The 2016 Minnesota Vikings are starting to look a little like the 2010 Vikings. For those who have forgotten the 2010 season (we refer to them as “the lucky ones”), the Vikings were coming off a 12-4 season that ended at their own hand in a turnover-laden NFC Championship Game in New Orleans.
The Vikings were going to squeeze a final season out of Brett Favre and the feeling around Winter Park was that the Super Bowl that had eluded them for a quarter-century was going to be rectified.
All 22 starters were coming back and it had the feel of a last ride of an eclectic group dotted with veterans that weren’t much longer for the NFL but still had a mission left in them.
You get much the same sensation with the 2016 Vikings. Guys like Adrian Peterson, John Sullivan, Chad Greenway, Brian Robison, Phil Loadholt, Terence Newman and Captain Munnerlyn are much closer to the end of their careers than the start and they’re coming back for another ride in 2016.
The Vikings have made a point of making sure they keep the band together. Last month they re-signed every free agent they wanted – running back Matt Asiata, wide receiver/special teams ace Adam Thielen, tight end Rhett Ellison, offensive linemen Mike Harris and Carter Bykowski, defensive line backups Kenrick Ellis and Justin Trattou, linebackers Greenway and Audie Cole and defensive backs Newman, Andrew Sendejo and Marcus Sherels. The only free agents they lost were defensive backs Robert Blanton and Josh Robinson, both of whom found themselves on the down side of the depth chart during the 2015 season. They also 86’ed Mike Wallace for obvious reasons. Suffice to say, if those are the only three you lost, there won’t be any compensatory picks coming Minnesota’s way once again next year – unless the league creates a wild card at the end of the draft to pick Mr. Super Irrelevant.
The 2016 Vikings are going to look an awful lot like the 2015 Vikings. It won’t be easy for 2016 draft picks is to crack the starting lineup. While Mike Zimmer and Norv Turner mix and match personnel on their respective sides of the ball, rookies are going to face an uphill battle because the coaches know the players they have and, when it comes down to the final cuts, experience often wins the day over expectations with coaches.
It smells a lot like 2010. There aren’t going to be many spots available for late-round picks because the Vikings are going to have a lot of tough decisions to make with a band of brothers that has taken the field as a group and most of the platoon is still intact.
What is hoped to be different is the result of the draft coming up in a little more than three weeks.
It can be argued that the Vikings were so full of themselves back in 2010 that they ignored the consistent vibe out of Hattiesburg that the Gunslinger wasn’t too keen on coming back. They knew they could get him – it ended up in a Seal Team 6-style cuff-n-stuff, but they got him back.
The 2010 draft, in many ways, was an exercise in futility. They landed a true star in Everson Griffen, but that wasn’t until the fourth round. For the record, Detroit gave the Vikings Griffen so it could make sure nobody stole Jahvid Best away from them – a decision they clearly must regret. But the Vikings' 2010 draft was a draft for depth and it lived up to that billing.
It was the first year of television taking over the draft. It was still in New York, but it was the first time a draft was held in three days and the first time the NFL went prime time.
In 2009, the draft was held as it had been for years – two rounds conducted late afternoon on Saturday, April 24 and the final five rounds on Sunday.
Now the NFL was in prime time. The draft moved to Thursday and the audience increased exponentially.
At the time, the Vikings held an in-house draft party. They charged $8 for a beer and, in the end, didn’t make a pick..The Vikings were playing the percentages. They were the smartest guys in the room.
The Vikings traded out of the first round to obtain the second pick in the second and fourth rounds. Given the reassessment that was going to take place in the first year of a three-day draft, having the second pick on Day 2 and 3 potentially could be worth equity beyond the draft value chart.
It didn’t happen. The first Viking in the Class of 2010 was cornerback Chris Cook. The next pick was a trade-up to select running back Toby Gerhart. Griffin is the only pick the Vikings have left from 2010 and the clear impression was that, if somebody stepped up with an impressive trade offer to get someone they coveted at that point, Griffen wouldn’t be a Viking.
The Vikings have the opportunity to make a big move in 2016 to not make it a draft for depth. If there has even been a year where you don’t need 10 draft picks – six will do if you cut a deal, for, let’s say, Jaylon Smith to buy an extra year if needed – this is it.
2010 was a disappointing draft by design because the Vikings were overthinking and trying to stockpile picks by moving down. They got what paid for, with Griffin being the only value pick – on the newly established Day 3.
The composition of the existing 2016 Vikings roster leaves a similar potential dilemma that Rick Spielman faced in 2010.
How different will this draft be?
Get your popcorn ready.