silky: Grade: B+. I, too, wanted a linebacker much earlier than this, but I’m happy with the pickup regardless. Cole is an experienced player at the collegiate level, with 328 tackles in 51 games. He also has great football IQ, and, most importantly to me, he is skilled in pass coverage (4 pass breakups his senior year). The Tampa 2 that we run here often calls for the MLB to drop back and cover the middle of the field. E.J. and Jasper have noticeably struggled with this. Cole will contribute on special teams right away, but if he develops into a legit replacement-level linebacker in the NFL, then this pick is a home run for the Vikes.
AVERAGE GRADE: B
Round 7 Pick 12-219th Overall: Trevor Guyton, DE, California
Bruff: Grade: B. Coming from Cal's 3-4 defense, Guyton could potentially be either a run-stopping end to complement Brian Robison's pass-rushing prowess opposite Jared Allen or Kevin Williams' part-time inside partner on our defensive line. ESPN had him pegged as the best player taken in the 7th round, but scouts say he can potentially get eaten up by bigger, stronger right tackles and guards.
Silky: Grade: A-. Great value pick. I have no argument against drafting for defensive line depth in the late rounds. In fact, I would like to use this space to say; I called it! With the fourth pick of the seventh round, the Titans took Scott Solomon, DE, Rice. In my late-round preview, I had the Vikings making the very same selection at the very same spot. Go me!
But seriously, I like this pick. The only reason I predicted Solomon instead of Guyton was because I thought Guyton would have been gone by this point.
Tony: Grade: A-. This is the point in the draft where teams are looking to add depth, and the Vikes definitely need depth on the defensive line. Guyton should definitely make the team, and contribute as a backup throughout the season. Can’t ask for much more than that from a 7th rounder.
AVERAGE GRADE: B+
The average of all our picks comes out to about a B, but if you weigh the first 3 rounds more heavily (based on importance), it would come out closer to a B+/A-.
MNSportsEmporium.com Vikings Overall Draft Grade: B+