As we do another edition of Draft Rewind, we don’t have to go back very far. The year was 2012. It was the first draft conducted after the new Collective Bargaining Agreement kicked in and the cost of signing rookies went way down.
That had a double-edged benefit for teams. For the first time in years, teams could trade up to get players and the cost wasn’t so prohibitive that a team stuck with the first or second pick in the draft when it wanted to make a trade out.
The Indianapolis Colts had no interest in doing that since they allowed Peyton Manning to leave so they could clear the way for Andrew Luck to be the No. 1 pick that year.
But, the trading wasn’t done for other teams. Not by a long shot. And few teams made as many moves as the Minnesota Vikings.
Following the Donovan McNabb debacle, then-head coach Leslie Frazier was no longer part of the Triangle of Authority. Rick Spielman was promoted to general manager and the draft decisions that were made were his and he didn’t like staying put. Then again, at the beginning of the draft nobody was willing to sit and wait for the draft to come to them.
In all, 16 of the first 31 picks were made by teams that weren’t originally assigned to them, including six of the first seven. Some helped teams. Others crippled teams.
After Luck went with first pick, the St. Louis Rams found a taker for the second pick, which most thought would end up being Robert Griffin III. Having invested a ton of money in Sam Bradford two years earlier, the Rams had no interest in RG3. But the Washington Redskins did. Boy howdy did they.
Washington gave up the sixth pick in the draft, its second-round pick (No. 39 overall) and the Redskins’ first-round picks in 2013 and 2014 for the right to move up four spots to take RG3. Ironically, three founds after drafting Griffin, the Redskins also drafted QB Kirk Cousins. Four years later, Cousins is making almost $20 million on the franchise tag and RG3 has taken his act to Cleveland.
Speaking of Cleveland, when it became clear they weren’t going to get Griffin, they cut a deal with the Vikings to flip-flop picks in order to make sure they didn’t miss out on the Next Big Thing at running back – Alabama’s Trent Richardson.
The Vikings had no interest in Richardson – for the obvious reasons that they already had Adrian Peterson and T-Rich ran like a plow horse. But, Cleveland was convinced someone was going to trade in front of them, so they offered the Vikings their first-, fourth-, fifth- and seventh-round draft picks.
Not only did the Vikings draft Matt Kalil, the player they were going to take with the third pick, they also landed Jarius Wright in the fourth round and Robert Blanton in the fifth round, all for the privilege of letting the Browns botch another draft by taking the wrong player.
The Vikings weren’t done taking advantage of Cleveland. The team also shipped off defensive end Jayme Mitchell to the Browns in order to get a sixth-round pick that they used on kicker Blair Walsh.
The first round was a mixed bag of hits and misses. Jacksonville traded up to get wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who played himself out of the league due to off-field infractions. The Panthers waited until the ninth pick to take Luke Kuechly. Seattle traded down three spots to take defensive end Bruce Irvin, who was a shocking pick at the time, but became an almost instant star.
The Patriots liked a defensive end of their own, trading up with Cincinnati to land Chandler Jones.
Not to be outdone, the Vikings traded back into the first round and selected Harrison Smith, a move the Ravens almost surely regret. Before the round was over, Tampa Bay cut a deal to draft running back Doug Martin, who has become the franchise back the team hadn’t had since the heyday of Warrick Dunn.
Chicago wanted in on the fun, so they made a trade with Dallas to move up to take wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, making him the third wide receiver taken in the third round – behind the Rams’ Brian Quick and the Jets’ Stephen Hill.
The draft was far from over at that point. Miami drafted a hometown college product named Olivier Vernon in the third round (No. 72 overall) and Seattle continued its draft of a lifetime, following up Irvin and linebacker Bobby Wagner with quarterback Russell Wilson.
Hell-bent on giving Luck targets to throw to, the Colts used their next three picks on tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, all of whom proved critical to Luck’s early success.
Again proving that Day 3 can produce some gems, Miami drafted RB Lamar Miller (4th round, No. 97 overall), Washington took Cousins (4th, No. 102), Denver landed DE Malik Jackson (5th, No. 137), Carolina picked CB Josh Norman (No. 143), Cincinnati used back-to-back picks at Nos. 166 and 167 to take WR Marvin Jones and safety George Iloka, Washington picked up RB Alfred Morris (6th, No. 173 – 170 picks after Richardson), Denver found another unheralded star in LB Dannry Trevathan (6th, No. 188), Seattle drafted defensive end J.R. Sweezy (7th, No. 225) and turned him into a starting guard and Mike Zimmer, then the defensive coordinator of the Bengals, believed he could make a player out of undrafted linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
It was a year that made Spielman’s reputation with the Vikings. It was the first draft in which he had total control and he came away with eight players who became major contributors to the Vikings – Kalil, Smith, Josh Robinson, Wright, Rhett Ellison, Blanton, Walsh and Audie Cole.
By any standard, the 2012 draft was one that started the Vikings on their upward track that currently has them in the discussion of being a potential Super Bowl team in the near future.