May 1, 2006
"At Fork in the Road, Vikings Go Big, Then They Go Down Home" by Vikes Geek

As the Minnesota Vikings prepared for the 2006 NFL entry draft, the vast majority of Vikings’ fans predicted a nice haul in the draft. With five picks on day one, history supported such a sentiment. And with a draft replete with good talent deep into the first round—and numerous players that fit the Vikings’ draft needs likely to be available when the Vikings selected at seventeen—the Vikings appeared in position to make a draft move.

To some extent, the Vikings did what they needed to do in this draft. Entering the draft, the team’s greatest need was at middle linebacker. Three linebackers stood out as potentially filling this need—AJ Hawk, Ernie Sims, and Chad Greenway. Of the three, Hawk widely was regarded as the superior linebacker with Greenway and Sims close behind. But a case could be made that Greenway—with thirty-five more tackles than Hawk in 2005—was the best linebacker on the board, with Sims a distant third both as a player and as a person. That made landing Greenway at seventeen a nice, as well as a less expensive, catch.

The question for the Vikings is how soon it will take Greenway to move to the middle linebacker slot. Vikings’ head coach Brad Childress has indicated that Greenway will open camp as the starter at weak side linebacker with EJ Henderson manning the middle linebacker position and Ben Leber lining up at strong-side linebacker. If Greenway shows the aptitude for the game that he showed as a walk-on at Iowa, however, the linebacker alignment could change before the regular season begins and the Vikings could have one of the more solid linebacking corps in the NFL.

Another of the Vikings’ pressing needs was a role player in the secondary. The Vikings filled that need by selecting Texas cornerback Cedric Griffin. While Griffin probably will not draw comparisons to Deion Sanders any time soon, the Vikings drafted him to fill an immediate need that does not require star quality—the role of nickel cornerback. And with 86 tackles for the Longhorns last season, he should be more than suited to fill that role.

The Vikings’ selection of Griffin meant not only that the Vikings had filled their two remaining vacancies, but also that the team could turn its attention to upgrading positions for which they at least had a body penciled in as starter in 2006. That shift of attention led the Vikings back to their number one problem last season and gave Vikings’ fans their first real reason second-guess the Vikings’ draft triangle—a group that, through pick forty-eight, merely had followed virtually everybody’s big board.

Finding a Fork in It

Shortly after selecting Griffin, the Vikings reached a fork in the road. Holding the 51st pick, the Vikings still sought an offensive lineman, a backup quarterback, and another linebacker. With several talented offensive linemen still available the question for the Vikings was whether they preferred finesse or brute strength.

One option was Outland Trophy and Rimington Award winner Greg Eslinger from the University of Minnesota. The only player ever to be selected both the best interior lineman and the best center in college football, Eslinger appeared to be a good fit for the Vikings as his selection would allow the Vikings to move Birk to right guard and to interject some quickness into a line otherwise heavy of foot.

The Vikings took the road more traveled, however, foregoing drafting Eslinger in favor of drafting the much taller, weightier Ryan Cook out of New Mexico. While the knock on Eslinger is that he is too small, the knock on Cook is that he is too tall—ripping the tape at 6’7?.

The primary concern about the Vikings’ selection of Cook, however, is not that Cook is too tall to line up at center for Minnesota, but that the Vikings’ took the mammoth center far too early in the draft. With most experts having pegged Cook as a second-day selection, picking Cook in the middle of the 2nd round certainly looks like a reach. And if the Vikings truly could have had Cook in the fifth round—where he was projected to go—then the team blew the pick with respect to what they later had to pay to move up to take Tarvaris Jackson.

If Cook pans out, however, all probably will be forgotten about this gaffe—one that pales in comparison to previous draft-day gaffes—as Vikings’ fans predominantly will recall only that the Vikings obtained Cook somewhere in the 2006 draft. And if Cook pans out—as is also expected of Greenway and Griffin—the Vikings will be able to look back at the 2006 draft, in which the team had only one pick in the first forty-seven, as at least a satisfactory draft.

Up Next: Jackson and Change.

Posted by maasx003 at May 1, 2006 6:08 AM