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Evaluating Minnesota Vikings’ draft picks by selection history

Purple Pain

This Minnesota Vikings fan blog entry was originally posted at Purple Pain Forums by Danchat.

Instead of just looking at picks and giving grades, I’ve taken Pro Football Reference’s draft data from 2010 to 2018 and crunched the numbers on some data points related to the Minnesota Vikings’ 2022 draft picks. I will go through every selection the Vikings made and examine the historical picks that were taken in the same vicinity and go through the best case/worst case scenarios along with the average outcome.

I will be using two primary factors to rate the players – Pro Football Reference’s AV and Pro Football Focus’ grades. The AV (Approximate Value) has some problems that pop up (the more snaps and games a player participates in boosts AV even if he didn’t play well), so I will balance it against PFF’s ratings (which have their own problems, of course). It took a long time to plug in the PFF values of all the players who played enough snaps from 2010-2018 – so let’s get this show on the road! (I stopped at 2018 because I felt 2019 was too recent for the players to accrue enough snaps/they haven’t fully developed yet.)

Key:

For PFF, I took the grade from the player’s career and assigned it a value based on its percentile compared to the rest of the players at that position. The grades work like this:

  • Top 10% = Elite
  • 10-20% = Great
  • 20-30% = Good
  • 30-40% = Above average
  • 40-60% = Average
  • 60-70% = Below average
  • 70-80% = Poor
  • 80-90% = Awful
  • 90 -100% = Abysmal – this tier will also count Not Enough Info players who never played enough snaps to be evaluated.

As for AV, a player will range from 0 to around 20 and roughly correlates to this:

  • 0-2 AV = Backup
  • 2-5 AV = Part-time to average starter
  • 6-10 AV = Average to good starter
  • 10-15 AV = Good to great player
  • 15-20 AV = Great to elite

Here is an example of what I’m looking at:

I am examining picks 11, 12, and 13 over the aforementioned nine-year stretch and coming to these conclusions:

  • AV: 8.15 / PFF between Good to Above Average (37% closer to Good)
  • Best case scenario: DT Aaron Donald / DT Fletcher Cox
  • Worst case scenario: CB Vernon Hargreaves III / CB D.J. Hayden (PFR / PFF)
  • Average scenario:
    • PFR: RB Ryan Mathews / WR Odell Beckham Jr.
    • PFF: LT Taylor Lewan / DT Sheldon Richardson

Related: Minnesota Vikings running it back, a look at how 2022’s roster compares to best teams in franchise history

How do players taken from No. 18-20 measure up?

Let’s compare these results to potentially moving down to the #18-20 spots in a hypothetical trade with the Saints/Steelers/someone else. Here are the results:

  • AV: 6.15 / PFF between Above Average to Average (26% closer to Above Average)
  • Best case scenario: CB Marcus Peters / C Frank Ragnow / CB Jaire Alexander
  • Worst case scenario: TE O. J. Howard / SS Calvin Pryor / OL Cameron Erving
  • Average scenario:
    • PFR: LB Leighton Vander Esch / LT Garrett Bolles / DE Shaq Lawson
    • PFF: RT Ja’Wuan James / CB Prince Amukamara

I knew there would be a gap in quality, but this is bigger than I expected. The AV drops off by 25%, which is a massive shift for just a six-to-eight pick difference (PFF drops 20%). The results are clear – there are usually no blue chip/superstar prospects left around the second half of the first round, while a few gems slip past the top ten picks and land in the early teens. This suggests that if the Vikings move back, it must be for a haul. Thankfully, moving up in the first round has never been more expensive, and moving back to the 20th pick would surely result in a future first-rounder. 

Next, let’s go through the rest of the picks the Vikings own.

Related: 3 Minnesota Vikings trade scenarios during 2022 NFL Draft

Pick 2-46 (pick 45 to 47)

  • AV: 6.33 / PFF between Above Average to Average (36% closer to Average)
  • Best case scenario: RB Derrick Henry / LB Bobby Wagner
  • Worst case scenario: CB Quincy Wilson / TE Gavin Escobar
  • Average scenario:
    • PFR: WR Christian Kirk / FS Rahim Moore
    • PFF: G Zane Beadles / LB Kiko Alonso

Yes, you’re seeing that right – the AV for picks 45-47 is higher than picks 18-20. I’d chalk that up to AV’s weirdness, and a few really good players have gone in this stretch (Michael Thomas, Linval Joseph, Stephon Tuitt are on that list). PFF thinks the players are a slight downgrade. On the aggregate, I like the crop of players that have been taken around this spot – most of them became full-time starters and a few were rotational guys.

Note that from here on, the worst-case scenario players will all be pointless to name since there will be a whole bunch of players who never contributed anything. Instead, I will note the size of the group of sub-replacement level players.

Pick 3-77 (76 to 78)

  • AV: 4.99 / PFF Below Average to Poor (2% closer to Below Average)
  • Best case scenario: DT Jurrell Casey / WR Keenan Allen
  • Worst case scenarios: 30% – 44.4%
  • Average scenario:
    • PFR: LB Alex Anzalone / C Travis Swanson
    • PFF: WR Marquise Goodwin / CB Daryl Worley

There’s a massive drop-off between rounds two and three. On average, teams are not drafting starters here, or if they are, they are below average starters. Over one-third of the picks are non-contributors. Perhaps it would be wise to lower our expectations for 3rd-round picks (2021, anyone?). Now let’s prepare for the plunge into the 5th round!

Related: Minnesota Vikings mock draft: 2022 NFL Draft projections and analysis

Pick 5-156 (Picks 155-157)

  • AV: 2.46 / PFF Awful to Abysmal/Not Enough Info (26% closer to Awful)
  • Best case scenario: C Scott Quessenberry / LB Jayon Brown
  • Worst case scenarios: 66.7% – 74%
  • Average scenario:
    • PFR: CB LeShaun Sims / RB Brian Hill
    • PFF: P Jeff Locke / RB Jonathan Williams

This is as bleak as I expected. Very few of these players became starters, and only a few broke out and became starters – a few notable names being TE Tyler Conklin, TE CJ Uzomah, and DL Arthur Jones. The expectation for a 5th-rounder in this range should be for a backup player.

Picks 6-184, 6-191, 6-192 (Picks 184-192)

Instead of doing three picks, here’s a stretch of nine picks.

  • AV: 1.5 / PFF Awful to Abysmal/Not Enough Info (24% closer to Awful)
  • Best case scenario: C Jason Kelce / LB Danny Trevathan
  • Worst case scenarios: 80% – 82.7%
  • Average scenario:
    • PFR: SS DeAndre Houston-Carson / RB Mike James

PFF likes this group more than the 5th-rounders above, but outside of a few picks that clicked, very few players ended up contributing anything. Even the successes here are minor, resulting in a couple good punters, blocking tight ends, and a few backup players who did well when they got a chance. The Vikings shouldn’t be afraid to move any of these picks.

Pick 7-250 (Picks 249-251)

  • AV: 0.6 / PFF Awful to Abysmal/Not Enough Info (34% closer to Abysmal/NEI)
  • Best case scenario: RB Chris Carson / FS Stevie Brown
  • Worst case scenarios: 74%-85%

As you should expect at this point, there’s not much to talk about here, since the end of the 7th round is no different than signing UDFAs.

Related: Analyzing 5 different Minnesota Vikings draft scenarios for 2022

Finally, here’s a couple charts with the results for every pick, not just the Vikings’ selections. Remember that these are the averages; the top tiers of great and elite will not be reached on the charts, but that does not mean that players of that caliber cannot be found there, just that their value is diluted by the rest of the players.

The charts are about what you’d expect. There are a chunk of picks that cause the graph to spike in either direction, but it’s clear that over a longer stretch of time, the average value of the pick will be less than the ones ahead of it.

Look for Part 2 soon where I examine the positions with the same AV/PFF rating system, and determine whether there are certain rounds that are better for some positions.

If you enjoyed this piece, please consider hopping over to Purple Pain Forums and debating with other Minnesota Vikings fans about not only this topic, but so much more!