It’s been a month since the NFL draft concluded and, in that time, there has been a lot of discussion about how the picks were made and the inevitable comparisons that will be made.
Primary among them will be the three quarterbacks that were taken in the first round by teams that traded up and paid handsomely to do so – Chicago taking Mitchell Trubisky, Kansas City taking Patrick Mahomes and Houston taking Deshaun Watson.
The same is true for the three teams that took wide receivers in the top nine picks, which many analysts think was too high based on the value of the draft class – Corey Davis to Tennessee at No. 5, Mike Williams to San Diego at No. 7 and John Ross to Cincinnati at No. 9.
There was even some opening-night drama at running back. Given the recent rookie successes of Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott, what seemed unthinkable just a couple of years ago – taking a running back in the top 10 picks – happened twice, as Leonard Fournette went No. 4 to Jacksonville and Christian McCaffrey went No. 8 to Carolina.
But, as it pertains to Minnesota Vikings, they were helpless during the Day 1 trade frenzy and surprising dominance of offensive selections at the top of the draft, while defensive players, offensive linemen and tight ends dropped quickly as other positions were gobbled up. Thanks to the hastily put together trade to acquire Sam Bradford last year, the Vikings didn’t have a first-round pick and their draft didn’t start until Day 2.
But, when they finally did get in the action, the Vikings made a bold move to start their 2017 draft.
In the post-Adrian Peterson era, the team made a splash in free agency by signing Latavius Murray to be a power runner in the Vikings offense. There was always the expectation that the Vikings would draft a running back at some point during the draft, but with their first pick of the draft was far from a certainty – much less trading up to get a player they coveted.
In that move, the Vikings cut a deal with the Cincinnati Bengals, trading up from No. 48 to 41 and throwing in a fourth-round pick to move up and make their selection.
The irony of the trade is who was on the other end. Cincinnati has invested in the running back position in the draft in recent years and last season was a disappointing one for Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard – the top two backs in a system that saw New England target No. 3 RB Rex Burkhead in free agency. The Bengals were one of the top teams being viewed as being in the market after the top two running backs (Fournette and McCaffrey) went extremely early.
What will always lock the picks between the Vikings and Bengals was that they both took running backs with picks assigned to the other – the Vikings moving up to No. 41 to select Dalvin Cook and the Bengals dropping back to No. 48 to take Joe Mixon.
Like it or not, both of them will be forever linked because both teams had the opportunity to take one of them. If the Vikings didn’t trade up, Cook may have gone to the Bengals. Had the Vikings stayed at No. 48, Mixon would have still been on the board and they would have had to make a decision at No. 48.
There will be numerous questions as to whether the Vikings would have taken Mixon, who, like Cook, was a first-round talent but had off-field issues that hurt their draft stock. In the case of Mixon, who was caught on camera punching a woman in the face, there was all likelihood that, given the recent issues the Vikings had with Peterson, that Mixon was off the table.
They wanted a running back and the best two available were Cook and Mixon. They ended the debate by moving up and taking Cook, while Mixon was then selected with the pick the Vikings gave back to the Bengals.
But, the debate as to which one will end up being the better pro has only just begun. It will take years to come up with a definitive winner in that debate, but both teams are convinced they have a future star on their roster.
The good news for fans of the Vikings and Bengals is that they both may end up being right as they benefit from the fall of a couple of players who, if you went strictly by their on-field game tape, would have been long since gone by the time either team picked.