Another Way to Look at the Vikings' Draft

While many are critical of the Vikings' draft-day trade to secure a quarterback the "experts" had slated in a latter round, we take a "what-if" look back at the draft, starting with a move they didn't make – trading up to get Jay Cutler in the first round – and selecting players available with the Vikings' remaining picks. Can we really do any better than the Vikings did?

Indications was receiving leading up to the draft said that the Vikings liked three players for their first-round pick. In order, they were quarterback Jay Cutler, linebacker Chad Greenway and cornerback Antonio Cromartie.

The Vikings entertained the notion of trading up to get Cutler, but they clearly weren't interest in moving up too many spots to secure him.

So what if they had done that? The entire face of the draft would have changed for the Vikings.

In order to get Cutler, the Vikings would have needed to trade up to No. 11, just as Denver did when it gave St. Louis the No. 15 and No. 68 selections this year. Those two picks represent 1,300 points on the draft value chart.

If the Vikings really wanted Culter that badly, they would have needed to trade their No. 17 pick and No. 48 pick to get more value points to St. Louis than Denver offered. So let's say they did that and see what else might have been available with the rest of their picks.

They still would have had the 51st pick, along with their two third-round picks – Nos. 83 and 95 – that they surrendered to move up and take quarterback Tarvaris Jackson at the end of the second round.

Cromartie went off the board at No. 19, and the Vikings wouldn't have had Cedric Griffin in the fold either, leaving them with needs at linebacker and cornerback.

Linebackers DeMeco Ryans, D'Qwell Jackson, Roger McIntosh and Thomas Howard all went off the board in the first part of the second round, which means the Vikings might have ended up with an outside linebacker like Jon Alston in the second round. The Vikings had visited with Alston at Winter Park in the weeks before the draft.

With Cutler and Alston in the fold, by the time the 83rd and 95th selections rolled around, there just wasn't a lot of intriguing prospects left on the board at cornerback or offensive line. They may have ended up with a guard like Max Jean-Gilles or a safety like Darnell Bing or Ko Simpson – all three of those players went in the fourth round – and they could have had two of those three. Or it's possible that Ryan Cook would have been available in the third round as well, since most draft experts believe he was a reach for the Vikings in the second round.

Following the third round Saturday night, the Vikings received their call from Philadelphia to trade Artis Hicks. If they would have selected Jean-Gilles in the third round instead of Cook, they probably would have still made that trade because of Brad Childress's familiarity with Hicks and his veteran leadership. A known, starting commodity is always better than an untested rookie.

So in this scenario of "what-ifs" and unknowns, the Vikings' draft could have looked something like this:

No. 11 – Jay Cuter/QB/Vanderbilt: A talent some believe will be the best quarterback of the draft, but still a prospect who would have sat and learned during the 2006 season.

No. 51 – Jon Alston/LB/Stanford: A solid character guy who may or may not have been able to wrestle away the starting weakside linebacker spot from E.J. Henderson.

No. 83 – Ryan Cook/C/New Mexico: If most people believe he was a reach at 51, then he might still have been around at 83. If not, then maybe they select Jean-Gilles, a talented guard whose work ethic and conditioning has been questioned, with this selection.

No. 95 – Darnell Bing/S/USC or Ko Simpson/S/South Carolina: Not that we know the Vikings had a great deal of interest in either of these two prospects, but they appeared to be the best players left on the board. Since they chose Greg Blue two rounds later and worked out a number of safeties, we assume safety was a position of interest. They might have also opted to look at one of the available wide receivers like Demetrius Williams of Oregon or taken Wisconsin tight end Owen Daniels, who visited the Vikings and was taken with the first pick in the fourth round.

On the second day of the draft, the Vikings still could have obtained Hicks in a trade and taken Ray Edwards and Blue, like they did, or have looked at someone other than Blue if they picked up a safety earlier with one of the picks they actually surrendered.

So this entire scenario that was played in a Fantasy Draft League, but second-guessing is part of what makes the draft interesting and fun. Hey, it's not your job or mine on the line, but you can decide for yourself with draft lineup you like better:

Reality – This is the one that places two probable contributors in 2006 on the roster – linebacker Chad Greenway and cornerback Cedric Griffin – along with center Ryan Cook, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, defensive end Ray Edwards and safety Greg Blue.

Fantasy – This is the draft that places no surefire starters for 2006 on the roster, but it includes quarterback Jay Cutler, linebacker Jon Alston, center Ryan Cook or guard Max Jean-Gilles, and a choice of Darnell Bing, Ko Simpson, Demitrius Williams or tight end Owen Daniels.

Either scenario likely includes Edwards and the acquisition of veteran guard Hicks from Philadelphia, which may prove to be one of the most underrated moves the Vikings made during the draft.

The reality scenario puts more talent on the field in 2006 with likely contributors and at least part-time starters Greenway and Griffin on defense.

The other scenario, had they traded up for Cutler and therefore not traded up for Jackson, leaves a little to be desired. It appears to be loaded with depth and prospects, but maybe not a starter for this season in the group.

Maybe the Vikings' reality draft wasn't so bad after all.

Another way the draft could have gone without any trades, from Viking Update draftnik Kevin Brown, keeping an eye on the best player available at the time of the pick:

1. Chad Greenway, LB, Iowa (Minnesota)
2a. Richard Marshall, CB, Fresno State (Carolina)
2b. Abdul Hodge, LB, Iowa (Green Bay)
3a. Brodie Croyle, QB, Alabama (Kansas City)
3b. Max Jean-Gilles, OG, Georgia (Philadelphia)
4a. Traded to Eagles (Artis Hicks trade)
4b. Pat Watkins, S, Florida State (Dallas)
5. Fred Matua, OG-C, USC (Detroit)
6. Traded to Eagles (Artis Hicks trade)
7. Traded to Chargers (Toniu Fonoti trade)

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