Sunday, April 21, 2002

 

Vikes draft rates B to B-

Unless it turns out better

by John Edstrom

Well fans, it won't take too long for the jury to deliver a verdict as to whether the Mike Tice regime is an improvement or otherwise over Dennis Green's on draft day. Give them credit, first of all, by not outsmarting themselves and picking someone other than the giant and mobile offensive tackle, Bryant McKinnie, in the first round. Yes, the Vikes desperately need help on defense, but no, there was no one else available of McKinnie's caliber. For that matter, he was a better pick than Ryan Sims, if you throw out the category of need.

However, by the time you get to Roanall Smith, a linebacker rated a fourth rounder by the Sporting News, there are many better picks available, judging by conventional wisdom. Certainly, linebackers Saleem Rasheed of Alabama and Ben Leber of Kansas were expected to go before Smith, and perhaps Levar Fisher, NC State, as well. Smith is criticized for not having very good football instincts. On the other hand, he is the best athlete among the top linebacker prospects, fast, big, strong, and athletic. Mike Tice and Co. apparently think they can teach Smith to make better use of his physical gifts. That would be wonderful, and an indication that this coaching staff will have a lot of success. On the other hand, if Smith doesn't start, and you hear a lot about what Rasheed and Leber are doing, that will be a bad sign.

The Vikes feel that they got another big, fast athlete in safety Willie Offord, but once again there were many corners and safeties ranked ahead of him still on the board at the beginning of round three. The Sporting News ranks him a 6th rounder, just #21 among safeties, and Gil Brandt's site doesn't rate him at all. Of course, early rankings of draft prospects are liable to change a lot as the big day approaches and are, of course, theoretical to begin with. Still, it will be very interesting to see the kind of production that the Vikes get from Offord, who might well have been available in later rounds. If he starts and plays well, Mike Tice can thumb his nose at the Mel Kipers of the world. Otherwise, there will likely be a lot of DB's starting on other teams that the Vikes could have had.

As far as the rest of this year's crop are concerned, Nick Rogers could be a steal in the fifth round, and possibly Ta'Amu or Beasley could make the roster as backups. Nobody seems to have heard of Bryan Williams, so it will be interesting to see if he pans out in any way.

The pundits will rate this draft about a B or B- -- getting McKinnie absolutely saves it from being any worse. Most everybody else is a stretch according to those who are supposed to, or at least claim to know. (I fall proudly into the latter category.) The Tice regime has acted boldly, as if it has superior knowledge. Those guys should. Let's hope time will tell that they do.


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