There was a time when the Vikings and the Oakland Raiders were considered the two dominant franchises of their respective conferences. Both teams routinely won 10 or more games and were always a factor in the playoffs. A lot of has changed in the era of free agency, where teams have to adapt to arrivals and losses in order to survive and thrive.
The Vikings have endured the roller coaster of success and lean times over the year, but have used the draft as a way to build their franchise from the inside, especially as it pertains to the first round of the draft. Since 2006, the Vikings added Chad Greenway, Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Christian Ponder, Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith in the first round, as well as Sidney Rice, Phil Loadholt, Chris Cook, Toby Gerhart and Kyle Rudolph in the second round. They also traded their first-round pick in 2008 to land Jared Allen. In the last seven drafts, the Vikings added 12 players that are or were significant contributors to their success and they are the reason why there is optimism that the future could be brighter than the present.
The Vikings may not be the textbook version of how to build a franchise, but they’ve used the blueprint to put the franchise in much better health than it was the decade before.
Ten years ago, Oakland was celebrating a trip to the Super Bowl and looking to make a return in 2003. A funny thing happened on that journey. The Raiders organization crashed and burned.
In less than three weeks, the Raiders are set to use the third pick in the draft. Who they will take is up to debate, but the reason they are picking so high is that since they were a Super Bowl team, the Raiders have consistently shot themselves in the foot as a franchise, which is why they have drafted in the top 10 so often over the last decade.
In 2012, the Raiders didn’t have a pick until the third round (95th overall) and had only one player (fourth-round linebacker Mike Burris) who started more than one game. They didn’t have a first-round pick because they traded it to Cincinnati during the 2011 season when their former quarterback Carson Palmer had retired. They didn’t have a second-round pick because they had traded it to New England a year earlier to get back into the third round.
In 2011, the Raiders didn’t have a first-round pick because they traded it to New England a year earlier for aging veteran Richard Seymour, who, like Palmer, is no longer with the team.
About the only thing worse for the Raiders than they trading away their draft picks is when they make the selections themselves. In 2010, they had the eighth pick in the draft. They used it on linebacker Rolando McClain. On Friday, the Raiders cut McClain rather than pay him the remainder of his salary.
In 2009, the Raiders were bent on a drafting a wide receiver. Armed with the seventh pick, they could have their choice of a draft class that included first-round picks Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin, Hakeem Nicks and Kenny Britt. They chose Darrius Heyward-Bey. Last month, the Raiders released DHB.
In 2008, the Raiders had the fourth pick in the draft based off another dismal season. They chose Darren McFadden, a talented running back, but a player who has never lived up to his hype nor been able to stay healthy.
The 2007 draft is perhaps the most egregious of the Raiders selection failures. Owning the No. 1 pick in the draft, the Raiders passed on future Hall of Famers Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson and took QB JaMarcus Russell, the player many teams had dropped on their draft boards because of seriously bad reports coming out of Louisiana. Instead of taking Megatron, they wasted a pick two years later on Heyward-Bey. Instead of taking Peterson, they wasted a premium first-rounder on McFadden.
In 2006, they drafted safety Michael Huff, viewed by many as a “can’t-miss” prospect that could be a Raider for the next decade, with the seventh pick. Last month, they released Huff as well.
In 2005, the Raiders traded the seventh pick in the draft to the Vikings, which, taking a page from the Raiders themselves, the Vikings used on Troy Williamson. It was thought at the time that nobody could stop Moss on a regular basis. The Raiders proved someone could.
In 2004, the Raiders had the second pick in the draft and opted to pass on players like Larry Fitzgerald, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Vince Wilfork and Steven Jackson to take OT Robert Gallery. For once, the Raiders took the “safe” pick – an offensive tackle. Yet, Gallery was so pathetic, the only success he ever had as a Raider was after being moved to guard and even then he was pedestrian – and wildly expensive.
The last time the Raiders had a first-round pick that panned out was in 2003, when they took Nnamdi Asomugha with the 31st pick after advancing to the Super Bowl the previous year.
To the surprise of nobody, the Raiders have the third pick in this year’s draft. There’s no reason needed to explain why. If you look back at the previous seven years of the Raiders drafting, especially at the top, it’s a wonder they haven’t had the first pick every year.
As the draft approaches, there will be a lot of discussion about what the Raiders and Vikings will do with their first-round picks. The Vikings won’t be on the clock until No. 23. The Raiders will be on the clock less than 30 minutes after the draft starts because they have done such a poor job of managing their draft picks that they are almost a lock to be in the top 10 on draft day. The Vikings went from the identical spot the Raiders are in this month (armed with the No. 3 pick) and, a year later, they improved 20 spots thanks to a playoff run.
If the Vikings want to get cute with the draft, they may want to give the Raiders a call and offer the 25th pick to the Raiders for their 2014 first-rounder. It might not make Vikings fans happy immediately, but one thing that can be counted on is that if Minnesota and Oakland were to cut that kind of a deal, you can bet the Vikings will have a pick in the top 10 next year, perhaps even in the top three once again.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.