Purple Haze and Draft Daze

Post date: Apr 14, 2019 8:35:47 PM

I love the NFL draft. I really look forward to it. It’s like Christmas morning. When draft day is finally here it’s like running downstairs to open presents. But just like getting socks and underwear instead of toys, some of the Vikings drafts over the years have been less than satisfying. As a matter of fact, some have been real head scratchers. Every team drafts players who turn out to be busts or has stories of strange things that happen in the war room. But it seems like the Vikings have turned draft day blunders into an art form.

Because it’s part of our vibe at WHEN-ESOTA?, we take a look back at some of the Vikings less finer moments on draft day. Remember, this is all done in good fun and in the hopes of exorcising the demons of the past.

Orphaned Draft Picks

In the late 50's, a group of Twin Cities businessmen including Max Winter and Bill Boyer had agreed to purchase a franchise in the newly created American Football League. The AFL was designed to compete with the well established NFL. The AFL held its first draft on November 22, 1959 at the Park Nicollet hotel in Minneapolis. The Minnesota group selected Wisconsin quarterback Dale Hackbart as their #1 overall choice. They also drafted future hall of fame center Jim Otto from the University of Miami with their 2nd pick. In early January 1960, the Minnesota group withdrew their AFL bid, and accepted an NFL expansion franchise later that month which would eventually become the Minnesota Vikings. The AFL team they had drafted, was now orphaned. Ownership of that franchise was eventually assumed by a group from Oakland and the team became the Raiders. The Raiders would beat the Vikings in Super Bowl XI, 32-14,

Bobby Bell

On December 3rd, 1962, the Minnesota Vikings drafted DE/LB Bobby Bell from the University of Minnesota. Bell was also drafted by the Dallas Texans of the AFL and had to choose between the two teams. According to a December 15, 1962 Minneapolis Tribune article, "the Minnesota Vikings simply couldn't fight Lamar Hunt's money. He topped everything the Vikings offered." The Texans eventually moved to Kansas City and became the Chiefs. Bell and the Chiefs defeated the Vikings in Super Bowl IV, 24-3. (Submitted by Keith Grinde)

The Supplemental Draft

A month before the 1985 draft, the Vikings traded their 1st and 2nd round picks to Houston to move up to #2 overall with the intention of selecting University of Miami quarterback Bernie Kosar (It was already determined that Bruce Smith would be going at #1 to the Buffalo Bills). Kosar had other ideas, however. He wanted to play for Cleveland. He strategically didn’t turn in his draft eligibility paperwork to the league office in time so he was ineligible for the regular draft, and would then be eligible for the supplemental draft later that summer. On the same day the Vikings traded up, the Bills traded their #1 pick in the supplemental draft to the Browns. Kosar could then be selected by the Cleveland. It still worked out for the Vikings as they ended up selecting defensive end, and future Hall of Famer, Chris Doleman. Following that draft the rules were changed to prevent incidents like this from happening again.

"Disco" Darrin Nelson - 1982 (April 27)

In the 1982 draft, then Vikings General Manager Mike Lynn used the #7 pick to draft running back Darrin Nelson out of Stanford. Nelson had sent the Vikings a letter before the draft asking them NOT to select him. Nelson's letter to the Vikings was the only letter he sent, ie the Vikings were the only team he didnt want to play for. After being selected, he spoke to Minnesota reporters over the phone and was upset. He told reporters that he didn't think Minnesota fit his "disco" lifestyle. A reporter followed up with a question informing nelson that Minnesota also had discos, Nelson replied that he didn't want to listen to country music at a disco. Nelson turned out to be a long time Viking and had a decent career. Although, there is that dropped pass at the goal line in the 1987 NFC championship game vs Washington. Also, three picks after the Vikings took Nelson, the Oakland Raiders took running back Marcus Allen out of USC who ended up having a Hall of Fame career.

Completely random thoughts about Darrin Nelson:

1. Remember his United Way commercials? “Do you know why you’re special?” Still makes me giggle.

2. The KQRS bits where Herschel Walker and Darren would have confusing conversations. Hilarious.

Speaking of Herschel Walker….

This trade was one of the biggest disasters in Minnesota sports history. Trying to summarize it here wasn’t going to work. So I decided to make it its own blog. Click here to read. For right now, let’s just address the draft picks we lost in that trade.

1990 (April 22-23) - No 1st, 2nd or 6th round picks

1991 (April 21-22) - No 1st or 2nd round picks

1992 (April 26-27) - No 1st or 3rd round picks.

For three years in a row, the Vikings would not have a 1st round pick. And after not having second round picks in '90 and '91, they used the '92 pick on Robert Harris.

Not Having a first or second round pick for that many years is mind blowing. It's shocking the Vikings even survived. Jimmy Johnson was a genius and absolutely fleeced us. At the time of the trade, Minnesotan's loved it. We thought Herschel was the final piece of the puzzle and were planning the Super Bowl parade route. The Dallas media HATED it and was very critical of Johnson. Johnson claimed he had just committed the great train robbery.

A little known fact about the trade? It could have been worse. Johnson could have gotten more compensatory draft picks from the Vikings if he decided to cut the players he received from Minnesota. In desperation, Mike Lynn negotiated another deal with Johnson in February 1990 to end the carnage. Dallas used all the picks the recieved from Minnesota to rebuild their franchise and went on to win 3 Super Bowls in the 1990’s. Ouch.

Don’t be such a Sapp! - 1995 Draft (April 22)

The Vikings drafted DE Derrick Alexander at #10 overall. Alexander wasn’t a bust. He spent 4 years with the Vikings and recorded 17.5 sacks. However, taken one pick later was a DT named Warren Sapp. Like Marcus Allen, Warren Sapp is a Hall of famer. Teams miss on draft picks all the time. But that’s a pretty big one.

The Curious Case of Dimitrius Underwood- 1999 Draft (April 17)

The Vikings actually had 2 first round picks in this draft. The first (#11 overall) was used on QB Daunte Culpepper. With the other (#29 overall), the Vikings selected DE Dimitrius Underwood. Dennis Green insisted on taking Underwood even though Michigan State coaches advised him not to. Without detailing everything that happened while Underwood was at MSU, the coaches told the Vikings he wasn't ready for the pressures of the NFL.

There were warning signs early on. He missed 2 flights to Minnesota for his introductory press conference. He lied about having class to miss a few mini camps. He signed his contract when he arrived for training camp in August, but after one practice, he walked out of camp. He got a ride from Mankato to the MSP airport and flew to Cleveland where his car was parked, then driving to Philadelphia for a few days. Nobody knew where he was until a reporter tracked him down in a hotel. He told the reporter that he couldn’t resolve his conflict between football and his faith. He eventually tried to come back but after meeting with Dennis Green, he changed his mind again. He negotiated a settlement where he forfeited most of his bonus and was released. This is clearly the Vikings worst draft pick of all time. Bleacher Report has called it the worst NFL draft pick of all time.

Fool me once….

2002 Draft (April 20)

The Vikings had the 7th overall pick. The Cowboys had the 6th. The Kansas City Chiefs were trying to trade with Dallas to move ahead of the Vikings and select DT Ryan Sims. While trying to finish the trade the Chiefs put 2 equipment managers in line with Sims name on the Draft card just in case. The Vikings thought that Dallas had run out of time and rushed their card with Ryan Sims name on it to the podium only to find it blocked by the Chiefs equipment managers. The Vikings ended up picking Bryant McKinnie. Luckily, that worked out in our favor, but you'd think it would have taught the Vikings a lesson about the draft clock, especially the very next year….

2003 Draft (April 26)

The Vikings again had the #7 overall pick. But they failed to get their card to the podium in time and ended up picking 9th after Jacksonville and Carolina quickly took advantage of the Vikings incompetency. Jacksonville took QB Byron Leftwich. Carolina took OT Jordan Gross. Apparently, the Vikings were trying to complete a trade with Baltimore, but in the words of Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, the trade was not "consummated’". I think that means we got screwed. To this day the Vikings claim they got the player they wanted anyways in DT Kevin Williams.

Dropping the ball- 2005 Draft (April 23)

In 2007 the Vikings selected Troy Williamson with the 7th overall pick. He was really fast, but he couldn’t catch. Kind of an important trait for a wide receiver to have. The Vikings thought it was an eyesight problem and sent him to vision specialists….at Nike. As someone who personally has a myraid of eye issues, I can confirm that when my ailments began, the first place I thought of to seek treatment was NOT Nike.

And not only was Williamson one of the worst picks the Vikings ever made, there is an additional kick in the crotch to this story. The Vikings had another pick in the first round that year (#18 overall) which they used to select DE Erasmus James. Yeah, he was a bust too. But that’s not the worst part of it. Six picks later the Packers selected a QB out of California named Rodgers. Yep…we selected Troy Williamson AND Erasmus James ahead of A-Rodge. That might be worse than the Timberwolves taking Rubio and Flynn ahead of Steph Curry.

Chasing QB's - 2011 Draft (April 28)

After seeing 3 other QB's go off the board in the top 10 picks, Vikings GM Rick Spielman used the 12th overall pick on Christian Ponder. Spielman was allegedly high on Ponder after seeing him play in the Senior Bowl. To loosely quote NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, "Rick Spielman's is now tied at the hip to [Christian Ponder]."

Video of quote: https://youtu.be/2chXq74nScU?t=236

I'd like to modify that quote. "Rick Spielman's legacy is tied to Christian Ponder, Joe Webb, Donovan McNabb, Matt Cassell, Josh Freeman, Teddy Bridgewater, Shaun Hill, Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, Sean Mannion, and Kirk Cousins."

Ponder won 14 games in 4 NFL seasons. When Spielman was eventually released of his duties, I'd be willing to bet the drafting of Ponder was ‘Exhibit A’ in his termination meeting.

Spielman is a ‘leg man’ – 2012 Draft (April 28)

If Ponder was ‘Exhibit A’, then exhibits B, C and D were all kickers. In 2012, Spielman used a 6th round pick to select Blair Walsh. He kicked well enough his first few seasons that in the summer of 2015 they gave him a 4-year extension. However, In January 2016 at the frigid TCF Bank Stadium on the U of M campus, the Vikings played in their first playoff game in 3 years, and their first under Head Coach Mike Zimmer. Walsh missed a potential game winning FG from 27 yards with 26 seconds left and the Seahawks went on to win. The following year he struggled with both FG’s and extra points and was released after a week 10 loss to the Redskins.

2013 Draft (April 27)

In the 5th round Spielman selected punter Jeff Locke. At that time only 9 punters had been drafted…EVER. He lasted 4 seasons with the Vikings.

2018 Draft (April 28)

At the time this was written, less than 20 kickers had been drafted in the 5th round or higher since 2000. To quote fivethirtyeight.com’s Michael Salfino, “a fifth-round pick for a kicker is more like a first-rounder for any other position.” You would think that after the Blair Witch project crashed and burned, Spielman would have thought twice about doing it again. But 6 years TO THE DAY of drafting Blair Walsh, he rolled the dice again and selected K Daniel Carlson in the 5th round. Carlson lasted 2 games. He was released after missing 3 FGs in a week 2 game with the packers that ended in a tie.

A little known fact about the Carlson pick: Not only did Spielman draft another disaster kicker, but he traded UP to do it. But there's more to it - The pick he traded up to get? It was originally ours! That’s right. We had originally traded pick #167 to the Jets and then traded to get it back…and used it to draft a frickin kicker. I'm sure we gained some extra 7th rounders in the deal.

August 11, 2019

The Vikings traded a 5th round pick to the Ravens for Kicker/Punter Kaare Vedvik. Essentially they used another 5th round draft choice on a kicker. Not only did we already have veteran kicker Dan Bailey on roster, the Vikings released Vedvik three weeks later (20 days). They wasted a a 5th round pick on a kicker, that was on roster for 20 days, and never played a game.

No Experience Necessary – 2016 Draft (April 30)

In the 6th Round Spielman drafted Moritz Boehringer, a TE from Germany who NEVER PLAYED COLLEGE FOOTBALL. Rolling the dice on someone like him in the 6th round doesn’t bother me as much as watching Spielman and Zimmer being interviewed on NFL network sitting on a couch giggling about it. It came off like they dared each other to do it and couldn’t believe they actually did. Not a good look.

Bradford and the Strip Sack.

When QB Teddy Bridgewater was very severely injured at training camp prior to the 2016 season, the Vikings traded with the Philadelphia Eagles for QB Sam Bradford giving up some draft picks, including a first rounder in 2017. The Eagles used that pick to draft DE Derek Barnett.

In the 2018 NFC championship game against the Eagles, that very same Derek Barnett had a strip sack on Vikings quarterback Case Keenum, causing a turnover and giving the Eagles the momentum. Philadelphia never looked back and went on to win Super Bowl LII - at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.


Conclusions

  1. Don't chase quarterbacks in the top half of the first round.

  2. STOP. DRAFTING. KICKERS! Yes, I'm aware all caps means shouting.

  3. Trading back is fine if it's for 3rds, 4ths, and 5ths, but not 7ths.

I’m guessing there are a few more Vikings draft blunders out there that I missed. If there are, feel free to submit them. I will add them and credit you.

References

http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/11659891/herschel-walker-trade-25th-anniversary-run-birthed-dallas-cowboys-dynasty

https://bleacherreport.com/articles/229058-the-worst-draft-pick-in-nfl-history-dimitrius-underwood

https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2014/05/07/top-5-goofiest-nfl-draft-moments/

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/memo-to-nfl-gms-stop-drafting-kickers/

Pro football reference

Wikipedia

Star Tribune