As the Vikings prepare their 2013 draft board, there are two teams that they are doing their best to try to figure out because, in many ways, the Vikings' draft will likely be impacted by one or both of them – the St. Louis Rams and the Indianapolis Colts.
Both teams could be integral to determining who ends up in purple and gold in 2013. The Vikings currently sit with two picks in the first round of this year's draft (Nos. 23 and 25). The Rams have two picks in front of the Vikings – at No. 16 and No. 22, the pick immediately before the Vikings make their first selection. The Colts have one first-round pick, located like the filling of an Oreo in between the Vikings' two selections.
The irony of the coalescence of the Vikings, Rams and Colts can't be lost on draft scholars – even those who have been draft scholars for only 11 months. There histories are intertwined and a commentary on how quickly fortunes can change in the NFL.
A year ago at this time, the remnants of snow were long since gone from Minnesota – something that can't be said a year later. As the draft was approaching last year, the fates of the Colts, Rams and Vikings seemed to be far off on the horizon.
The Colts were in their first year since the tail end of the last century without Peyton Manning's familiar No. 18 leading the team into battle. Years of unprecedented success and double-digit victories not only collapsed, it came crumbling down. There were midseason discussions as to whether the Colts would win a single game in 2011. For a fan base that had been so spoiled by success, this sharp and dramatic fall from grace was a hard pill to swallow. As it became clear that the Colts were going to find themselves in position to select Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, it was becoming more apparent that the Manning Era was over and the Luck Era was ready to begin. They had the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft and the wind of change was in the air.
The Rams were a moribund franchise that was going nowhere in a hurry. Once touted as the "Greatest Show On Turf," they had morphed to what could be best described as the "No-Offense Huddle." The Rams were in line to have the No. 2 pick. In what will be debated by Rams fans and media for years to come, with the chance of drafting Robert Griffin III with the second pick of the draft, they were blown away by a trade offer by the Washington Redskins – trade back to the sixth spot in the draft from No. 2 and the Redskins would throw in their second-round pick (No. 39 overall, used to take cornerback Janoris Jenkins) and their first-round picks in 2013 and 2014. The first of those first-round picks is at No. 22, one spot in front of the Vikings.
We don't need to remind Vikings fans of the brutal 2011 season. Their franchise-worst 3-13 record accomplished nothing more than earning them the third pick in the 2012 draft. Much like the teams with the top three picks in this year's draft – Kansas City, Jacksonville and Oakland – nothing was expected of any of them in 2012. Just about any football analyst with an audience predicted all three to lose 10 games or more and, most likely, be back in position to make a premium pick in the 2013 draft.
A funny thing happened on the road to Loserville. Two of those three teams made the playoffs. Both were quickly dispatched, but the rise from the outhouse to the penthouse of the NFL wasn't lost on either the Vikings or the Colts. The Rams didn't fare as well, finishing 7-8-1, but it should be noted that they didn't lose to NFC champion San Francisco – beating the 49ers once and tying in the other game. While the Rams didn't garner a lot of national attention, they had salty 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh showing off his lower set of teeth twice. The best teams in the NFC couldn't beat the 49ers. The 49ers couldn't beat St. Louis.
It is from that genesis of the current draft intrigue that this year's draft will find the three teams back in the intersection of their respective franchise prosperity. In 2012, the three teams were slated to pick 1-2-3 in the draft. In 2013, their lot in life has changed markedly, but they still cross paths.
The Rams have a couple of critical similarities that will come into play over the next month. If Sam Bradford is ever to be successful, he is going to need a wide receiver. The accepted notion is that Greg Jennings isn't the only stop on the 2013 Christian Ponder "Prove It Or Lose It" U.S. Tour. The conventional wisdom says that one of those two picks (if both are used) will be earmarked for a wide receiver. There is the Percy Harvin clone (Tavon Austin). There is the risk/reward player (Cordarrelle Patterson) who could drop to the Vikings like Harvin and, a generation earlier, Randy Moss, fell to the Vikings. There are the "safe" picks (Keenan Allen and Robert Woods). The only certainty is that the Rams are going to take one of them.
St. Louis has a need at linebacker and could use a stud defensive tackle to create an easterly reincarnation of the Fearsome Foursome of previous Rams history. With those needs (and two picks) in front of the Vikings, you can bet Rick Spielman has his finger on the pulse of what St. Louis is planning and plotting. Trading up in the first round only makes sense when it comes to the absolute last moment that a player an organization covets will go away. If the Vikings covet a rookie wide receiver, St. Louis (which hasn't replaced Danny Amendola, much less Brandon Gibson) will be the biggest obstacle and challenge to sitting and waiting for who is available and making the move to assure the get the one player they want.
The Colts are a secondary problem for the Vikings. If the Vikings stand pat and use both of their first-round picks, the needs and wants of the Colts are important in a critical respect. Their pick sits in between the two Vikings picks. If the Vikings are convinced of the direction the Colts are going to go, they can tailor their picks accordingly. But, without a second-round pick, Indianapolis is as likely as any team to make a trade to acquire additional picks and move out of that spot. Spielman has a headache. Fortunately, Colts owner Jim Irsay is addicted to Twitter and has a penchant for foreshadowing.
A year after the Colts, Rams and Vikings were slated to pick 1-2-3 in the 2012 draft, all are looking at the 2013 draft to "get over the hump" and be an organization in the discussion for a Super Bowl run. The paths are crossing once again, but this time, there is a lot more at stake for all three franchises. Their futures all look markedly brighter, but their futures are also going to be linked given their draft proximity for the second straight year.
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.
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