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By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
Minneapolis, MN - With round one of the 2012 NFL Draft kicking off from Radio City Music Hall tonight, the Minnesota Vikings begin their quest to change the current fortunes of their storied franchise. With 10 picks in this year's draft, the Vikings are looking to both reconfigure themselves back into immediate contention and to set the table for the future of the franchise.
With the #3 overall pick in this year's draft, excitement continues to flow freely with the prospects of a bringing blue chip talent into Minnesota. History shows us that the third overall pick has regularly produced a respectable crop of NFL talent over the past few years. Names like Matt Ryan, Joe Thomas, Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson come to mind when waxing nostalgic on #3 overall choices in recent memory. The obvious goal for the Vikings is to have Kalil, Claiborne or Blackmon fall in line with these names and not those of #3 flops like Vince Young and Joey Harrington.
For Vikings fans, it might be argued that the bigger concern should surround the success of the picks coming in the next four rounds.
While the player prospects from the first round continue to receive all of the national headlines, it's often said that championships (and winning records) are built through the selections made in rounds two, three, four and five. Unfortunately for Vikings fans, over the past 10 years these early-to-middle rounds of the draft have been filled with futility, failure and loads of frustration.
During the last decade of drafts, the Minnesota Vikings have made 38 selections in rounds two through five of the NFL Draft. Of those 38 middle-round picks, 24 of them (63%) are no longer with the team and 15 (39%) are no longer in the league. Throughout this timeframe, the Vikings have returned a success rate* of 37% in rounds two, three, four and five over the last 10 years. And we wonder why they continue to struggle.
As other teams were busy drafting Greg Jennings (2nd rd. 2006), Brandon Marshall (4th rd. 2006), Asante Samuel (4th rd. 2003) and LaMarr Woodley (2nd rd. 2007), the Vikings were busy using their picks on...- DISCLAIMER: Get KFAN your button bars ready - ... safety Dustin Fox (Who?), center Ryan Cook (Ok, calm down), Greg Blue (IALWAYS Coming...) and Nat Dorsey (Yawn).
Unfortunately the futility in decision making doesn't end there. Undrafted free agents like Tramon Williams (CB/GB), James Harrison (LB/PIT) and Tyson Clabo (OT/ATL) also slipped through the cracks while the Vikings were busy chasing Charles Gordon, Vinny Perretta and Robert Cobbs.
In total, only three players (Brian Robison, Phil Loadholdt and John Sullivan) who were drafted by the Vikings after the first round in the past decade are expected to be starters in 2012.
No single year highlighted the worthlessness of the Vikings' draft strategy better than the 2005 NFL Draft. With two 1st round selections, the Vikings chose Troy Williams and Erasmus James. Marcus Johnson was the team's 2nd round pick, it was Dustin Fox in the 3rd, Ciatrick Fason in the 4th, C.J. Mosley in the 6th and Adrian Ward rounding out the selections in the 7th round. Of 2005's seven player draft class, none of them made significant contributions to the Vikings during their time with the club. In fact six of the seven are no longer in the league at all.
The Vikings then followed horrible 2005 draft class with an equally disappointing draft in 2006. After picking Chad Greenway with the 17th pick in the first round, the Vikings rounded out their draft weekend with six total selections. With three picks in the 2nd round that year, the Vikes took Cedric Griffin, Ryan Cook and Tarvaris Jackson. Not having a pick in the 3rd round, Minnesota selected Ray Edwards in the 4th round and then something called Greg Blue in the 5th round. Outside of Greenway, not a single player from the 2006 draft in on roster with the Vikings today.
With a history of draft deficiency and largely the same decision makers in charge, the Vikings haven't exactly given fans hope that much will change coming from this year's draft. Whether they decide to go the safe route or reach and try to make some splashy picks this year, one thing is for sure. If the the Vikings hope to climb their way out of the the cellar of the NFC North, they need to hit on middle-to-late round selections.
Sitting with 10 picks as they head into the draft, Minnesota needs to bat .700 with this draft class to regain any semblance of respect. If history continues to repeat itself and this draft class fails to yield game changers, Rick Spielman may not be around to see how the 2013 Draft pans out.
Aj Mansour covers Minnesota Sports for KFAN.com. Feel free to leave comments and questions regarding this post in the space provided below. For Vikings' updates and breaking Vikings' news, follow Aj on Twitter. @AjMansourKFAN
*Success rate dictated by the percentage of players drafted that are still with the team
Photo courtesy of ESPN.com