Put away the school-emblazoned ball caps. National Signing Day is over, with only the few undecided players left to take their talents to a Division I school.
The hype train is leaving the tunnel on this year's class, but it always makes an interesting look back to view current Vikings and how they were analyzed years ago when they were coming out of high school. For some, the hype is being fulfilled – Adrian Peterson is the perfect example of that. For others, they proved that having two or three stars attached to their name as a high school senior doesn't mean they can't become a successful NFL player.
Here is what the Scout.com analysts thought of some of the current Vikings back when they were trying to decide what to do with their college free agency rather than thinking about the approaching NFL free agency. If you thought Rick Spielman's job was hard with the draft, welcome to the hit-and-miss world of projecting success on a high school player. You only need look at a couple of the photos from Peterson, Christian Ponder and Harrison Smith to see the changes in physical maturity in four or five years.
Peterson had it all coming out of Palestine, Texas: He was the No. 1 running back and possessed the five-star ranking to accompany it, along with offers from Oklahoma (his choice), Arkansas, Miami (Fla.), UCLA and USC as the finalists.
"Peterson is one of the nation's top prospects and running backs," Scout.com wrote. "Folks in Texas have compared him to Eric Dickerson. Last season as a junior, Peterson rushed for 2,051 yards (8.3 yards) and 22 touchdowns, despite injuring his right hand. His senior year was even better where he rushed the ball 240 times for 2,315 yards and 32 touchdowns. Peterson has been timed as fast as 10.6 in the 100 meters."
But the best part about looking back on Peterson's player page might be the photo from high school. Looks like his strength training paid off.
While analysts nailed it with Peterson, the same can't be said about Jared Allen. The database didn't go back to his high school days in California, but his 2004 NFL draft ranking had him pegged as the 20th-ranked defensive end coming out of Idaho. But, considering he was drafted in the fourth round by the Kansas City Chiefs with a forte as a long snapper, there were plenty of NFL scouts that missed on him and his two-star appeal.
Texas has produced some all-star quarterbacks, but Ponder was only the 20th-ranked quarterback by Scout.com when he was coming out of high school in Coffeyville, Texas. In addition to Florida State, he ended up with offers from Baylor, Georgia Tech, Iowa State, North Carolina and TCU, to name a few.
"Ponder has the gun to make all of the throws on the next level, and the accuracy you want to see from the position, not to mention also possessing quick feet in and out of the pocket," the profile said. "He's definitely one of the top signal callers in the Lone Star State and one to pay attention to."
Like Peterson, Ponder's look has changed a lot since his high school days.
Peterson was the MVP of the NFL last year. Tight end Kyle Rudolph ended up being the surprise MVP of the Pro Bowl after being a late addition to the NFL's all-star game. But coming out of Cincinnati's Elder High School, there was a lot to like about him. He was the No. 1-ranked tight end and had the accompanying five-star rating.
Scout.com listed his strengths then as blocking ability, hands and concentration, and size, saying his route-running skills needed improvement.
"Rudolph is long and lean and has the frame to put on so much muscle weight at the next level," his profile read. "You could see him playing at 250-260 in a few years and still maintain his speed, quickness and athleticism. Rudolph gets off the line quickly, runs well and has soft hands. He shows excellent concentration and has the ability to make the acrobatic catch or the tough catch in traffic. Rudolph can also be flexed out wide and is a great run blocker."
Rudolph went to Notre Dame, but he also had offers from Boston College, Michigan, Ohio State, Virginia, Wake Forest and Tennessee.
Kalil earned five-star status from Scout.com and was the No. 3-ranked offensive tackle in his recruiting class, with listed strengths of drive blocking, nasty streak and technique coming out of high school, and flexibility listed as an area for improvement.
"May be the most polished offensive lineman in the West in this class. Excels at run blocking and at pass blocking and has nice long arms that envelope the rushers. Can move well for his size," the analysis on him read.
Five years has done a lot to change his look, and back then he had offers from Arizona, Colorado, Miami (Fla.), Mississippi and Nebraska, in addition to USC and others.
Harrison Smith made a lot of improvement since 2007 if rankings mean much. While he was a four-star recruit coming out of Knoxville Catholic High School, he was only the 25th-ranked safety. He had 61 tackles and five interceptions as a junior, but also ran for 1,312 yards and 17 touchdowns on offense.
"Awareness is probably my best strength. I can read what's going on and what people are doing around me," he said back in 2007. "Before the season I usually increase my speed and strength, and then maintain those throughout the season. If the rival teams have certain strong qualities, I push myself in those areas too."
In addition to Notre Dame, he had offers from Auburn, Boston College, Clemson, Stanford, Tennessee and Virginia Tech.
Brian Robison has turned himself into a solid starting defensive end in the NFL, but coming out of high school he was neither highly ranked nor a defensive end. Back then, he was a linebacker that was ranked 125th overall in the state of Texas. Still, his athleticism was impressive more than 10 years ago, too, when he was credited with 121 tackles and nine sacks as a junior linebacker, and did a 380-pound bench press, 500-pound squat and had a 39-inch vertical, according to his recruiting background.
John Sullivan was a first alternate for the Pro Bowl this year, but back in 2003 he was the ninth-ranked center and a four-star recruit. Like most of the aforementioned Vikings, he had offers from a variety of big boys of college football – Notre Dame, Boston College, Miami (Fla.), Michigan and North Carolina, to name a few.
Like the NFL draft, recruiting is far from exact, making it a fan favorite for debate among followers of college teams. The top-ranked recruiting classes don't always represent the National Champion years later, but it is interesting to see how NFL stars were viewed coming out of high school and how much they have matured since then.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Lookback: How Vikings were viewed as recruits
Viking Update Top Stories
Hard-core stats: Vikings at EaglesThe Minnesota Vikings will look to exploit some of the weaknesses the Eagles have shown lately, including one strength for the Vikings and one weakness. We go deep into where the…
Viking Update5:04 AM
Born to run … with backups?Perhaps no other division came into 2016 more dependent on strong running games to succeed as much as the NFC North. But, in just the seventh week of the season, all four teams…
Viking UpdateYesterday at 10:23 PM
LockedownThe Minnesota Vikings have been doing a lot well in their 5-0 start to the season. While punter Jeff Locke doesn't get his name mentioned often among those game-changers, he is…
Viking UpdateYesterday at 4:35 PM
A 315-pound Peter Pan? For SirlesMinnesota Vikings offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles is quite certain him in his emergency Halloween costume of Peter Pan will make it out on social media. We look forward with…
Viking UpdateYesterday at 1:57 PM
Diggs appears on track to playThe Minnesota Vikings appear to be on track to get their leading receiver back for their Sunday matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 1:26 PM