When the Vikings were looking for a trade partner last Thursday to get back into the first round of the 2012 draft to select safety Harrison Smith, they eventually found that partner in the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore was willing to trade out of the first round to accumulate some mid-round ammunition for the rest of draft weekend.
As karma would have it, they really made the right decision.
It was widely regarded that the Ravens were in the market for an offensive lineman with their first pick in the 2012 draft – situated in the never-good 29-hole of the first round. Picks Nos. 29 and 30 tell the uninitiated one thing – you made a conference title game and lost. The No. 29 pick is bitter. You don't want it. The Ravens didn't. But they had a need along the O-line. With Matt Birk at the end of the line and Pro Bowl guard Ben Grubbs signed away via free agency, the plan made sense.
But, when the clock struck 29 – David DeCastro and Kevin Zeitler were gone – the Ravens said "Never more" and shipped the 29th pick to the Vikings. After trading out of the first round, the Ravens took possession of the 35th pick in the draft – the Vikings' assigned second-rounder. With that pick, Baltimore eschewed taking an O-linemen (they would with two of their next three picks) and selected OLB/DE hybrid Courtney Upshaw.
Prior to the Combine, Upshaw was viewed, based primarily on factors as insignificant as game tape, as a top-10 pick with the potential to play both defensive end and outside linebacker. Baby Terrell Suggs, if you will. After his Combine performance, however, his stock took a hit. Suddenly he was too small to be a defensive end and too slow to be an OLB in coverage with running backs and athletic tight ends. He was a ‘tweener of the worst kind – supremely talented, but a man without a true position.
It's unclear whether the Ravens would have selected Upshaw had they stonewalled the Vikings and remained in the first round. Reality would dictate that they didn't covet him enough to turn away the deal and risk his selection by one of the subsequent five draft picks that would be made before they picked again. Clearly, he wasn't a "must have" option like the Vikings viewed Smith … at the time.
The Ravens rolled the dice and drafted Upshaw when their eventual pick came along in the second round. When he was drafted, many scoffed the decision. Ray Lewis is likely in his last season. The same with Birk. Grubbs is gone. Outside linebacker was a need, but not a front-burner need … until Thursday.
On Thursday, the Ravens announced that Terrell Suggs, the NFL's quintessential DE/OLB Super-'tweener, suffered a torn Achilles tendon playing pick-up basketball. Despite his contention that he will play in 2012, in all likelihood, Suggs is gone for the season. But, for reasons few could explain at the time, the Ravens may not be in as hot of water defensively as they would have been a week ago today when many of their fans were stunned by the selection of Upshaw.
For those who believe in karma, the goose met up with the bump.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.