Following the Minnesota Vikings at DraftFest at U.S. Bank Stadium was a whole lot harder than it was to do so on Twitter thanks to general manager Rick Spielman, who has made 24 draft day trades over four drafts and made seven trades over the three days of the 2017 NFL Draft. Spielman was the biggest reason why the 2017 NFL Draft had the most trades ever. He didn’t change his approach from years past, and it paid off again.
Spielman had to know this year’s draft would be deep when it came to the Vikings’ needs (OL, RB, LB, S) when he moved a 2017 first-round pick (No. 14 overall) for quarterback Sam Bradford. That didn’t stop him from getting first-round talent, though.
Spielman traded up to get Dalvin Cook, who fell to No. 41 overall mostly due to off-field issues despite being the top running back on multiple analysts’ big boards. No general manager should avoid drafting a player because he has incidents of growing up. These are kids after all, and kids make mistakes. The greatest rookie of all time, Randy Moss, spent time in jail before falling to the Vikings at No. 21 overall, and 20 teams now regret passing on him. The NFL is a business, so these decisions should be purely economical. Unless you think the “red flags” would adversely affect revenue, you draft the player. That’s why Spielman moved up seven spots to draft Cook, and every team in the league will learn to regret passing on him.
The addition of Cook makes the Vikings’ backfield a triple threat, with Latavius Murray wearing down defenses with power up the middle, and Cook stretching the edge and catching passes either as a running back or wide receiver. He’s the steal of the draft in my opinion and will have a chance to prove it immediately.
The Vikings weren’t done improving the running game, though, and Spielman wasn’t done drafting talent that fell into his lap. Ohio State center Pat Elflein was widely considered a second-round talent, and Spielman moved up nine spots in the draft to get him. After signing top free agent tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers to large, long contracts, Spielman added Elflein as additional depth on the interior. Elflein can also play guard, and likely will, given Joe Berger’s veteran presence at center. That’s two starters who will have an immediate impact despite not being first-round picks, which will save the Vikings money over the course of their rookie deals.
My favorite deals Spielman made went mostly unnoticed, but he flipped the Vikings’ No. 86 pick to the Chiefs for No. 104, No. 132 and No. 245. Then he traded No. 104 to the 49ers for No. 109 and No. 219. Pick No. 109 became defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson out of Iowa. He’ll serve as insurance if Shariff Floyd decides to retire due to surgery complications with his knee. Johnson is a perfect fit for the Vikings’ defense because he’s a pass-rushing tackle and lacks run-stopping ability, which the Vikings don’t need with Linval Joseph at nose tackle. That’s another potential starter drafted in the fourth round.
It was no secret the Vikings would be looking for linebacker depth, and Spielman got it in Ben Gedeon. Gedeon, out of Michigan, was the strongest and most agile linebacker at the NFL combine, and went to the Vikings at No. 120. He’s a “tackling machine,” according to Darren Wolfson, and will immediately contribute on special teams. The special teams help kept coming from Spielman, with wide receiver/kick returner Rodney Adams expected to fill the big shoes left by Cordarrelle Patterson. Adams was picked 170th overall and shed tears of joy when he received Spielman’s call.
At pick No. 180, Spielman got even more offensive line depth with Danny Isidora, who will provide competition in camp. A red zone threat followed at pick No. 201, after Spielman traded No. 199 and No. 230 to the Washington franchise for No. 201 and No. 220. Bucky Hodges, Captain America’s best friend and tight end out of Virginia tech, should contribute as a wide receiver in red zone situations because he’s six-foot-six and was the best jumping tight end at the NFL combine.
Miami wide receiver Stacy Coley could stretch the field for the Vikings and was taken at No. 219 overall. His biggest question mark is his passion for the game, though. With the very next pick, Spielman added depth to the defensive line with Ifeadi Odenigbo, who had a higher passer pressure rate than some first-rounders.
Spielman provided more training camp competition at linebacker with the addition of Elijah Lee at No. 232, who could be a starter in the NFL eventually. At No. 245, the Vikings finally got some depth at defensive back. Jack Tocho is expected to move from cornerback to safety.
Once again, Spielman moved back in the draft to acquire more picks, and once again, it paid off. Drafting three potential starters without a single first-round pick is impressive and fun. It makes me wish Major League Baseball would allow the trading of draft picks so we could see what the young Derek Falvey could do with the first overall pick.
(Spoiler alert: RHP/SS Hunter Greene will likely be the pick. Can you imagine drafting a starting pitcher who can hit for power and play shortstop? You could even bring in a reliever to face tough right-handed hitters late in the game, move Greene to shortstop, and put him back on the mound after replacing him with your utility infielder. It would also give you an extra pinch-hitter on the bench since Greene would hit for himself. Then you could move Greene back to shortstop for the rest of the game so you don’t lose his bat in the lineup. That would be so fun to watch.)
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: View From The Couch
UPDATED: A link to current Saints / Adrian Peterson coverage has been added.
I am just like you. Like you, I have a favorite NFL team. Perhaps we share the same team, perhaps not. Like you, I’m no expert in football but again, like you, I’ve watched a lot of games. Every Sunday and Monday. And now sometimes on Thursday. And watching a lot of football has -- well, you know -- pretty much made me an expert. Just like you.
I love the Minnesota Vikings. I don’t know why. Season after season of disappointment, regret and shame. I blame "The Curse." Okay, to be fair, we all know that curses don’t actually exist. Except, obviously, for the one on the MN Viking!
Maybe there is no curse. Maybe all the other Super Bowl winners catch lucky breaks and the Vikings just happen to catch unlucky breaks. Repeat. Or maybe it’s Murphy’s Law. Or maybe it’s the coaching staff. Or the owner. Or the players. Or the fans. Or the curse.
Whatever it is, it certainly is exciting. I mean, the 1998 Vikings go 15-1 and still find a way for “Automatic Anderson” to miss a field goal and lose in the Championship game. I’m sure eighties / early nineties Bills fans feel my seventies pain when I say, “Bloody hell! How can you lose four super bowls in one decade?” Or in 2009, how can you have Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin and still lose? Oh, right, because All Day fumbles the ball, like, sixteen times in the Championship game against the Saints! Good times, good times.
Maybe the Viking’s aren’t cursed, per say, but they sure do find creative ways to lose. So, why do I love the Vikings? Why am I still a fan? Loyalty? Marketing? Nostalgia? The fantasy? Is it the fantasy that we all crave? We watch a game and think to ourselves, “I could have done that. I could have caught that ball. Made that kick. Hit that hole. I could be rich and famous. I coulda been a contender.”
Maybe. But maybe it’s really, really simple. Maybe I just love the Vikings because it’s my home team. And, also, because American football is the greatest professional sport the world has ever known. Like, ever. Including all those super cool alien sports ball games that earthlings will compete in in the distant future. Don’t believe me? Check out the competition:
The Competition, or, "A totally off topic rant against other sports that should probably be cut but won't be."
Baseball. America’s Pastime.
Yeah, um, sorry but no. Baseball is about as exciting as watching ice cream melt. Each score is worth the same amount of points. One. Holy F’ing boring! Ninety percent of your fielded athletes do nothing. Oh, look over there at that ridiculously high paid star athlete -- the way he stands there and does nothing over in left field -- it really is an inspiration to us all! My favorite interview with a baseball star came about fifteen(ish) years ago, I don’t even remember the player’s name. A reporter asked him a question about being a “star athlete.” The players snorted and replied, “I’m not an athlete. I play baseball.” Yes! More of that please!
Hockey. The sport of “The Great One.”
Hockey can’t be taken seriously for one significant reason: too many games end in ties! How the hell can you have a professional sport that ends in a bunch of ties?!!? Besides, we all know hockey is just "awkward padded boxing" on skates. Occasionally, the fighters break up the cage match and shoot the puck around the ice for a while. Oh, look, another exciting ass ice boxing match that ends in a 0-0 tie! Thankfully I only paid $125 for my ticket or I’d be really disappointed in this sport (note the sarcasm).
Basketball. The court of “Air Jordan.”
Basketball has too many points involved for it to be continuously engaging. But at least basketball has a range of points. Shots can be worth one, two or three. And the pace of the game is break neck. Something is always happening. Have you ever watched fans at a basketball game cheer their heads off when their team scores that first two point bucket? Notice how the enthusiasm is gone by mid game where their home team has scored its thirty third 2 point shot. Points become meaningless when they are handed out so frequently which is why you hear the oft said expression, “You only need to watch the last ten minutes of a basketball game.” I guess, to be honest, I don’t mind watching basketball (it’s not like it’s bloody baseball for Christ’s sake!) but it’s no American football.
Tennis. (I have nothing snotty to say about tennis).
I kind of dig tennis. Unique point system. One-on-one or two-on-two competition. Steffi Graf. Pete Sampras. Good stuff. It’s just no NFL. We all know that.
Please. It’s not a sport. It’s a skill. No competition.
Soccer. The world sport. Loved by billions.
Meh. Another game that ends in ties. And each score is worth one point. Not much in way of scoring strategy. Oh, you beg to differ? Quick, what’s your sports ball plan for your soccer team? Oh. What was that? You plan to kick the ball into the goal. For a point. Yeah, that’s what I thought. I know the world loves soccer (football). Fair enough. You keep your soccer, I’ll keep my American football.
So what makes American Football so great? (If you really dislike football you might want to just skip this part and move on down to the open letter sections).
You’re either on my side or not. No need for a seven page discussion why football wins. It just does. The strategy. The symmetry of the formations. Substitutions. Play calling. Offensive strategy. Defensives strategy. The deceptions. Consider that every single play requires dozens of off field personnel to predict the opposing side, call the play, get substitutions in and out, communicate the play, line up in formation (which suggests a certain type of run or pass play but is usually disguised as something other than it looks), hard count to draw the defense offside (or not), focus (do not get a penalty), execute the play (all eleven people on the field have to do their jobs or the play goes to shit), out play your opponent.
So, for every play that happens in the NFL that’s the culmination of anywhere from twenty to twenty five people all coordinating their jobs every five minutes. Over and over and over again. Compare that level of detail, coordination, teamwork and the individual chance to rise up above another player or entire team to just “make a play," with, “Pitcher tries to throw ball past batter.” Yes, yes, I know baseball is slightly more complicated than I suggest. But only slightly. And it’s no football. And there is no comparison.
Anyway. I’ve made my point. You’re now convinced (or not). American Football for the win. Allow me to get back to the matter at hand.
The Open Letter Section. Out with the old. In with the new and I'm really sorry about that curse, guys.
Dear Mr. Peterson.
We have never met. We probably never will. I just want to say to you, farewell. You’re a great athlete. I have enjoyed many an hour watching you turn defensive lines into Swiss cheese. I marvel at how you can get five or six yards when defenses stack eight men in the box. I love that, with one hand, you can shove an NFL player away from you, hardly breaking stride. You single handedly carried the MN Vikings into the playoffs in 2012 with your 2,097 rushing yards. You will go down as one of, if not the, greatest running back the NFL has ever seen. Well played, sir. Thank you for your hard work and fair game play.
And I’m soooo glad to see you gone! The Vikings have been ruined with you in the backfield. Several years of completely predictable and uninspiring offense designed to hand you the ball launched the Vikings into an orbit of mediocrity. Other teams pretty much knew you were getting the ball 25 times per game. And, for a long time you were still great. And then the injuries and the scandal and the drama struck. And suddenly you were no longer, Adrian Fucking Peterson! You were just Adrian Peterson, a very expensive, pretty good runner. And while other teams are passing for 5,000 yards, year after year the Vikings are at the bottom of the league in offense. It’s time for a new plan.
I am glad to have seen you play for the MN Vikings and I hope you continue to have a fine, injury free career on other teams. Perhaps you’ll get a super bowl ring behind Drew Brees. You deserve one. Of course, I’ll be honest with you here ... "The fucking Saints?!?!" How quickly you forget! I mean, they were the team who paid their players extra money to injure opponents. And that’s exactly what they did in the 2009 Championship game against you and your team. (Grumble, grumble, grumble). Which is why the Vikings lost that game.
Oh, and another reason they lost is because you fumbled (and lost) the ball, like, sixteen times!
Maybe you're cursed? Anyway, try not to fumble so much in the future.
Unless you’re playing the Vikings.
Update: How is Peterson doing as a Saint? Check out our coverage: Adrian Peterson and the Failed New Orleans Saints Experiment.
Dear Mr. Bridgewater.
You have a great name. I love it. By all accounts it seems you are a really, genuine, decent man. Young, smart and talented -- you are guaranteed to have a great future in the NFL. Unless the curse of the MN Vikings will inflict a freak, horrible, non contact injury that could end your career.
On the bright side, the NFL has an unlimited budget for medical care and you are young and strong. You’ll recover. But there’s, "recover," and there’s, "RECOVER"! It looks as if the Vikings will not pick up your option. Which means they, and the NFL doctors expect you to recover. But probably not RECOVER.
You might play again. I hope you do. Because of your injury the Vikings might be able to re-evaluate you next year. Perhaps you’ll recover enough and they’ll sign you as a back up. And you’ll probably be -- okay. It’s hard to evaluate your career as you were only the starter for a year and a half. But you do have an overall winning record totaling a W/L/T of 17-12-0 (See! No ties!). In 2015, you led the Vikings to the top of the division with an 11-5 record where your numbers were:
GP CMP ATT CMP% YDS AVR TD INT LNG QB-RAT
16 292 447 65.3% 3,231 7.23 14 9 62 88.7
Aside from a flat line TD / INT ratio those numbers are -- well, they’re okay. You were sacked 44 times that season for a loss of 307 yards. About three times per game. Pretty impressive record for getting knocked around that much. It’s also interesting to note that Adrian Peterson was healthy in your 2015 season. Peterson played 16 games and rushed for league high 1,485 yards which probably took a lot of pressure off you. The previous year when you took over for injured Matt Cassel you went 6-6 but Peterson was inactive the entire year. Tough road for a rookie. It also suggests you might need a great back in order to win.
Anyway, you know all this. But I, along with many other Vikings fans, had high hopes for your future with the Vikings. I’m sorry that the curse struck you down. You did not deserve it. I hope you are the physical freak of nature that Adrian Peterson proved he was when he came back from his horrible knee injury and rushed for more than two thousand yards. I hope you can come back from your injury and throw for five thousand yards!
I really do. Good luck kid!
Dear Mr. Bradford.
Hey, dude. I like you. I really do. You quietly put up impressive numbers in 2016.
GP CMP ATT CMP% YDS AVR TD INT LNG QB-RAT
15 395 552 71.6% 3,877 7.02 20 5 71 99.3
Almost four thousand yards in fifteen games. Nice TD to INT ratio and an almost seventy two percent completion ratio! Which is insanely high! And an NFL record. It was certainly your best year as a pro. Excellent work!
Buuuut -- I gotta be honest with you. It’s -- well -- your W/L numbers that concern me. You went 7-8 as a starter. The losses are not all on your shoulders. Far from it! AP had another injury and after that The MN Vikings had a dismal running game. They also had, arguably, the worst front line in the league. A frontline, I might add, that allowed multiple games with five or more sacks on you. That doesn't even include the amount of time you were hit (but not sacked). To be honest, I don’t expect my team to win when the O-line gives up five sacks per game and probably twice as many QB hits. All in all you were sacked 37 times for a loss of almost 300 yards. Which isn’t as much as I thought. Brdigewater went down more times in his full season start. But still, the O-line has to improve and when it does and you’re offered a bit more protection, I see that you can get the ball into receiver's hands.
Buuuut -- it’s still that pesky win / loss ratio that bothers me. You were drafted in 2011 for the St. Louis Rams and had largely mediocre and some not very good seasons. Also, you were injured in four of your seven years as a pro. Not promising. Finally, you have a mediocre season in Philadelphia and then get traded to the Vikings in 2016. Your overall W/L/T record is a sad looking 32-45-1 (stupid tie!).
Thankfully, in 2016 you had two rising superstar receivers in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielan. Bridgewater was throwing to folks like Charles Johnson, Mike Wallace and Cordarrelle Patterson -- three players that always should have been better than they were. So, Sam, I’m glad you have that going for you.
But man. We could have had Teddy "GUMP" Bridgewater. (Great Under Major Pressure). And he coulda turned into a star. Probably.
But Sam, you're not bad, right? On one hand AP was down for the year, and you did what you could do.
On the other hand, Bridgewater went 11-5. With subpar receivers.
On the other hand, he had a healthy AP to back him up.
On the other hand, Bradford, you had the worst offensive line in the NFL.
On the other hand, Bridgewater was sacked more than you were in that year by year comparison and he still won eleven games.
On the other hand, the NFL has never seen a more accurate passer than your job in 2016, Mr. Bradford.
On the other hand, Sam, you didn’t really get a lot of yards per pass. And you lost more games than you won.
(I ran out of hands).
Well, Mr. Bradford. I’m not here to make you feel bad (which, you probably don’t). You seem like a stand up guy. I never heard you complain about losing or whine about the O line. You took your hits, took your blame and moved on to the next game. I approve.
I pretty much have faith that you’re going to be A-Okay here as a Viking especially with those two superstar receivers aforementioned I expect all your numbers to go up. And we have a new running back. Latavius Murray seems like a good egg.
Oh, and one final thing. Sam, if you hear anything about “a curse,” just totally ignore it. None of our quarterback are ever injured! I mean, except for like the last twenty of them. But aside from that our QB is never injured. We always make the clutch field goals. We always have a winning record. Our players have an insane amount of super bowl rings. Like, seriously, you would not believe how many super bowl rings the Vikings have! So, there is totally, no curse on the MN Vikings. Okay?
Besides, curses are not real. I mean, obviously, except for the one on the MN Vikings that we all know exists. But aside from that one, curses are not real. So don’t worry about it!
Just go play ball. Have fun. And let’s try and get that W/L ratio up a bit, shall we?
Thanks for reading!