Vikings: The Draftees They Didn't Get

The Vikings had three players in their sites with their first-round pick last Saturday, according to a league source. See what the selections they didn't get early had to say, as well as potential second- and fourth-round targets.

The Vikings had three targets in mind last Saturday with their first-round pick, according to a league source: Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler, Iowa linebacker Chad Greenway and Florida State cornerback Antonio Cromartie.

The following is a look at some of the players they showed an interest in and didn't get.


The Vikings weren't willing to trade up too high to get Cutler, but the Denver Broncos were. They traded out of their 15th overall selection to get up to the 11th choice, formerly held by St. Louis, and selected the strong-arm, strong-minded Cutler as their quarterback of the future.

Cutler doesn't know when he might be able to move into a starting role with Jake Plummer in Denver now, but Cutler is preparing to learn the Denver offense.

"It's a learning experience for everybody, but he's an extremely bright guy and he's going to work at it," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "There's always a learning curve, but he will do whatever he can to prepare to learn it. Things come fairly quickly to him, so I don't think it will take too long. But there is nothing like the experience of going against an NFL defense. That will take some time."

For his part, Cutler believes the defenses he played against in college will help speed the learning process in the pros, even if his offensive line at Vanderbilt didn't always give him the opportunity to go through the full progression of reads and checkdowns.

"I think my strengths are I can move in the pocket, I've got a strong arm and have played against some very good defenses. I think playing in the SEC for four years is going to help me in the NFL," Cutler said. "I've overcome a lot of adversity playing at Vanderbilt. We took some tough losses and had to bounce back week after week. Everyone wants to talk about me throwing off my back foot and how poor my footwork is. I think that has to be addressed, but I think that getting into this system and this offensive line and having the protection and the pocket there, that stuff is all going to come naturally."

Cutler was told he would be picked third or fourth after the 2005 season, but making it into the top half of the first round is an accomplishment considering Vanderbilt's lack of high first-round picks in the past.


While the Vikings didn't have the opportunity to select Cutler with the 17th selection, they could have chosen Cromartie, who went to the Chargers with the 19th pick.

"This guy we believe is going to be a special player so we're excited," said Chargers general manager A.J. Smith. "We really think he's got everything you're looking for. The one thing he didn't have, which you heard is somewhat of a gamble, is not a large body of work and an injury. Everything cleared out fine. I would prefer to have somebody that played for three straight years. If not, we all got together and we went with our years of experience and instincts. Again, he's a very good player."

Like the Chargers, indications were that the Vikings were satisfied with Cromartie's health status after he visited Winter Park for a physical before the draft. Cromartie started only one game at Florida State because of a serious knee injury, but few scouts doubted his athletic ability and some compared him to Deion Sanders.

"You have two or three guys that are playmakers and difference-makers because they are such great athletes in the draft. Last year one of them was Shawne Merriman. This guy is that type of player," said Buddy Nix, San Diego's assistant general manager. "You go with the best player and you hope you can fill your needs as you go."

Asked if Cromartie has lost any speed because of the ACL injury, Nix said, "Yes, he's down to a 4.38 (in the 40-yard dash)."

Said Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer: "When you play in our division, you play Rod Smith and you play the big receivers (like) Randy Moss, you need big guys that can run. This guy can do it."


The Vikings also brought in Alabama linebacker DeMeco Ryans for a predraft visit to Winter Park, but Ryans was generally considered a late first-round to early second-round value.

Houston selected him with the first pick in the second round, but the Texans aren't exactly sure where Ryans will play in the linebacker corps.

"Right now, it's a toss-up," said position coach Johnny Holland. "We feel like he's a versatile player that can play all three positions. We want to get him on the field first and see where he fits best in our system. We feel very fortunate to have a guy that is capable of playing three different linebacker positions, and he played them in college, too."

Ryans is considered a high-character person, an important consideration for the Vikings this year. After being selected by Houston, he was asked about the importance of being a team leader.

"Leadership comes by you doing what's right yourself, so I feel like I have to learn the defense for myself first, and get myself in the right position where I know what's going on and know all about the defense before I can start to help. That's what I call leading by example. It's the best way I led in college; just by going to class, doing things right, getting it done out there on the field the right way. The other guys just held on to my coattail, and we turned our team around," Ryans said.


The Vikings were also believed to have a strong interest in Wisconsin tight end Owen Daniels in the fourth round. They never got that chance, however, as, once again, Houston beat them to the punch with the opening selection of the draft's second day.

"I think it was about quarter of ten here in Illinois, and I didn't know what to expect because they were asking me if I was healthy, if I got arrested and what was going on, so I didn't really know how interested they were," Daniels said. "Then they told me they were going to take me with the first pick in the fourth round, and I couldn't be more excited about it."

Daniels, who said he was given a clean bill of health at the Combine on a previous knee injury, described exactly the kind of tight end that can flourish in a West Coast offense.

"(Tight ends) are a hot commodity in the NFL now. Everyone wants an athletic guy who can stretch the field and create mismatches," he said. "It's great because we get to do a lot of things; we get to block like an offensive lineman, but at the same time we get to be a receiver and create different threats that way. I'm excited to contribute as soon as I can and get this offense rolling."


  • Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid on trading guys like guard Artis Hicks to the Vikings and DT Hollis Thomas: "It's tough. It's the toughest part of this job. Any time you have to cut, release or trade a player, that's tough to do. I called both of the guys and thanked them for being the class acts that they were and for all that they gave to the Eagles. I know the situations that we sent them to are good places for them. They will have an opportunity to play and I think Brad (Childress) will probably start Artis at right guard. … I think it will be a win-win for both of those guys."

  • Shanahan on the two offensive linemen drafted, University of Minnesota center Greg Eslinger and North Dakota's Chris Kuper: "We liked both of them. We were hoping both of them would be there with that pick, but you never know. Both Kuper and Eslinger are two guys that we were hoping would be there with our pick, and very seldom does that happen. … They are our style offensive linemen, and I think they bring good value. Kuper was a guy that played both tackle and guard. He has some flexibility there. Eslinger was a four-year starter at Minnesota and team captain and then they run the zone-blocking scheme, which is very similar to what we do, so they should fit in well."

  • Shanahan on whether the Broncos looked to draft a running back in the 2006 NFL Draft: "No, we did not. We weren't planning on picking up a running back. Like we said yesterday, (Minnesota running back Laurence) Maroney was a guy that we thought a lot of, a guy we probably would have taken because of his value and how good we thought he would fit into any zone-blocking scheme. Obviously, we stepped up and went a different direction, but he is quality back and obviously going to New England. We will get chance to play against him."

  • Vikings tight end Jermaine Wiggins was one of the few people who wasn't surprised by the Texans passing on USC running back Reggie Bush and selecting North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams with the first overall selection. In fact, in a predraft chat with about 400 VIPs at Winter Park on Saturday, Wiggins said he started figuring that would happen about three days before the draft because Bush's versatility as a running back and the style of offense that Texans coach Gary Kubiak ran as offensive coordinator at Denver don't really mesh. He thinks the Texans will try to for more of a power running game that suits Domanick Davis' style better.

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