I can’t remember being this obsessed about the NFL draft. My obsession has little to do with the fact that my team, the Vikings, have two first-round picks, 7th and 18th overall. It has everything to do with the fact that we traded the best recevier in the league and a future Hall of Famer in Randy Moss.
I was at risk of being indifferent to this year’s draft because I was so angry with the Vikings for getting rid of Moss. But, in a stunning change of character, Red McCombs has loosened the purse strings to such a degree that the Vikings went on a free agency spending spree that significantly upgraded the team’s pathetic defense to the point that we should have one of the stronger Ds in the league.
The Vikings got LB Napoleon Harris, the overall 7th pick in the draft, and a seventh round pick from the Raiders for Randy Moss. They also landed MLB Sam Cowart from the Jets, and DT Pat Williams from the Bills (two members of the Cottrell mafia), CB Fred Smoot from the Redskins, Safety Darren Sharper from the Packers, WR Travis Taylor from the Ravens, they welcomed home QB Brad Johnson from Tampa Bay, and they signed Packers’ DE Aaron Kampman to an offer sheet that the Packers are expected to match.
Heading into this Saturday’s draft, the Vikings are in the enviable position of being able to take the best player available rather than having to pick for need. The Vikings could still use a premier receiver to replace Randy Moss, they could use a Defensive End because Kenny Mixon is servicable but getting old and penciled in as his replacement is second year man Darrion Scott, who has yet to prove himself as an everyday DE. The Vikings need a Place Kicker, preferably one who can handle kick off duties. They could also use another Linebacker, a Safety, and a Guard.
So, with a team that will be vastly improved defensively and with an offense that returns minus only Randy Moss–granted, that’s a huge only–on paper the team potentially looks to be in a better position to win the division.
Where To Look For Vikings 2005 NFL Draft Information
I was frustrated before last year’s draft at the dearth of information available on potential draft picks. Except for the top ten picks, the information about potential picks was pretty much limited to name, school, position, height, weight, 40 speed and a synopsis of their college career.
Thankfully, this year we have a lot more information about almost all of the picks. I present to you, then, the fruits of my Vikings 2005 NFL Draft obsession:
Free Agent Tracking
During the most active weeks of the free agency period, I used Scout.com’s Free Agency Tracker at the Vikings Update site to keep track of which free agent players were available and which had signed and with whom. The database is wonderfully useful in that you can sort by Overall Rank, Position, Current Team, Signed Team, College and Name. Since I don’t want the Vikings picking Texas LB Derrick Johnson with their number 7 pick, I can sort by OLB to see which free agent Linebackers are still available for the Vikings to pick up. Scout.com also offers a Draft Rankings database that has the same useful sorting features. The major drawback to Scout.com’s offerings are the bare-bones information on their individual player profiles.
Vikings News Sources
The hometown news outlets I use are the usual suspects. Viking Update is the local fan rag run by former Viking’s DE and local personality "Benchwarmer" Bob Lurtsema. If you’re looking for great sports writing and analysis, you should look elsewhere but Viking Update occasionally has a minor scoop and is definitely not afraid of speculating and airing rumors. (If it’s rumors you want, check out ProFootballTalk.com–they say the Vikings want to trade up to get Braylon Edwards). Viking Update‘s draft coverage is supplemented by stories from TheNFLExperts.com, and their stories are generally pretty competent. Finally, the Scout.com network includes sites for each NFL team, which are sometimes useful in trying to figure out other teams’ draft needs. The major drawback of the Scout.com network is that much of the content requires a paid subscription.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune offers solid and frequent Vikings coverage that is always well written and often insightful and revealing even for the knowlegeable fan. The Saint Paul Pioneer Press‘ Vikings coverage is just as solid as the Strib‘s but far less frequent.
Finally, the Vikings’ flagship radio station, KFAN, covers the Vikings at their web site but, most importantly, you can listen to their broadcast online. For my money, the best shows are, in order: P.A. & Dubay, Dan Barreiro, and The Power Trip with Mike Morris. "The Common Man" Dan Cole really just annoys the hell out of me and I don’t find him particularly informed on the Vikings.
Evaluating Draft Picks
NFL.com has extensive draft coverage that includes stories, analysis, video, and a draft tracker. The best thing about NFL.com, though, is their thorough player profiles provided by NFLDraftScout.com. The meaty profiles include an in-depth overview and analysis, an injury report, personal and high school career information, and an Agility section that lists such things as the player’s 40 speed, bench press reps, arm length and hand size, and Wonderlic score.
Video clips of draft prospects are pretty rare online, but Fox Sports has a video vault on their 2005 draft section.
Do a Google search for a prospect in this year’s draft and you’ll likely find a link to their profile at NFLDraftCountdown.com. Like everyone else, Draft Countdown has a mock draft in which they devote a thick paragraph explaining why each team will pick a particular player and some if, then scenarios. They have a Draft Rankings section that is broken down by position. Their individual player profiles are short and to the point, listing strengths, weaknesses, and notes. Their profile of USC Receiver Mike Williams–my favorite for the Vikings first pick–for instance, tells us that Williams has great size, good hands and is a terror in the red zone who will out-leap and out-muscle Corners but who lacks speed, needs some polish, and who hasn’t played for a year.
NFLDraftCountdown.com has plenty of other goodies, including a News & Notes section; a hot & cold prospects list; a list of the underclassmen in this draft; a section devoted to draft rumors; Scouting Combine results and their Senior Bowl coverage; they even have some prospect interviews. Finally, NFLDraftCountdown.com has a very handy Team Needs page, where, at a glance, you can see the draft needs of every NFL team with a link to their official depth chart.
ESPN’s NFL News Wire is the place to find the most up-to-date league news and, of course, they also have extensive draft coverage in their NFL Draft Central section, though much of the content requires a subscription to ESPN Insider. ESPN’s Draft Central section is built around their draft "guru" Mel Kiper, who offers his "Big Board" on his top 25 picks, complete with gainers and losers. If you’re thinking of using Kiper as a barometer of where teams will pick as opposed to who he thinks are the best players, you might want to read this Slate article about his accuracy and maybe read Rick Gosselin‘s columns instead.
While we’re on the subject of individual writers, I’ve always liked The Sporting News‘ Dan Pompei and TSN’s sports coverage in general. Another favorite is Sports Illustrated‘s Don Banks, a former Vikings beat writer–Banks broke the Mike Tice The Scalper story.
Draft Day – April 23 & 24
If you plan on following the draft live on April 23rd and 24th or if you just plan on checking in ocassionally, you won’t be disappointed with ESPN’s coverage. Their Draft Tracker is updated in real time, so if, like me, you’re not at home on draft day, you can easily check for picks on your handheld or Internet-connected phone.
If you get the NFL Network on cable and you plan on staying at home to watch the draft, between the NFL Network and ESPN’s coverage, you’ll be set. Also, if you have On Demand capabilities with your cable company, the NFL Network has profiles on over 50 draft prospects via On Demand.
Finally, if you are an absolute freak of a Vikings fan, you could always attend the Vikings Draft Party. But I’m not enough of a freak to pay twenty bucks to hang out with a bunch of strangers: I’ll be playing football instead.