We\’re gonna try a new Gambit format, starting today. Every Tuesday/Thursday, Alex is gonna throw out a topic, and we\’re all gonna sound off. Topics will cover a very wide range, you can be assured of that. So without further ado, here\’s some armchair punditry about the 2011 Minnesota Vikings draft:
Time has tempered my initial thoughts on the Vikings draft. I\’ve seen draft grades range from B to D on their picks, and I can see arguments for any grade in that range.
Why it\’s a D: picking Ponder at twelve overall is just ridiculously early. The only defense for the pick is if the Vikings could not trade back before their time was up (maybe the Bears screwed them too?). I think Ponder is a solid pick, just not at 12.
Why it\’s a B: although the first pick of any draft will overshadow the rest, picking up the best TE in the draft in round 2 (also a stretch, but not that bad) should pay off for years to come. It\’s a position that is only going to decline with the current batch. Additionally the rest of the picks consisted of players who were expected to go much earlier than they were picked, which makes up for a stretch in round 1.
Overall, grading a draft right away is a bit of a farce. It would be best to grade a draft in November. See how many of those picks are still with a team, and how many are contributing during that first season. Then perhaps grade them 5 years later and see how it shaped the team.
For example, looking back at the 2006 draft for the Vikings: Chad Greenway, Cedric Griffin, Ryan Cook, T-Jack, Ray Edwards, Greg Blue, Tyrone Culver. That draft is obviously a C. Keeping it from being an F is Greenway and Edwards who have contibuted a lot in the last 5 years; Griffin has also contibuted when he isn\’t tearing a knee. Keeping it from being a B is T-Jack. A pick that was considered a massive stretch at the time and has put the franchise behind the 8-ball at QB for 5 years. Let\’s hope that Ponder isn\’t the new T-Jack.
(Alex advertised this topic as a softball. Little does he know the last draft to which I paid significant attention was 2002, when David Carr was drafted first overall by the Houston Texans. I didn\’t even know the draft had moved to Thursday and Friday evenings, which happened a year ago. As such, writing about this topic is one of the harder balls I\’ve encountered today. I\’ll do my best pundit impression, though, and make sweeping generalizations based off very little actual knowledge.)
By selecting Christian Ponder twelfth overall in the 2011 NFL draft, Minnesota Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman effectively ensured that he\’ll be looking for new employment next January. Despite his awesome name, Ponder is, at best, the dreaded game-manager quarterback. The team will fail to secure a reliable veteran quarterback and sign some has-been (Marc Bulger, anyone?) whose mediocrity will force the team to start Ponder behind center next year. First-year jitters and lack of talent at the wide receiver position will lead the team to a second consecutive 6-10 record, missing the playoffs again. For a state like Minnesota, this is unacceptable. Spielman will be long gone, and new coach Leslie Frazier will quickly find himself on a short leash for the 2012 season.
The Vikings needed a quarterback, but picked the wrong one at that pick. They easily could have pulled a Tice, turned in their pick late, and ended up with Ponder at 14 instead.
To be fair, though, they also messed up their second-round pick. While Kyle Rudolph might have been the best tight end available in this draft, the TE position was far down on their list of needs for next season which, after quarterback, reads: offensive line, defensive line, and secondary. These positions were addressed later in the draft, where the chances of finding a future starter decrease significantly. It should not be forgotten that, last season, the Vikings released promising 2010 7th-rounder tight end Mickey Shuler (subsequently claimed by the Miami Dolphins) when, out of desperation, they signed Mr. Kendra Wilkinson to fill in at wide receiver.
The bright side of this poor draft (as well as numerous other questionable personnel decisions) is that I might remember to tune in to the 2012 NFL draft– in that there\’s a good chance we\’ll have the first pick.
I agree with wadE in that it is mostly futile to grade a draft immediately, based on the players themselves. However, I think you can look at how the team drafted, and in that light I like what the Vikings did this year. We don\’t know how Ponder\’s going to turn out, but I think that there\’s more upside in potentially getting a franchise QB than there is in bringing in any of the various re-treads to try and do just enough to win games now and make the playoffs. And as we\’ve seen with Carolina (and as Wade A just mentioned), if Ponder tanks it this year, the Vikings could be in line for Andrew Luck next year.
For the rest of the draft, the Vikings made out well (at least according to how the talent was rated by folks who know a lot more about this than me). We know that ownership will spend money to fill the rest of the holes via free agency, whenever that starts up again. If the front office has hit on the right talent, the team could definitely be a contender this year, unless the labor strife cuts pre-season down to a week.*
I don\’t know if Christian Ponder was the *right* choice with the 12th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. But I like that the Vikings made that choice.
*The cynic in me assumes that the coaching staff, on some level, wants this to happen. It would essentially be a mulligan on the season. They\’d be able to talk about how difficult it is for a new coaching staff and new personnel to learn a system in such a short amount of time (which is undoubtedly true), and say just wait until we can *really* practice next summer.