They used the second-round pick on cornerback Chris Cook and the fourth-round pick on Everson Griffen – both of whom have factored heavily into the defensive vision of the Vikings moving forward. However, Cook's NFL career to date has been a story of largely unfulfilled promise.
Drafted to be the big corner the Vikings would need to compete against players like Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall, Cook has found it difficult to stay on the field for a full season. As a rookie in 2010, he played in just six games after tearing the meniscus tendon in both of his knees in separate incidents. In 2011 he started six games before being arrested on charges of domestic violence that led to the team placing him on an indefinite in-house suspension.
Cleared of the abuse charges last spring, Cook was looking at 2012 as being a fresh start for him and his pro career. He cut off his trademark dreadlocks and changed his number. He came into the season upbeat and looking to reward the Vikings after two truncated seasons. Instead, he suffered a broken arm that put him out for six games, continuing a frustrating trend of not being on the field with his teammates for a full season.
"I was reaching for that this year; unfortunately I broke my arm," Cook said. "What can you do with a situation like that? A broken bone is a broken bone. I always had in mind that I was going to come back and contribute and that's what I did. I feel like I came back and helped out as much as I could."
Cook broke the radius bone in his right arm and currently has a severe looking nine-inch scar that bisected one of his tattoos. In the era of arthroscopic surgery, Cook has become a medical anomaly. He has more screws than a handyman's garage from his arm injury and an ankle injury from his time at the University of Virginia. The arm has healed, but the scar will always remain and, from the sounds of things, so with the metal screws used to fuse the radius back together.
"I've got nine screws in there," Cook said. "I've got some hardware in there. I'll most likely keep them in. People have been telling me I have up to a year to take them out, but most times you keep them in. I don't really want to go under the knife again."
While more of an inconvenience than anything else, Cook is getting to the point that he has almost enough metal inside his body to set off detectors. But, he's glad to say, that hasn't happened yet, although he may be pushing the limit.
"I've been to the airport once maybe twice since I've had it (without a problem)," said Cook, who goes through a different process with the team's chartered flights to away games. "I've got seven screws in my ankle and a plate in my ankle. I broke my ankle my freshman year in college. I'm trying to be the next Terminator – all metal. I haven't set off the alarms yet, but it may happen."
When Cook was injured Oct. 25 against the Buccaneers, he was placed on injured reserve. However, thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement, each team could designate one player to be placed on injured reserve with the intention of returning to the active roster. The Vikings used that designation on Cook, who wasn't convinced the team would have kept him on the active roster if not for that new designation.
As a result of his experience, Cook has become a strong proponent of the new rule. When he found out he was going on injured reserve he was devastated, until he was informed that he would be earmarked with the provision allowing him to return when his broken arm had healed. Unlike his previous stints away from the game, this time he still felt part of the team and credited that ability to work with his teammates as motivation to return.
"When they told me I could do that, I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, I like that,'" Cook said. "I can rehab and then come back. It was a good thing for me. I think it helped keep me mentally in the game as well as me trying to stay in shape."
Through his first three seasons, Cook has played just 22 of a possible 48 regular-season games. As he enters the final year of his rookie contract, he understands how critical 2013 will be to his career, whether it's with the Vikings or elsewhere. Because of his lack of tangible playing time over his first three seasons, Cook said it's hard to believe that he will be entering his fourth season.
If he has another injury-marred season, it could cost him millions of dollars when he attempts to land his second NFL contract and, although he tries not to let it weigh on his mind, he's aware of the ramifications of how vital 2013 will be to his NFL future. He finds hard to fathom that he's entering his fourth season and still hasn't lived up to his own expectations concerning the amount of playing time he has had.
"It's like I just got here," Cook said. "I was just talking to my mom about that. I'm going into the last year of my contract. Things change when you go into a contract year. Especially as a player, we're all passionate about the game and, when you go into a contract year, it's like this could be my last one. You've got to give it your all. I'm trying not to think about it right now, but it's a reality and I'll deal with that situation when it comes. It's always a ‘would-of' situation when it comes to contracts as far as health and playing time."
Cook wants to remain with the Vikings because he believes that the team is on the upward cycle coming off a franchise-worst 3-13 season in 2011. He bristled at the thought of the Vikings being in rebuilding mode. He saw 2012 as more of a restocking the shelves than the franchise hitting bottom and being in a long-term rebuilding process.
"I think we exceeded a lot of the expectations that people had for us this year," Cook said. "It's a good starting point. Everybody says ‘rebuild' when talking about us. I don't think it was rebuilding process. I feel like it was a reshaping. We have some good parts here and just plug in a few things here and there. We can be as successful as we want to be."
Cook hopes to be part of what he sees as a rise in the hopes of the franchise and is convinced that he has a lot more to show the Vikings and their opponents. Through three seasons, he has missed more games (26) than he has played (22) and is still waiting for that first full season. But he is confident that, when it finally comes, he will belatedly return the confidence that the franchise showed in him when it made Cook its first selection in the 2010 draft.
"I haven't even touched the surface," Cook said. "I feel like I'm still going up as far as player progress – getting better and learning the game. Even though I haven't been able to play a full season yet, I still feel like I have a long way to go, can get better and be one of the best DBs in the league."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.