Saturday, May 17, 2008

Vikings' Best Possible Draft, 1998

One of the earliest posts on my revitalized blog was about the 1997 NFL Draft and the picks the Vikings could have made instead of the ones they did make, using 10 years' worth of hindsight. I called it the BPD, or Best Possible Draft. Here's a bit of the description of the system from that post:

In other words, if the top of my draft looked like this:

1: Troy Aikman (DAL)
2: Tony Mandarich (GB)
3: Barry Sanders (DET)

And I was figuring the Packers' BPD, I'd probably say they pick Sanders, who was available with their #2 pick, but not Aikman, who was off the board. In general, your best pick will fall between your current pick and your next pick, though this wasn't always the case. And, of course, evaluation of players' abilities and the success of their careers is completely at my whim.

I didn't take a team's positional needs at the time of the draft into account, but I also didn't give them a completely implausible draft (like 6 running backs). Even though the 1997 version of the draft presented below is largely defensive, it's at least realistic.
So, without further ado, let's fast-forward a year to the 1998 Draft and see how the Vikings fared and how they could have done if they'd had a crystal ball (or at least, access to a Vikings-loving time traveler):

Round 1, Pick 21
Actual: Randy Moss, WR
BPD: Randy Moss, WR (picked 1-21)

Hard to argue with Moss here. OK, you can argue, based on how things went off the field, but I always felt that Moss was fine as long as he had someone to control him a bit. In the early days, that was Dennis Green and Cris Carter. When Carter left and Green lost whatever disciplinary skills he may have once possessed, things went downhill. Then we have Mike Tice and, with Oakland, Norv Turner and Art Shell, and Moss is a "problem child."

Then "Bam!", send him to Bill Bellichek and everything's rosy. Who would have thunk it? Well, me for one.

Anyway, there are some good players between this pick and the Vikings' next, including Alan Faneca, Flozell Adams, and Patrick Surtain. But I'll stick with the Vikings' real pick.

Round 2, Pick 51
Actual: Kailee Wong, LB
BPD: Olin Kreutz, C (3-64)

Wong was wrong for the Vikes, turning in four unremarkable seasons before going to Houston in the expansion draft in 2002. Assuming I'd know everything about the 1998 draft in advance, it's a tough choice between Kreutz and Ahman Green, and even Jeremiah Trotter seems a decent choice. Of course, the Vikings did draft a center in this draft -- but we'll get to that later.

Round 3, Pick 80
Actual: Ramos McDonald, DB
BPD: Hines Ward, WR (3-92)

Easy selection here. Yes, this overloads the Vikings a bit at WR (they would at this point have Carter, Moss, Ward, and Jake Reed) but provides the team with a good young core to overtake the aging Carter and the inconsistent Reed. Plus, with those wide receivers -- all of them great blockers -- Robert Smith might not have seen the need to retire after the 2000 season.

OK, probably not.

Round 4, Pick 110
Actual: Kivuusama Mays, LB
BPD: Jason Fabini, T (4-111)

Mays had a cool name, but that was about all he had going for him. As for Fabini, it's a toss-up between him and guard Benji Olson (Titans), picked in the fifth round. We'll get to why I went with the tackle in a moment. We've already got a center and a tackle, so next, of course, we'll have to pick...

Round 5, Pick 144
Actual: Kerry Cooks, DB
BPD: Matt Birk, C (6-173)

...another center? Well, maybe. Remember back in the early days of Birk's career, when he was one of the league's rare pulling centers? Imagine and offensive line of Kreutz at center, Birk at guard, and Fabini at tackle. Remember, in those days the Vikings still had Todd Steussie, Randall McDaniel, and Korey Stringer, though all would be gone by the 2001 season (Stringer, unfortunately, for good).

Yeah, I know we don't have any defensive picks at this point. But man, what an O-line!

Round 6, Pick 173
Actual: Matt Birk, C
BPD: Matt Hasselbeck, QB (6-187)

And taking Birk a round early frees us up to select Hasselbeck here, meaning the Vikings take a good pick away from both Chicago (Kreutz) and Green Bay (Hasselbeck). Brilliant!

Round 7, Pick 208
Actual: Chester Burnett, LB
BPD: Nate Wayne, LB (7-219)

Pickings are understandably thin at this point, but Wayne at least was a decent starter for a few years for the Pack. And that's yet another pick "stolen" from an NFC North foe.

Round 7, Pick 225
Actual: Tony Darden, DB
BPD: Pat Tillman, DB (7-226)

Nuff said.

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