Warning! This is not a post about the Minnesota Vikings quarterback situation. Feel free to disperse.
Today, I'm going to circle back to a very minor story from last week - the Vikings waving backup offensive tackle DeMarcus Love.
I'm not going to bother commenting on the loss of Love (who was subsequently signed to Jacksonville's practice squad and then promoted to its 53-man roster on Tuesday). It's hard to comment on a player who never actually dressed for a regular season game while he was a Viking. But Love's release made him the latest member of the Vikings 2011 draft class to fail to make an impact. This strikes me as potentially important because the 2011 draft was the start of the new "Vikings way". Brad Childress was gone and Rick Spielman was gaining more say over player personnel matters. Because 2010 went so wrong with an aging, veteran-laden team, we were told the Vikings were going to break from how they had been building their roster in recent years. Signing multiple big name (and big money) free agents was out. Getting younger and building through the draft was in.
I consider the 2011 Vikings draft to be management's first stab at this strategy. Not quite three years removed from that event, where the team selected 10 draftees, how is the class doing? Let's take a look.
1st round - Christian Ponder (12th overall)
2nd round - Kyle Rudolph (43rd overall)
4th round - Christian Ballard (106th overall) *
5th round - Brandon Burton (139th overall) *
6th round - DeMarcus Love (168th overall) *
6th round - Mistral Raymond (170th overall)
6th round - Brandon Fusco (172nd overall)
6th round - Ross Homan (200th overall) *
7th round - D'Aundre Reed (215th overall) *
7th round - Stephen Burton (236th overall) *
The asterisks identify the players who are no longer with the Vikings. You probably already knew this, but anyway, there are six of them - or 60% of this draft class. You know what happened to Love. Ballard left the team under mysterious circumstances during training camp, then revealed in September he quit because he wasn't having a "good time" playing football. The Flying Burton Brothers were cut at the end of training camp (Brandon caught on with the Bills, Stephen with the Jags, and his seven catches are seven more than Joe Webb has). So was D'Aundre (DND - Did Not Dress) Reed. He's now a member of San Francisco's practice squad and doesn't dress on Sundays, which seems about right. Homan didn't make the team at all.
As for the other four still collecting checks from the Vikings - Raymond is a backup who gets hurt a lot (expect him to be a training camp cut in 2014 - if he lasts that long). Fusco is into his second year as a starting guard. He was generally terrible last year. You just hope he can pull a John Sullivan, who also struggled in his first year as a starter but is now considered one of the best centers in the game. Rudolph is a very good player who has been handcuffed by bad quarterbacking. Ponder .... do I need to write anything more than his name at this point?
I guess this is my long-winded way of saying the 2011 draft isn't looking very good. It's produced one good player (Rudolph), one backup safety and two other starters (I realize calling Ponder a starter right now is a tenuous designation) who might be some of the worst at their positions in the league.
I'm not pointing this out to slam Spielman. Seven of the 10 picks came in the 5th round or later, so it's not as if he whiffed on multiple 1st and 2nd rounders. A lot of these picks were long shots to begin with. Still, one good player out of 10 draftees? This is not the stuff that Super Bowls are made of. Fortunately, the 2012 (Kalil, Smith, Walsh, Ellison, Wright) and 2013 Vikings drafts (Floyd, Rhodes, Patterson) are shaping up a bit better.