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First off, I'd like to say a big thank you to the Minnesota Vikings for a neat draft party. My wife and I were there as the doors opened Thursday night. It was awesome to get on the field, hang out with other fans and see a few players in person outside a game.
Now to the actual draft … please explain to me what we did? I understand some of it. If you really thought Lewis Cine was the top-rated safety and you got him at 32, that's great. I just don't get helping a division rival in the process. The amount of boos that rained down in U.S. Bank Stadium followed by mass exodus of about 25 percent of the attendees tells you everything you need to know. It gets even worse top of Roundd 2 where we traded with our hated rivals so they could also improve their team.
— Rich Cherkas in Sioux City, Iowa
Trading to a division rival? Sure, let's help Detroit get a better team. Boy, I hope they know what they're doing because this Vikings fan base is about to explode. Trading back 20 spots in the first round to gain 12 spots in the second and add a third-round pick? That's the best deal they could find? I'd personally would have rather stood pat and took Kyle Hamilton.
— Bud B.
Really? Trading twice to help out teams in our division?
— Bob Bowden
Hey, at least Rich and his wife had fun at that draft party, right?
Sorry, that's a lame attempt at some humor to help lighten the mood.
Because the consensus vibe from Vikings fans was that they did not approve of the first two trades of the six that Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and the rest of Minnesota's front office pulled off over three days.
The above emails from Rich, Bud and Bob were among the many that filled the inbox Thursday night and into the weekend and the draft went on.
So, let's break down each of them with both data and context. For this exercise, we'll look at a pair of trade charts, a traditional one from Pro-Football-Reference.com and more analytically-driven one from noted NFL experts Brad Spielberger and Jason Fitzgerald.
And we'll also take into account that, yes, the teams were made with others in the NFC North.
But before we begin, here is part of what Adofo-Mensah said about the trades with the Lions and Packers in his post-draft press conference.
"[Trading within the NFC North] was something we thought about. But I think what people have to realize is, going back to that happiness thing, what is your happiness in this scenario versus the other scenario? That's ultimately what your job is and part of our happiness is to make sure we have the best team as possible that we can put on the field. The other thing people should realize is that they can call other teams, so we were pretty sure that the team behind us was going to get the same deal. Having that team get that player and us not get those picks isn't a better outcome. The only better outcome would have been to take that player, but in our situation we didn't think that was the best decision to do. Another trade we made, I think the same dynamic was in place."
Trade No. 1: the Vikings send the 12th and 46th picks to the Lions for Nos. 32, 34 and 66.
PFR: Vikings receive 1,410 points, Lions receive 1,640 total points
Spielberger/Fitzgerald: Vikings receive 3,334 points, Lions receive 2,801 total points
We have a split decision here based on the two sets of math, and it's interesting that the more modern formula sides with the Vikings, especially given that Adofo-Mensah is viewed as an outside-the-box thinker compared to others in his role.
However, the hidden data (if you will) is that the trade was with the Lions. How does that factor in?
Well, many believed Jameson Williams — whom Detroit took at No. 12 — would be the top WR prospect in the draft if not for a recent ACL injury. And given how many players have come back from that injury quickly and strongly, let's assume Williams will be a really good player for the Lions going forward.
That storyline will linger over both franchises in the years to come, because in the chance that Williams produces like Justin Jefferson, many Vikings fans will wonder why the Vikings didn't just add his skillset to their team.
We also have to factor in what kind of player Cine becomes after being the final pick of the first round. If he helps turn Minnesota's defense around in the coming years, which likely includes stopping Williams, then this trade become a little more even in my eyes.
Trade No. 2: the Vikings send the 34th pick to the Packers for Nos. 53 and 59
PFR: Vikings receive 680 points, Packers receive 560 total points
Spielberger/Fitzgerald: Vikings receive 1,922 points, Packers receive 1,213 total points
There's no debate here, as the Vikings won this trade by both sets of data.
View college action photos of every Vikings pick from the 2022 NFL Draft.
And I was more in favor of this trade when I initially saw it than the previous one. But that was before I saw Green Bay's pick at No. 34 of wide receiver Christian Watson, who was generally viewed as a player with tremendous upside at his position.
Much like the Vikings-Lions trade above that netted Detroit a wide receiver, we'll also have to pay close attention to how Watson performs in the coming years. (Add that to the usual intrigue of the Border Battles).
Simply put, games between the Lions and Packers now have an extra subplot going forward because of these draft-day trades … and the players that Minnesota's division foes added in the process.
I wrote in last week's Mailbag that I was generally in favor of trading back from No. 12, but the caveat with that was the belief that both Hamilton and Williams would be gone at No. 12.
Both were there, and both would have made sense for the Vikings to take in the top half of the first round.
Now, we'll have to wait a year or two to fully evaluate this trade, with all eyes on Cine weighing against what Williams, Hamilton and Watson do with their respective teams.
And based on Adofo-Mensah's comment above, and the final part of that quote below, the Vikings GM knows it, too:
"You have to make those decisions and that's the choice we made. We also knew they could trade with somebody else. We'd rather reap the benefits of the trade if we so thought. We are OK. This is a great league, those are great organizations and we're going to have to compete with them either way and we'll be ready for the challenge."
Great value at No. 32. And I'm already a Lewis Cine fan. But I watched the 20 players taken between 12 and 32, and couldn't help but wonder if some of those guys wouldn't help the team more. Just feels like more was given than gotten in that trade. Too far to drop not to get more in return. Weren't we assured the value of a first-round pick vs a ton of 7th round picks? The maxim extrapolates to other rounds, too, no?
— Jeff in Sacramento
Jeff also isn't the biggest fan of the first-round deal. Yet since we covered that above, I did want to give some space in the Mailbag to give Cine since he was Minnesota's first-round pick, an honor that not every play in Purple gets bestowed on them.
To start, he certainly won his in-person press conference at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center. He seems hungry for success, has measured approach off the field and is ready to make an immediate impact between the white lines.
View photos of Vikings S Lewis Cine's draft night as he was selected in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Another thing that stood out? The guy has won everywhere he's been, claiming multiple high school state titles before helping Georgia win it all this past season. (Cine, it should be noted, was the Defensive MVP in the national-title game win over Alabama).
"You know, I've won in different places, so I kind of understand what it takes," Cine said. "It takes sacrifice. It takes being unselfish. It takes the late nights, waking up early even though you don't want to. But, it's all for a cause. Everybody wants to win, and when everyone wins, everyone is happy. So, I know what it takes. I'm ready. I'm prepared for that."
Cine will certainly add an athletic and dynamic element to the Vikings defense, and it might be soon depending on how quickly he adjusts to the pros. Cine was clocked at 4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash, and was dubbed as one of the toughest hitters at his position in this draft class.
Put another away, he's both fast and physical, which is exactly what the Vikings defense would probably like to be known as.
View photos of Georgia S Lewis Cine who was selected No. 32 overall in the First Round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
I think there's a pattern in the first four draft choices that makes me really optimistic about both the new management and the upcoming season. The Vikings didn't ultimately trade up in the first round as if they had to find a savior for one position, and that's consistent with the view that the management thinks they have enough to compete for getting into and advancing in the playoffs next year, not in a misty future. They did get in position to get depth at four key positions, but even more interesting to me, all four are from perennially very strong programs — Georgia, LSU, Clemson, and Oklahoma — which mean they all come from programs that have high expectations of the players. I'm not saying players from other programs wouldn't be good. But these weren't players that have been fawned over as much as the usual hyped early first rounders: they have plenty to prove and they had to compete hard just to get on the field in those programs.
— Brad Lewis in Schenectady, New York
Hey, it turns out Brad and I think alike!
If you missed it, Craig Peters, Lindsey Young and I collaborated on some key takeaways from the draft this weekend. And one of mine was that the note that Minnesota's first four picks played in the College Football Playoff at some point in their college careers.
Will that mean immediate success in the NFL? No.
Plenty of players from blue-blood college programs don't amount to much in the NFL. But I also don't think that experience can hurt them, that's for sure.
As for the initial part of Brad's email, he indicates that the Vikings were able to spread the wealth and take multiple positions throughout the three days.
And while I agree that the majority of those players will likely be in reserve roles right away, Cine and Andrew Booth might fall into a different category. They could have the best chance to start based on their talent level plus the status at their respective positions.
Overall, the Vikings took 10 players at nine different positions. The hope is that the Vikings rookie class certainly makes an impact right away as a whole. But if not, there are certainly plenty of players in the pipeline across the roster for potential future spots.
Please tell me how Ed Ingram and Brian Asamoah are different from Chazz Surratt and Wyatt Davis? They appear to be similar players drafted with similar picks. Is there hope for all four still contributing or is it likely that a couple of these guys may never contribute for the purple and gold?
— Jacob in Philadelphia
I thought about Jacob's question for awhile. After pondering it, to be frank, I can't see how they are different. But they do offer some depth and potential long-term options for the Vikings.
In two years, the Vikings have now spent Top-100 picks on both a guard and a linebacker. That's fine to do every once in awhile, sure, but I also wouldn't rank those positions at the top of any list ranking the most valuable on a roster.
Quarterback obviously tops that list, with wide receiver, edge rusher, cornerback and tackle in the same tier.
But linebacker and guard? While it's great to have strong players there (looking at you, Eric Kendricks), my personal opinion is that they aren't among the most valuable.
But as it stands now, Ingram will now compete with Davis (and Jesse Davis and Chris Reed) for the starting right guard spot. That's a lot of bodies there, and the hope is that one can stick. Remember, this is apparently the only open spot on the offensive line, a mantra that became even more clear this weekend after the Vikings did not draft a center to compete with Garrett Bradbury.
At linebacker, the odds are that Asamoah won't start right away, not with Kendricks and Jordan Hicks occupying those roles. But guess who Asamoah will compete with for the backup roles behind them?
Look, some areas of the draft are about finding depth and value. To me, those are on Day 3, where I think the Vikings did a good job with a handful of positions.
Rounds 1-3? You want immediate-impact players if possible. Cine and Booth might be sure, but Ingram might have a ways to go.
Arif Hasan of The Athletic put together his annual Consensus Big Board before the draft, which compiled 82(!) draft experts' rankings and compiled the composite data.
Ingram was viewed as the 101st overall player, and the Vikings took him at No. 66 overall. That's a nearly-50 spot difference. I'm not going to call it a reach because the Vikings obviously liked his skillset enough to take him there.
But it's worth pointing out. And so is Ingram's history, which cannot be ignored, even if Adofo-Mensah did his best to deflect away from it.
I won't go into the full details and allegations, but the reasons Ingram was suspended for the entire 2018 season at LSU is beyond disturbing.
The Vikings said they vetted Ingram's character and past before drafting him, and I'm sure they did. But they must know how this pick, even the most basic perception of it, makes many (all?) people feel.
Minnesota's new leaders have talked a ton about changing the culture around the building in recent months. By most accounts, they have done that.
But even if Ingram turns out to be a starting guard and solid player, you have to wonder if red flags off the field factor into the culture.
Because right now, it doesn't feel like it does.
View photos of the Vikings 2022 undrafted free agents the team has agreed to terms with.
While the Vikings expectations are high, my concerns for 2022 have not been totally allayed by the Vikings execution of the draft. Did we get better?
— John Stephens
Time will tell, John. As the NFL saying goes, you usually evaluate a draft two or three years after it takes place.
But given the moves the Vikings made this offseason — extending Kirk Cousins, restructuring multiple veteran contracts, signing Za'Darius Smith and bringing back Patrick Peterson — Minnesota has made it clear that it intends to win this year and compete for a playoff spot.
As stated above, Cine and Booth are the top candidates to battle for starting roles, with Ingram possibly put into that group, too.
After that? It feels as if the other seven players will need time to develop as they start on special teams. That's the natural path for many rookies, sure, but once again, the Vikings have placed such an onus on winning now that they might need to get more right away from this 10-man rookie class.
One thing I do know, is that now the work really begins for coaches and players, as the draft is usually viewed as the final piece of player acquisition across the league.
Sure, the team may sign a free agent here or there. But Minnesota's roster is also at 90 players, so the Vikings are rolling with who they've got.
Can Kevin O'Connell work some magic in his first year to help the Vikings offense take the next step?
View behind-the-scenes photos from the Thomson Reuters Vikings Draft Room during Day 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Can a defense built around aging players find some success that has been lacking the past few years?
And can the Vikings put it all together and make the playoffs, let alone get above a .500 record?
Spring practices begin soon and training camp will be here before we know it.
For better or worse, these are your 2022 Vikings. How the next nine months plays out is up to them.