Vikings Draft Theme: Quality over Quantity

Even with the Jared Allen trade draining the Vikings of picks, they still moved up twice over the weekend to get players they coveted in exchange for draft picks. Just one week ago, the Vikings had nine draft picks, but after the Allen trade and two draft-weekend moves, they came away with five drafted rookies. See what Rick Spielman and Brad Childress had to say about the picks and trade action.

For the most part, the crux of the Vikings' draft weekend was completed days before the draft actually took place. With the trading of their first-round and two third-round picks to Kansas City for defensive end Jared Allen, the Vikings took themselves out of the mix at the top of the draft. As it would turn out, the team would move up a few spots to make its next two picks – climbing up in the second round to take safety Tyrell Johnson and again in the fifth to take quarterback John David Booty.

It was moving up by design – tracking players that the Vikings had rated highly and going after them. In the end, despite having a minimal number of selections, the Vikings were able to bring home some players they believe can have an impact on the roster – either now or in the near future.

"We were pretty active going up (in the draft order) this year," vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said. "I think it had a lot to do with there (being) specific players that popped out on our board that we felt were worth going up and getting. We were a little bit more aggressive doing that this year."

One of the reasons the Vikings were able to move up was because, thanks to the Allen trade and the free agent signings of Bernard Berrian, Madieu Williams and Thomas Tapeh early in the free signing period, the Vikings were in a position to pick and choose who they went after and decided that it was worth it to give up lower-round picks to get players they coveted. Johnson was one of those players in the second round. The combination of the Allen acquisition and the drafting of Johnson gave the Vikings a 1-2 defensive punch – something of a departure from last year.

"Last year, we kind of struck on the offensive side of (the team) to get Adrian Peterson and then to get Sidney Rice with our first two picks. This year, I think one of the things that I know everybody was talking about improving was our pass defense, because we've not been very good the last couple of years at it. So by getting some help on the back end and being aggressive to go out and get a safety like Tyrell and then to add a pass rusher like Jared Allen, hopefully that will fill some of our needs – especially on the defensive side."

Johnson was a piece of irony for the Vikings in that, on their initial draft board, he was rated as the 17th player overall. That coincided with where the team had its original first-round pick before making the Allen trade. Yet, almost 30 picks later, as the players kept coming off the board, Johnson remained and, when it got too close for comfort, the Vikings decided they couldn't wait any longer.

"There were a few different people between us and, when we started making our calls and doing our math, there were a few people, including Philadelphia, that we thought possibly could move on a safety," head coach Brad Childress said. "We just wanted to make sure that we ensured (we would get Johnson)."

Once Johnson was secured, the Vikings didn't pick again for a long time. The second round was completed, finishing the first day. The third round came and went Sunday morning. So did the fourth round. But as the draft entered the fifth round, the Vikings again felt the need to move up and be aggressive to land Booty.

When the Vikings saw Booty on film, they saw a player with uncanny accuracy, and in a West Coast Offense that is critical.

"That's always the thing in this league – six inches (in delivering a pass) makes a difference, whether you're leading a guy or he has to reach back," Childress said. "Typically, there is a defensive back standing back there, so accuracy is a premium. A guy can throw it through a brick and he may have a big hose, but can he put it where it needs to be put at the time it needs to be put there? That's what (Booty) does bring is he is a very accurate passer."

The selection of defensive tackle Letroy Guion followed along the same principle that the player is more important than the position. Although there is no immediate need at defensive tackle – the Vikings sent starters Pat and Kevin Williams to the Pro Bowl – he is a player with potential and ideally will be worked into the lineup over time. With the talent the Vikings have in front of him, he can be groomed much in the same way Spencer Johnson was years earlier.

The selection of John Sullivan, however, was a very different story. The Vikings have a Pro Bowl center in Matt Birk, but, as most fans know, there has been very little in the way of talks to give Birk a contract extension and many believe that he might be allowed to test free agency after this season. As a hedge on that bet, the Vikings drafted Sullivan – just the second center drafted by team in the last decade and the first since Mike Malano in 2000.

Sullivan was a top prospect after his junior season, but when Notre Dame fell on hard times, so did Sullivan. Flanked by a pair of freshman guards, he was asked to do a lot more and struggled to maintain his technique. In his case, the Vikings needed to focus more on film of him as a junior than during his senior year, when the entire Fighting Irish program appeared to be in shambles.

"The way we have our system set up, we have enough evaluations through '06," Spielman said. "We have evaluations through '07, so we have a complete picture of what the guy is as a player. Sometimes guys don't play as well in '06 as they do in '07. Some guys play better in '06 than '07. But the way that we have it structured and with as many looks as we get on all these draft picks, we have a pretty good idea of what type of player he is."

Although the Vikings added just five players – using their final selection on wide receiver Jaymar Johnson – the belief is that quality outweighed quantity in this year's draft. As Spielman reminded media types Sunday, a draft class can't truly be measured until about three years later. But with Allen as the centerpiece of draft weekend, as well as securing the top-rated safety on their board and their top-rated quarterback after the Big Four that went in the first two rounds Sunday, the Vikings believe that fewer numbers won't necessarily translate into less production. In fact, they're convinced they got more bang for their buck by moving up twice to get picks than if they had stayed and waited for their turn to get called in the draft.

We'll probably will have to wait three years to see if those decisions turned out to be prophetic or pathetic.


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