As we count down the days until the 2017 draft, we’re going to take a look back at some of the drafts that helped make or break the Minnesota Vikings franchise. Every year, teams are convinced that they’re going to harvest the college ranks for a handful of players who become starters at some point. The reality is that every draft is a roll of the dice that comes up craps as often as it does 7 or 11.
There was one year, however, where the Vikings were accused – and with the benefit of time to bear witness – of drafting for depth, not for starters. The year was 2010 and those who endured it will never forget it.
Perhaps in no draft since the turn of the century had there been more draft fever than there was in 2010. If not for shooting themselves in the foot multiple times to lose to New Orleans in the 2009 NFC Championship Game, the Vikings would have been coming off a Super Bowl appearance. The front office, coaches and players – not to mention heartbroken fans – felt they were robbed of the Super Bowl and 2010 was going to be the year they finished their business with Brett Favre.
There wasn’t a player in the draft that year that anyone outside of Winter Park was overly excited about. That was made worse for fans who had spent hours in the Winter Park Fieldhouse only to find out the Vikings traded out of the first round to add picks at the start of the next two days.
Why was the 2010 draft such a disappointment? The Vikings were returning all 22 starters. For some organizations, that is a scenario to trade up in the draft, take fewer picks, but land two or three guys you covet and move on put a couple more bullets in your full clip.
That wasn’t how the 2010 Vikings did it. Back when Viking Update had a magazine, our headline on the cover said “Drafting For Depth,” which had more than a couple team personnel walking past it in the entryway at Winter Park and none too amused.
But the first take on that draft proved right. The Vikings didn’t draft many starters, they drafted depth, whether that was the intention or not.
Here was that lean harvest:
Chris Cook, CB, 2nd Round – The Vikings already had Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin under contract and in place. Looking to add depth, Cook got the call to be a backup who wouldn’t start as a rookie. As it turned out, despite being pressed into starting duty as a rookie, in four years with the Vikings he played just 40 of a possible 64 games (starting 29 of them) and doesn’t have a commemorative football honoring his first NFL interception because he never had one. The fact Linval Joseph and Rob Gronkowski were hoping the Vikings would take them makes it worse.
Toby Gerhart, RB, 2nd Round – This is when you knew the draft was going sideways. You had Adrian Peterson three years into his career and you draft a backup to eventually replace him? The Vikings actually traded up to get Gerhart, trading their second- and third-round picks to get him (selections that turned into linebacker Brandon Spikes and tight end Tony Moeaki). When they were trading up, the agents for Sean Lee and Golden Tate were hoping to get a quick call. Didn’t happen. Gerhart put up young Steven Jackson numbers in his career. Unfortunately, they represented four-year totals, not a single season. In 61 games, Gerhart ran 276 times for 1,305 yards and five touchdowns and caught 77 passes for 600 yards and three TDs. Pro Bowl numbers for 16 games, but when you divide those totals by 61 games, they’re humbling.
Everson Griffen, DE, 4th Round – At the time, Griffen had a red flag on his draft resume – a campus run-in with police that didn’t go well. Turns out, he is the only shining light of the draft class as he remains a quality pass rusher and eventually found a tamer stride off the field.
Chris DeGeare, T, 5th Round – He played eight career games, starting five in a pinch when the season was deemed a failure in 2010. He never played another game after his rookie season.
Nate Triplett, LB, 5th Round – He didn’t survive the final cuts and ended up playing in eight games over two seasons with Indianapolis.
Joe Webb, QB, 6th Round – Drafted with the intention of converting him to a wide receiver, he was quickly moved back to quarterback. In four seasons with the Vikings, Webb played in 33 games, starting four times at QB, including in the 2012 playoffs. He has spent the last three years with Carolina.
Mickey Shuler, TE, 6th Round – He never played a game for the Vikings, finishing his four-year career playing for Miami, Oakland, Jacksonville and Atlanta, catching two career passes.
Ryan D’Imperio, LB, 7th Round – Converted from linebacker to fullback, he spent a year on the practice squad before playing 12 games in 2011, catching two passes for seven yards.
For a team that had Super Bowl aspirations, the 2010 draft added little to the mix in the short term and, seven years later, the only player with any lasting impact is Griffen, who has become a mainstay of the Vikings defense, but a lone wolf from the Class of 2010.