Analysis: Draft Disasters?

If draft classes aren't meant to be fully analyzed until three to four years have passed, then it's probably time to call the Vikings' drafts of 2004 and 2005 failures that they are trying to overcome with what appears to be strong drafts the last two seasons.

The Vikings have been heaped with praise for their draft success the last couple of seasons. In two years, the draft has produced a slew of key contributors, including Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway, Tarvaris Jackson, Sidney Rice, Cedric Griffin, Ryan Cook, Ray Edwards, Marcus McCauley, Brian Robison and Aundrae Allison. But most NFL types will tell you that you can't really judge the value of a draft until three or four years out. Under that standard, the Vikings haven't fared nearly as well.

It should be noted that the last two drafts have been conducted with a strong ownership group headed by the Wilf family, a strong-willed head coach in Brad Childress and a different personnel man with the volatile Fran Foley in 2006 and the much more affable Rick Spielman in 2007. The previous two drafts were headed up by a quorum of voices, with former head coach Mike Tice as the faceplate. The results? Pretty dismal.

Most coaches and personnel types will tell you that the draft is the lifeblood of any franchise. While free agency can bring in star players to cure ills, it is the draft that provides the young talent that can be developed in a team's own image and philosophy. Using the "three to four years out" philosophy, there is little doubt that the Vikings were an unabashed failure in 2004 and 2005. Taking a look back, some would have to ask, "What were they thinking?"

In 2004, the Vikings drafted defense heavily in the early part of the draft. In the first round, they took Kenechi Udeze out of USC despite red flags concerning his injury history. While his diagnosis of leukemia could not have been predicted, he has an entire season wiped out due to a torn ACL and had another season in which he started 16 games and didn't record a sack. The team used second- and third-round picks on Dontarrious Thomas and Darrion Scott. Thomas left via free agency and, despite serious need at defensive end, the Vikings made no outward push to keep Scott in the fold and prevent him from testing free agency. On the second day of the draft, the Vikings selected Nat Dorsey and Mewelde Moore in the fourth round. Neither of them is still with the team.

Of all the players taken on draft weekend 2004, only Udeze and tight end Jeff Dugan – a seventh-round pick and No. 220 overall, currently remain with the team. Prognosis Disaster.

2005 had to be better than that, right? Not so fast. Armed with two first-round picks following the trade of Randy Moss, the Vikings had a chance to do some damage and get something in return for their lost star receiver. Instead, they came up with Troy Williamson with the seventh overall pick and took DE Erasmus James, despite injury red flags attached to him as well, with the 18th pick. Williamson has been a sad joke ever since and was shipped off to Jacksonville for magic beans (aka a sixth-round pick) last month. James has missed one entire season due to a knee injury and, coming off three surgeries on the same knee in the span of just more than one year, has his career in serious doubt.

Other picks from that draft include Marcus Johnson, who couldn't hold his starting job at guard or tackle for the Vikings O-line. Safety Dustin Fox never played in the regular season for the Vikes – a stiff penalty for a third-round pick. Fourth-rounder Ciatrick Fason never panned out to be the kind of runner the Vikings envisioned and he, too, is no longer with the team.

In the end, the Vikings walked away from both of those drafts with just three players that are currently on the Vikings roster – Udeze, James and Dugan. To be honest, it's amazing the Vikings were playoff contenders last year with such brutal back-to-back draft hiccups.

It is expected that, a couple of years from now, if the Vikings are at the top of the NFC North, they will point to the drafts of 2006 and 2007 as primary reasons. But for now, what can be said about the drafts of 2004 and 2005? Maybe the less said the better.


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