Minnesota Vikings’ absence from draft’s first round creating apathy

The lack of a first-round pick has left Minnesota Vikings fans lethargic and without the typical draft questions that abound for the other 31 NFL teams.

When the tragic knee injury to Teddy Bridgewater forced the hand of the Minnesota Vikings and resulted in the trade for Sam Bradford, the Minnesota Vikings knew there would be a time when that trade would need to have a receipt, which is coming this week.

Around the rest of the league, there is a ton of excitement as fans of most of the other teams are speculating who will end up on their roster.

  • Is it possible that Cleveland could end up with the highest ranked player (defensive end Myles Garrett) and the top quarterback selected?
  • How many of the teams needing quarterbacks are going to address it in the first round?
  • Where do running backs like Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook end up and will they all go in the first round?
  • Will there be two safeties coming off the board in the first five or six picks?
  • When will the offensive tackles start coming off the board and how quickly will they start going once the door gets opened?
  • Who will end up with playmaking receivers like Mike Williams, Corey Davis and TE O.J. Howard?
  • Who will be the surprises of the first round that shock the world with where they are selected?
  • Who will drop farther than they should and be players viewed as top-half first-round picks that end up staying on the board for a long time?
  • Who will end up with the controversial players that have been all over the board like Reuben Foster and Jabrill Peppers?

These are all legitimate questions that are being asked and have become an annual debate that makes the draft so much fun for fans. However, because of the necessity trade that the Vikings made to keep their 2016 division title-defending hopes alive before the regular season began, there has been no such pondering of questions and reading the tea leaves in Minnesota.

Not only don’t the Vikings have a first-round pick, anyone who knows Rick Spielman understands that there is almost no chance the Vikings will surrender more picks to move back into the first round. The cost is too high and the odds are stacked against it.

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As a result, there has been a certain sense of lethargy among Vikings fans that has put a damper on the draft – or at least the prime-time, first-round pick that tends to get the most national attention. They’re not participants; they’re observers just like the millions of fans who watch how the chips are going to fall.

If the Vikings were sitting at No. 14, the questions would abound. Would they have an interest in guys like McCaffrey, Williams, Foster, Haason Reddick or Peppers if they were still available? Would they be a hot spot for a team looking for a quarterback to jump into and offer a harvest of picks in exchange?

For fans of most teams, that is part of the excitement of the opening night of the draft. The possibilities, and questions, are endless – who will they take and who will they pass on?

In years like the ones in which the Vikings took players Randy Moss, Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin, the fan reaction was explosively optimistic. In years that the Vikings took players like Kevin Williams (whom the fans didn’t like initially), Troy Williamson (nobody understood why he was taken where he was) and Christian Ponder (clearly a reach), the venting of the fans was the narrative.

This year? Next to nothing.

There’s little excitement. It’s not a daily talker on local sports radio programs or trending on Twitter as to who the Vikings are going to pick. The fun of trying to evaluate the players available, combined with the primary needs of the Vikings, and trying to determine which player would be the best fit for the 2017 team has been dampened. A year ago, when the Vikings were on the back end of the wide receiver run in the first round, they got the player, Laquon Treadwell, that a lot of the respected draft analysts rated as the best receiver in the class.

It was exciting, much more than his lone reception in his rookie season. Still, it was a talking point that had the 2016 draft at the front of mind with Vikings fans.

It’s not the first time the Vikings haven’t had a first-round pick, but it’s been different. Since the heavy lifting of the Herschel Walker debacle concluded, it’s only happened three times.

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It happened in 2008, when the Vikings made a trade the week of the draft to acquire Jared Allen. Nobody cared. Fans arrived by the thousands at the draft party at Winter Park to see a Photoshop of Allen on a giant banner hanging from the Winter Park fieldhouse and, when the front four showed up, the crowd went nuts.

In happened in 2010, when the Vikings were full of themselves and traded out of the end of the first round believing that keeping the band together that took them to the NFC Championship Game with Brett Favre navigating the ship would get the job done.

In 2017, it is happening for a third time and there isn’t nearly the same level of excitement. Waiting until Day 2 just doesn’t have the same anticipation that is has in recent years.

The reality is that the Bradford signing was the right move to make at the time, and, depending on the team’s point of view moving forward, it could well turn out to be a salient long-term move for the continuity of the franchise.

But, in the short-term Thursday night, the standard hoopla isn’t there, which is why the draft party is being held on Saturday and not Thursday.


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