Thursday, April 26, 2012

Draft night

The National Football League is essentially a 12-month sport. As such, tonight may well be considered the Super Bowl of the NFL offseason.

As a Vikings fan, I'm often reminded by sports talking heads of my club's alleged ineptitude in back-to-back drafts a decade ago.

With the #7 pick in the 2002 draft, the Vikings had their eye on both the Offensive and Defensive lines. That'll happen when a 5-11 team can neither protect their own quarterback or put pressure on the opposing QB. Anyhow, the Dallas Cowboys were on the clock for the #6 overall choice when their allotted 15 minutes expired. As a rule, the team next in line has the right to submit its pick in such a scenario. The Vikings quickly ran to the podium with their draft card, which indicated they wanted to select DT Ryan Sims out of North Carolina. However, the league ruled that the Cowboys had successfully completed a trade in time with the Kansas City Chiefs for the sixth choice, so the Vikings were not allowed their selection. Of course, the Chiefs undercut the Vikes by drafting Sims. The Vikings instead selected OL Bryant McKinnie, who turned out to be a solid left tackle for the club for nine seasons.

The 2002 incident can hardly be chalked up to any ineptitude on the Vikings' part. However, the bungling of their 2003 draft choice almost cost them the pick.

After a 6-10 finish in the '02 season, the Vikings once again found themselves in a position to pick seventh overall. Rumor had it the Vikes were looking to trade down in the first round which would allow them to accumulate additional later round picks. This time, however, it was the Vikings who allowed their allotted 15 minutes to expire. As a result, the Jacksonville Jaguars were next in line and thus allowed to submit their choice, picking QB Byron Leftwich. Also seizing the opportunity was the Carolina Panthers, who quickly snapped up OL Jordan Gross. Because they were caught napping, the Vikings #7 choice turned into the ninth pick, which they used on DT Kevin Williams, the player they insisted they wanted all along. The running joke was that perpetually cheap owner Red McCombs would argue that he should only have to pay money for the ninth selection in the first round choice instead of a seventh.

This year the Vikings pick third overall, and it seems likely they will select a possible franchise left tackle in USC's Matt Kalil. There's also been rumblings that the Vikings are seriously considering CB Morris Claiborne out of LSU. I suspect the latter scenario may be posturing since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (who pick fifth overall) also have Claiborne high on their wish list. The intent would be the Vikings to swap first round picks with the Bucs to ensure Tampa is able to select either Claiborne or Alabama RB Trent Richardson. This would ensure Kalil would be available to Vikings at #5 since the Cleveland Browns (choosing fourth) already have their franchise LT. Such a move would also bring to the Vikings an extra pick (or picks) in later rounds. Yes, a team fresh off a 3-13 season always looks for quantity this time of year.

Let's just hope if the Vikings do enact such a trade that the transaction is completed before their 15 minutes is up.


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