“We should have drafted Marcus Peters instead!”
“We should have drafted Michael Thomas instead!”
These are my two least favorite arguments among Vikings fans. Claiming that a drafted player was a mistake because he’s not the best player from that draft doesn’t make much sense to me. Furthermore, the argument can be reversed. There are several moments where Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman clearly did get the right guy.
I did a study by looking at each draft and each position group the Vikings drafted to determine when they clearly get the best guy still on the board.
I’ve limited the discussion to players who are still on the Vikings since that’s all I really care about. If you would like to discuss past draftees, like Percy Harvin or Scott Crichton, I think it’s time to let go. I am also not looking at undrafted free agents. If no team drafted them, it’s hard to argue Rick should have.
Here are five studs that the Vikings have drafted under Rick Spielman:
The first name on this list is a close one! Drafted in 2011, Rudy was the first TE off the board that year. Kyle has battled injuries throughout his six-year career and he’s had some key drops that would quickly change the narrative on him if caught. Despite all that, he plays great (when he’s healthy) and just put together an awesome 83 catch, 840 yard, 7 TD season. Jordan Cameron and Julius Thomas were drafted behind Rudolph, but Slick Rick still made the right choice here.
A year after Rudolph, the Viking’s GM went back to Notre Dame and found a star in Harrison Smith. “Hitman” was the second safety off the board and he broke out immediately. Now, as the centerpiece as the defense, this pick deserves the highest praise for Rick. The next safeties off the board were Tavon Wilson, Brandon Taylor, and Brandon Hardin. Otherwise known as who, who, and who??? Justin Bethel and George Iloka came later. They’re great but they’re not Harrison Smith.
Another year, another stud. 2013 was a great CB class and Rick still nailed the pick. To snag the best DB from a group consisting of Robert Alford, Micah Hyde, Tyrann Mathieu, Logan Ryan, and Darius Slay is impressive. It took Xavier a year to get his ducks in a row but he broke out in year two after Mike Zimmer took over the coaching staff. Now Rhodes has ascended and is receiving league-wide acclaim. I love it when this guy is in the spotlight because he seems to shine even brighter in it.
This one is pretty close. With fewer years on record, it becomes harder to assess quality players. Kendricks has put two great years together, but so has Kwon Alexander, who was drafted by Tampa Bay two rounds later. In this LB draft, there were very few pro-ready backers and the Vikings nabbed one of them while putting him next to his former college roommate. You can’t argue this selection.
I have to take a pause now and tell you a little more about Kwon Alexander. Danielle Hunter’s teammate at LSU had a monstrous 2016 campaign. Consider Eric Kendricks then increase his tackle production by 33%. That’s what Kwon did. Alexander will be a player to watch when the Vikings play the Bucs in Week 3.
Unlike ILB, there were a plethora of pass rushers taken in the 2015 NFL Draft. The Vikings didn’t necessarily need one, with two veterans manning the edges, but that allowed them to take the super raw freak athlete Hunter. He started flashing early though his playing time was limited time behind Robison and Griffen. Now, Vikings fans excitedly await the Danielle Hunter breakout of 2017. I would not trade Hunter, nor the excitement he brings, for anything. Trey Flowers of New England is also poised for breakout and his production compared to Hunter is laughable.
In 2015, the Vikings first three picks were Trae Waynes, Kendricks and Hunter. So when someone is lamenting about Marcus Peters, ask them how they feel about picks #2 and #3. There’s no debate. When playing the “should have drafted” game, Vikings fans need to realize that Rick is great at that game. The above five studs prove it. Next week, I’ll highlight some of Rick’s best late round steals.