Last season, the Vikings had only five picks in the draft and all five players ended up not only making the roster but starting at least one game. The same isn’t going to happen this time around.
One reason is because the Vikings had eight selections and six came on the third and final day of the draft. While the top four picks — Virginia cornerback Chris Cook, Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, Southern Cal defensive end Everson Griffen and Wake Forest offensive lineman Chris DeGeare — look like locks to stick, after that it’s going to be difficult to make the 53-man unit.
The Vikings clearly used their lower picks on projects and potential special-teams players. Considering all 22 starters are expected back, if quarterback Brett Favre returns, there isn’t much room for players to make a huge impression.
BEST PICK: Running back Toby Gerhart — The Vikings are confident Gerhart will be able to help fill the role that Chester Taylor played as Adrian Peterson’s backup and also provide a bruising presence out of the backfield.
COULD SURPRISE: Defensive end Everson Griffen — Griffen has a world of talent but did not always apply himself at Southern Cal. The Vikings feel that line coach Karl Dunbar and veterans such as Jared Allen and tackles Kevin and Pat Williams will help Griffen achieve that potential.
A closer look at the Vikings’ picks:
Round 2/34 — Chris Cook, CB, 6-2, 212, Virginia: Cook becomes the biggest defensive back on the Vikings’ roster. He will be expected to make an immediate contribution on special teams.
Round 2/51 — Toby Gerhart, RB, 6-0, 231, Stanford: The Vikings thought enough of Gerhart that they traded their second- (No. 62) and third-round picks (No. 93) to Houston to move up 11 spots to grab him. Gerhart was the Heisman trophy runner-up last year as he rushed for 1,871 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Round 4/100 — Everson Griffen, DE, 6-3, 273, USC: Griffen had a career-high eight sacks last season despite battling turf toe. Vikings feel he can play either end or move inside to the 3-technique on passing downs.
Round 5/161 — Chris DeGeare, OL, 6-3, 325 pounds, Wake Forest: DeGeare spent three years at guard before moving to left tackle during his final season. His versatility attracted the Vikings, who lost guard and tackle backup Artis Hicks to Washington in free agency.
Round 5/167 — Nate Triplett, LB, 6-3, 250 pounds, Minnesota: Triplett was drafted more for his abilities on special teams than anything. He will have to fight to make the 53-man roster.
Round 6/199 — Joe Webb, WR, 6-3, 226 pounds, UAB: A quarterback last season at UAB, he will be moved to wide receiver by the Vikings. He does have experience at that position.
Round 7/214 — Mickey Shuler Jr., TE, 6-4, 247 pounds, Penn State: The son of the former NFL tight end by the same name, Shuler does posses receiving ability but it’s not going to be easy to crack this roster.
Round 7/237 — Ryan D’Imperio, FB, 6-3, 240 pounds, Rutgers: A linebacker in college, the Vikings are going to move him to the offensive side of the ball.
The Vikings were rumored to be interested in Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen with No. 30 overall pick. And when they traded that pick to Detroit to move down four spots, draft analysts conjectured that Minnesota would surely be interested in Clausen then.
In the end, the Vikings passed on Clausen twice, choosing instead to address a significant area of need with Cook, a 6-foot-2, 212-pound cornerback who plays the physical style Minnesota covets.
Cook will be expected to contribute early as Cedric Griffin is recovering from ACL surgery and aging Antoine Winfield battled a foot injury much of last season. Cook could step in on the nickel defense with Winfield and Bennie Sapp likely the begin the season as starters. The biggest issue for Cook is proving he’s ready to handle the on- and off-field rigors of the NFL after dealing with injuries and academic issues at the University of Virginia.
The bigger splash came 17 spots later, when the Vikings traded with Houston for the ability to snag Heisman runner up Toby Gerhart. The Stanford running back isn’t as fast or flashy as C.J. Spiller or Jahvid Best, but he fills an immediate need for Minnesota.
A centerfielder for the Cardinal baseball team, Gerhart is a better athlete than most give him credit for. He runs in the 4.5s, and will provide many of the attributes the team lost when Chester Taylor bolted for division-rival Chicago as a free agent.
Gerhart runs tough and can immediately step in as Adrian Peterson’s primary backup. And there’s a good chance he’ll assume some short-yardage and red-zone duties to help protect the Vikings from Peterson’s propensity to put the ball on the ground.
“I’m not exactly sure what my role will be, but it’s there to complement the best running back in the league, Adrian Peterson,” said Gerhart. “Whether it’s to give him a blow or line up in the backfield with him, I’m not exactly sure, but I’m looking forward to finding out and contributing any way I can and doing whatever is asked of me.”
In an ironic twist, the Vikings’ running backs coach is Eric Bieniemy, who recruited Gerhart out of high school. Bieniemy, a coach for UCLA at the time, left for Minnesota two days before national signing day, and Gerhart wound up going to Stanford.
“That was the running joke at the combine,” said Gerhart. “He was like, ‘I have to know, were you going to go to UCLA if I didn’t leave?’ I said, ‘Yeah, there was a good chance I was,’ and he said, ‘Oh, I don’t want to hear that.’ We were laughing about it. He’s a great coach, and I’m looking forward to working with him.”
The Vikings agreed to terms with 10 undrafted players on Saturday. The list includes quarterback R.J. Archer, William & Mary; OG Thomas Austin, Clemson; OT Matt Hanson, Midwestern State; C Tommy Hernandez, UC-Davis; WR Aaron Rhea, Stephen F. Austin; SS Terrell Skinner, Maryland; WR Ray Small, Ohio State; WR Kelton Tindal, Newberry; CB Angelo Williams, Ferris State; and OT Marlon Winn, Texas Tech.
Vikings coach Brad Childress said he exchanged a couple of text messages with Brett Favre during the draft but it does not appear the quarterback is close to saying whether he will return in 2010.
The Vikings will hold a three-day rookie minicamp this coming weekend at Winter Park for their draft picks and unsigned free agents.
Asked about the new three-day draft format, Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said: “It seemed like a long process. I think the TV ratings were extremely high, and I know they put a pretty good show on. I pretty much can adapt to whatever they throw at you. It didn’t affect us one bit on our preparation or how we drafted at all.”
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I think I said the other day, whether the guy that’s going to be the quarterback here is on our roster or somebody that we’re going to acquire, just remains to be seen here. It just keeps changing, so I’ll let you guys zero in on that and provide and opinion.” — Coach Brad Childress when asked about his team’s quarterback situation for future years. The Vikings continue to have Favre, Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels on their roster.