Commentary: The Draft That Didn't Do Much

When the Vikings preach about the importance of building through the draft, the 2005 class can be used as a lesson. A number of the team's bigger free-agent signings the last two years might not have been needed if top picks in that draft would have lived up to their draft billing.

The release of Erasmus James came as a shock to some Vikings fans, but it points out the harsh reality of the NFL – it is a "what have you done for me lately?" league.

When the Vikings conducted their 2005 draft, The Sporting News gave two teams an A+ for their draft grade – Arizona and Minnesota. Of the Vikings' draft, a TSN analyst said, "No team came away with more talent. Troy Williamson will ease the loss of Randy Moss. The Vikings' best value pick was fourth-round RB Ciatrick Fason."

Three years later, the only member of the Class of 2005 that remains with the team is offensive lineman Marcus Johnson. James joins Day One picks Williamson and Dustin Fox as players that never made a significant impact for the team, turning the 2005 draft into one of the worst in team history.

James came into the league with the reputation of being one of the most dominant pass rushers in Big Ten history. He also came in with injury baggage that plagued his career from start to finish. The NFL is a league that makes stars out of players, but it also a league that discards its wounded. If a player doesn't live up to his billing, he is sent packing. Unfortunately for James, that came Friday when he failed his physical and was waived, a likely precursor to him not being with the Vikings again.

When James came to the Vikings, he was supposed to be the answer as a pass-rushing defensive end. That never materialized because he continued an injury history that he brought to league with him. The Vikings expected James and Kenechi Udeze could form a lethal combination at the end spots. That, too, never came to fruition.

Just as the Vikings have celebrated the last three drafts as being successful and bringing quality athletes to the team, the ineffectiveness of the 2005 draft set the franchise back significantly. The Vikings needed to go to free agency each of the last two years to add wide receiver talent – something that was supposed to be accomplished when they drafted Williamson. The team had to give up a king's ransom to get Jared Allen – a position that was supposed to be filled by the drafting of James. Their first pick in the 2008 draft was used on safety Tyrell Johnson – a pick that was made because Fox never panned out and the team still had a need. There are a lot of concerns about depth at offensive tackle because Johnson has never fully panned out to be the player the team expected. The team's biggest draft star of recent years is Adrian Peterson, whose stock made him worth drafting because players like Fason never fully realized their potential.

The release of James takes the Vikings another step closer to closing this ugly chapter in franchise history. If there was any question that the 2005 draft was a complete flop, James' failed physical just reinforces it. Whether he finds a way to latch on with another team or not, James' history with the Vikings will be remembered for failure, not achievement. But, as part of the most underachieving draft class in the last 10 years or more, James is just another member of the Class of 2005 that has brought organizational disappointment more than stardom.

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