Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Vikings 2002 Draft Recap

NFL Drafts are funny things. Mock Drafts run all winter and spring predicting the picks, then immediately after a pick is made, the pick is scrutinized. The scrutiny is usually based on these Mock drafts, far from precise. Even the most knowledgeable football writers don’t have a clue immediately after a draft.

For a better perspective of teams that have good drafts, it is time to judge the 2002 draft. Three seasons in the league is enough time to at least winnow out the busts. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that three teams that had good drafts, Indianapolis, New England and Philadelphia all are perennial Super Bowl contenders. Sure hindsight makes it obvious who the best players were, but good scouting and personnel men usually find the best players. For this review, best players available had to be a realistic need for the Vikings at the time.

First Round (7th) Bryant McKinnie OT Miami.
The Plan: The Vikings needed help all over, but especially both lines. The team really wanted Ryan Sims, taken by Kansas City. Experts considered McKinnie a can’t miss star, even drawing comparisons to Anthony Munoz.

Who else was available: Roy Williams S, John Henderson DT, Levi Jones OT, Dwight Freeney DE

Grade: B-: McKinnie began his NFL career holding out midway through his rookie year. He did crack the starting lineup by the end of the year and hasn’t relinquished his left tackle spot. While the Vikings lucked out by missing the underachieving (or overrated) Sims, McKinnie hasn’t played in a Pro Bowl. He is solid, but not the cornerstone lineman many predicted. Ironically, the two players with the most success (Jones, Freeney) were both criticized as bad picks.

Round 2 Raonall Smith LB Washington St
The Plan: Former coach Denny Green largely ignored the defense, especially linebackers. Considering the roster boasted Greg Biekert, Lemanski Hall and Henri Crockett, Smith was an obvious upgrade.

Who else was available: Larry Tripplett DT, Tank Williams S, Anthony Weaver DE, Michael Lewis S, Sheldon Brown CB,

Grade: D: Smith didn’t see a snap his first year and didn’t see serious playing time until 2005. Call it bad luck, but Smith still must be labeled a bust. A second round pick is expected to be a starter at minimum. Considering three of the better defensive backs all were taken this round makes it even worse. Tripplett and Weaver, while not Pro Bowlers, definitely qualify as pieces of a solid defensive line.

Round 3 Willie Offord S South Carolina

The Plan: With linebacker addressed in round 2, the Vikings turn to their constant Achilles: the secondary.

Who else was available: Ben Leber LB, Will Witherspoon LB, Brian Westbrook RB, Chris Hope S,

Grade: C+: Offord started some as a rookie and was clearly not ready. He’s very good against the run, but struggled in coverage in the past. Learning behind Corey Chavous seemed to help, as he played well in the playoffs two years ago. He tore his ACL in 2005 and missed most of the season. With Chavous leaving, he may end up starting in 2006.

Aside from Witherspoon, it’s hard to argue picking anyone else in the 3rd round. Unless they took a DB in Rd 2 and LB in Rd 3, but that’s hard to tell at the time.

Round 4 Brian Williams CB North Carolina St
The Plan: Find a corner better than Waswaa Serwanga, Kenny Wright, Robert Tate or Keith Thibodeaux.

Who else was available: David Thornton LB, Randy McMichael TE,

Grade: B+: The Vikings found an above average corner in the fourth round. Williams isn’t a shutdown corner or a playmaker but was pretty steady, picking off 12 passes in four seasons. Considering all the Ramos McDonalds and Denard Walkers in Vikings’ history, Williams shines even brighter. He struggled in 2004 and was unhappy as a nickel back in 2005. Williams signed with Jacksonville in free agency for big money.

Round 4 (Trade w Browns) Edward Ta’amu OG, Utah
The Plan: The Vikings traded up to acquire a lineman they could groom to replace David Dixon.

Who else was available: Andra Davis LB, Scott Fujita LB, Rocky Bernard DT, Aaron Kampmann DE

Grade: F: Ta’Amu, considered a steal by some analysts didn’t make the roster. He signed with Houston and played as many NFL games as me. He did punch a man for setting off illegal fireworks, which is worth something. Considering the players the Vikings could have had in the fifth round just makes it worse.

Round 6 Nick Rogers LB/DE Georgia Tech
The Plan: The Vikings saw a potential pass rusher in Rogers. His college head coach was George O’Leary, a Vikings coach who advised the pick.

Who else was available: Marquand Manuel S, Chester Taylor RB,

Grade: C: Rogers played well his rookie year with two sacks and 43 tackles, mainly on special teams. The Vikings just couldn’t find a spot for the “Tweener”. A decent pick this late in the draft, Rogers is headed for his fourth team in five seasons. Interesting note the Vikings passed on Taylor, their new feature back. 2002 marked the only Mike Tice draft without a running back taken.

Round 7 Chad Beasley DT Virginia Tech

The Plan: It’s the seventh round, time to address the defensive line.

Who else was available: Ronald Curry WR, Raheem Brock DE, Carlos Hall DE, Brett Keisel DE, David Givens WR, Kevin Shaffer OT, Kyle Kosier OG, Rock Cartwright FB

Grade: C-: It’s tough to expect much in the seventh round, where every player has questions or limited ability. On the other hand, looking at the list of solid players other teams found, points must deducted. Just because it’s the seventh round does not mean there’s no talent.For Beasley's part, he's played for the Browns' practice squad the last three years.

Overall the Vikings drafted no Pro Bowlers, two starters and a third with the potential to start.