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With the 2011 National Football League Draft in the books and all the lights being shut down at Radio City Music Hall, it's time to go about the business of grading the 2011 NFL Draft. So, for those of you who are curious about what I think of what happened over the course of the past three days, read on.
Just as I've done every year over at The Daily Norseman, every single one of the 32 NFL teams is going to get the same grade from me for their draft selections this year. That grade can be summed up not with a single letter or a number, but with one single word.
That word is "incomplete."
I can barely formulate the words to express how ridiculous it is to attempt to grade a draft less than 24 hours after it's taken place. None of these players have played in an NFL game, they haven't gone to an NFL Training Camp or a mini-camp. . .for crying out loud, thanks to the current labor situation, the majority of them have still never even seen an NFL playbook. Yet today, dozens of "experts" are going to go about the business of declaring whether a team is a "winner" or a "loser" based on their own personal perceptions of various college players and the teams that selected them over the course of the 2011 NFL Draft.
The gold standard for the NFL Draft, according to most folks, is ESPN's Mel Kiper. Here is Kiper's "grade" of a Vikings' draft class from a few years ago, a group that he gave a solid B+ to a day or two after the draft ended.
The Vikings targeted speed on their board and they definitely got it with wide receiver (Player 1) who wowed Minnesota enough that the (insert team here) passed on Mike Williams. Defensive end (Player 2) gives them much-needed help up front, guard-tackle (Player 3) will solidify the offensive line and running back (Player 4) has the potential to be a terrific steal in the fourth round. (Player 5) is a good cornerback and defensive tackle (Player 6) is a motivated overachiever.
Man, that sounds pretty good, doesn't it? So who are all these awesome players? Let me fill in the blanks for you.
Player 1 is
Player 2 is , who is currently out of the league.
Player 3 is , who may or may not be out of the league.
Player 4 is , a guy who played for the Vikings for about five minutes and really didn't do anything of note.
Player 5 is , who never suited up for the Vikings and may or may not be in the league, either.
Player 6 is , who actually showed some flashes, and who the Vikings thought so highly of that they traded him to the for future UFL MVP .
That was the Vikings' 2005 draft class. . .the group that may have been the single biggest disaster in the Vikings' 50+ years of drafting future NFL players. But a day or two after the draft, that was a "B+" group of talent. When the best thing you can say about a player in a draft class is that we got Brooks Bollinger for him. . .yeah, that's not a B+ at all.
Another Viking-based example. . .did you know that there were actually people that thought the Minnesota Vikings made a mistake by drafting Adrian Peterson in the 2007 draft? Well, they were out there. Do you know why they thought that way? Because drafting Adrian Peterson meant that they passed on a guy that was a sure-fire franchise quarterback, a guy that the Vikings could plug in behind center and be dominant on offense for the next decade, no doubt about it.
That quarterback was Notre Dame's Brady Quinn.
Yes, kids. . .there were actually people four years ago that were angry that the Minnesota Vikings passed on Brady Quinn to take Adrian Peterson, and they said as much. Four years later, I think we can quite confidently declare that Brady Quinn stinks and that Adrian Peterson was, after all, the correct choice. We can do that because three or four years after the fact, not 24 hours, is the proper time frame for grading a National Football League draft. (For reference sake, Kiper gave Minnesota's 2007 draft class, which also included Sidney Rice and Brian Robison, the same B+ grade he gave the 2005 group.) Keep those things in mind when you're reading things about how new Vikings' quarterback Christian Ponder is a "reach" or how so-and-so was a "steal" and things of that nature.
At this point in time, there is only one accurate grade to give any draft class in the National Football League, and that grade is "incomplete." Check back with me in a couple years, and we can grade the NFL's Class of 2011 then.