The Vikings’ Triangle of Authority — coach Brad Childress and vice presidents Fran Foley and Rob Brzezinski — will likely get mixed reviews for their first draft. What started out as a strong, by-the-book type of draft was followed by selections that certainly raised some eyebrows.
The Vikings began by addressing their glaring need at linebacker, taking Iowa weak-side linebacker Chad Greenway with the 17th overall pick. Minnesota then went with versatile defensive back Cedric Griffin with its first pick of the second round, No. 48 overall.
Both of those selections should provide a big boost to new defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin’s Cover-2 scheme. Griffin, who is more comfortable at cornerback, appears to be an ideal fit for what Tomlin wants to do.
But it was at this point the Vikings got creative and perhaps made the biggest reach of the first day, taking New Mexico offensive lineman Ryan Cook. Cook has size (6-6, 328 pounds) but is incredibly raw and might not be as versatile as the Vikings would like.
The Vikings want Cook to be able to play several positions but he’s a natural center, despite his size. He has never played guard and only practiced occasionally at that position while at New Mexico. Cook was thought to be a second-day player and admitted even he was surprised to get the call from the Vikings so early.
Cook’s selection was followed by another surprise when the Vikings sent their two third-round picks (Nos. 83 and 95) to Pittsburgh for the final pick of the second round. Minnesota used that selection on Alabama State quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. The Vikings had been expected to attempt to draft a quarterback of the future on day one of the draft, but Jackson certainly wasn’t a name that had been thrown around by most.
Some thought the Vikings might trade up to get Vanderbilt’s Jay Cutler, while others believed they would go for Alabama’s Brodie Croyle or Oregon’s Kellen Clemens. But the Vikings claimed Jackson was their man and proved it by trading out of the third round because they feared another team would snatch Jackson first.
“I think you judge quarterbacks a little bit differently,” said Childress, the former Eagles offensive coordinator. “We had this discussion during our meetings last week. When you see what you want at a quarterback position you need to go get it, and that’s exactly what I see with Tarvaris Jackson — a guy who is a piece of clay, that has all the skills that I just mentioned in terms of, No. 1, what does he look like throwing the football? I’m buying that throwing motion. I’m not expecting to change it or move it around.
“I’m the buyer. It’s like buying cars, if you don’t like that one you go to the next one. He’s got a great throwing motion. He’s athletic.”
The Vikings continued making moves and taking gambles on the draft’s second day, sending their fourth- (No. 115) and sixth-round (No. 185) picks to Philadelphia in exchange for veteran guard Artis Hicks and a fourth-round choice (No. 127). The trade left the Vikings without picks in the final two rounds.
Minnesota used its fourth-rounder on Purdue defensive end Ray Edwards, who has talent but a questionable work ethic, and then took Georgia safety Greg Blue to close the draft.
BEST PICK: CB Cedric Griffin, Texas, second round. Griffin might have been the Vikings’ best selection. Griffin likely will compete for playing time in the passing packages, but long-term, he could end up at either cornerback or safety. He is a good fit for the Vikings’ new Cover-2 scheme and won an NCAA championship last season at Texas.
COULD SURPRISE: QB Tarvaris Jackson, Alabama State, second round. The Vikings better hope Tarvaris Jackson surprises many because this is the man coach Brad Childress sees as his quarterback of the future. Starter Brad Johnson will turn 38 in September and No. 2 QB Mike McMahon doesn’t appear to be starter material. That means Jackson, out of Division I-AA Alabama State, will be counted on to run the offense after a few seasons of learning.
A closer look at the Vikings’ picks:
Round 1/17 — Chad Greenway, OLB, 6-2, 242, Iowa
With A.J. Hawk and Ernie Sims gone, the Vikings turned to Greenway. He will compete for a starting job on the outside, possibly with E.J. Henderson. There is a chance Henderson could return to the middle after one season playing on the outside. Greenway is the type of high- character player owner Zygi Wilf wants on his team.
Round 2/48 — Cedric Griffin, CB/S, 6-0, 199, Texas
The Vikings claimed they had Griffin rated much higher on their draft board and said he was too good to pass up at this spot. Griffin appears to be a good fit for the Cover-2 scheme and likely will find himself competing for a job in the nickel and dime package right away. More comfortable at cornerback, Griffin expressed a willingness to play wherever he is needed.
Round 2/51 — Ryan Cook, OL, 6-6, 328, New Mexico
This was the Vikings’ biggest surprise of the weekend. Cook was a center at New Mexico, but the Vikings also want him to learn to play guard and tackle. He has limited tackle to no guard experience at these spots. For now, Cook might be an insurance policy in case center Matt Birk can’t stay healthy, but if Birk goes down, Cook would seem a bit raw to be able to anchor the line.
Round 2/64 — Tarvaris Jackson, QB, 6-1, 232, Alabama State
Jackson took himself a bit off the radar when he decided to transfer from Arkansas to Alabama State after the 2002 season because of a lack of playing time. However, he played well enough at Alabama State that NFL teams were forced to take notice (29 touchdowns, five interceptions last season). The Vikings thought enough of him that they dealt their two third-round picks to Pittsburgh to trade into the second round to grab him. The team knows he is a project but expects him to be their quarterback of the future.
Round 4/127 — Ray Edwards, DE/OLB, 6-4, 268, Purdue
He had 5 1/2 sacks last season and 11 tackles for loss as a junior, but there are questions about his work ethic and some projected he might not even be drafted. Defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin’s high-energy style might be a good fit for Edwards, who does have talent.
Round 5/149 — Greg Blue, SS/OLB, 6-2, 216, Georgia
Dropped a bit lower than projected because of a lack of consistency and a poor showing at the combine. The Vikings like his hitting ability but there are concerns about his coverage.
Artis Hicks, obtained from Philadelphia in a draft-day trade, will move to the top of the depth chart at right guard, coach Brad Childress said. That will leave Anthony Herrera, Adam Goldberg and Chris Liwienski competing for backup jobs at guard. Hicks, a fifth-year player out of Memphis, is 6-4, 335 pounds.
Vikings vice president of player personnel Fran Foley wasn’t exactly a fountain of information when asked if the team had attempted to move up in the first round to get quarterback Jay Cutler. The Vikings liked Cutler, but Denver worked a deal with St. Louis to grab him with the draft’s 11th overall choice. “To say that we didn’t call wouldn’t be fair to say, but to say that we had an interest to go way up in the draft to get him, I don’t know that I would say that,” Foley said.
Defensive back Cedric Griffin is the fifth player in the Vikings’ past five drafts to come to the NFL with a collegiate national championship. The others are offensive lineman Bryant McKinnie (Miami); defensive end Kenechi Udeze (Southern Cal); defensive end Darrion Scott (Ohio State); and defensive back Dustin Fox (Ohio State).