After winning just three games last season, the Vikings surprised the league when they quickly turned it around and finished 10-6 with a Wild Card berth.
Much of the team’s success should be credited to Rick Spielman, who was just promoted to general manager at the start of the 2012 season after spending 2006–2011 as the team’s vice president of player personnel.
As GM, Spielman has complete control over the roster, a change from previous years when roster decisions were made through the head coach, ownership and VP of player personnel.
Looking back on the season, it is very apparent that Spielman and his scouting staff absolutely crushed it in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Let’s look at a breakdown of the Vikings 2012 draft class:
LT – Matt Kalil – Round 1, 4rd overall
Kalil was the undisputed top tackle prospect in the draft and has already become one of the best tackles in the NFL. He ranked 8th overall in pass blocking efficiency, according to Football Outsiders. Unfortunately the rest of the offensive line ranked poorly in blocking efficiency, making the Vikings one of the worst pass-blocking teams. On the other hand, the Vikings offensive line was one of the best run-blocking groups in the league, almost paving way for running back Adrian Peterson to break the single season rushing record. Kalil was named as a Pro Bowl alternate.
S – Harrison Smith – Round 1, 29th overall
Smith finished the season with 103 tackles and three interceptions—two of which went for touchdowns. Smith helped improve the team’s secondary with his strong play recognition and tackling abilities. The culture of this secondary is completely different when Smith in the fold, as his aggression gives Minnesota an enforcer it’s desperately been needing.
CB – Josh Robinson – Round 3, 66th overall
Robinson contributed heavily for the Vikings, playing in all games and starting six. He finished with 55 tackles and two interceptions for the season. Because of his excellent speed, Robinson did an excellent job closing in on receivers and breaking up plays. His tackling has also been a pleasant upgrade to the secondary.
WR – Jarius Wright – Round 4, 118th overall
Despite being inactive for most of the season, he played well for the Vikings down the stretch, essentially replacing Percy Harvin, who finished the season on the IR. In seven games, Wright caught 22 balls for 310 yards and two touchdowns. Wright is expected to play a bigger role in the offense and may eventually become the Vikings’ main slot receiver if Minnesota part ways with Harvin.
TE/FB – Rhett Ellison – Round 4, 128th overall
Ellison, a strong run-blocker, essentially took over Jim Kleinsasser’s role on the team as the primary run-blocking tight end. He also performed well in special teams and finished with 9 tackles on the season. Ellison’s value as a strong run-blocker is very important to the team as the team will continue to run multiple-tight end sets.
WR – Greg Childs – Round 4, 134th overall
The Vikings took a risk on Childs, who just a year before the draft was projected to be as high as a first round pick before a knee injury. Childs was lost for the season in freak injury during training camp. He is working hard to return in 2013-14 and make an impact on the team.
S – Robert Blanton – Round 5, 139th overall
Blanton stepped up nicely when the Vikings were hit with injuries at safety. Jamarca Sanford was the primary safety behind Mistral Raymond and Smith but will be a free-agent. Depending on if the team re-signs Sanford, Blanton could easily become the team’s primary reserve at safety.
K – Blair Walsh – Round 6, 175th overall
Walsh is a clutch kicker and already a Pro Bowler. He made 35 out of 38 field goal tries and set an NFL single-season record of 10 field goals from 50+ yards. He constantly boots kickoffs to the back of the end zone. Enough said.
LB – Audie Cole – Round 7, 210th overall
Cole basically forced himself on the roster during the preseason when he returned interceptions for touchdowns on consecutive defensive plays from scrimmage in the team’s 36-14 preseason victory over the Bills. Unfortunately, Cole was mostly inactive during the season and only played a little special teams when he was activated. He had shown great zone coverage ability in the preseason, which is important for a Tampa-2 linebacker, but he is still a work in progress.
DE – Trevor Guyton – Round 7, 219th overall
Guyton was released when the Vikings reduced their roster down to 53. No team has yet to pick him up and this may be the last anybody hears of him in the NFL. He is the only player cut from Minnesota’s 2012 draft class. 7th rounders rarely make an NFL team.
Overall Draft Grade: A
The Vikings had a very successful draft under Spielman. Several of his picks not only made the team, but played many snaps for a team that finished 10-6 and won a Wild Card berth.