Rick Spielman, the former general manager of the Vikings, had success in the draft early in his career. Especially his selections between 2012 and 2015 laid the groundwork for the successful 2017 season that ended in the NFC Championship Game. In later drafts, the misses got too many to replace the great but aging picks. A decline in talent happened, and the team couldn’t get back to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. The 2019 draft was one of the worst.
Maurice Moton from Bleacher Report graded all 2019 draft classes, and the Vikings received a C-. Instant draft grades are pure speculation, but after three years, a good evaluation is possible.
Early Miss Followed by Average
With the 18th overall pick, Spielman selected center Garrett Bradbury. No center was drafted higher than the NC State player in the last 20 years. He did not live up to his expectations. Especially in pass protection, he’s one of the worst offensive linemen in the league. His run blocking is better but still just average. His missing play strength is a huge problem against powerful defensive tackles. In 2021, Mason Cole replaced him for a few weeks, and the Vikings declined his fifth-year option. If he will be a part of the team beyond the upcoming season is highly questionable. He’ll get one final chance to prove his worth in the first season of Kevin O’Connell as his head coach.
The Vikings’ second-round pick in the 2019 draft was Irv Smith Jr. The tight end from Alabama didn’t produce how he should, based on the expectations of a second-round tight end. However, he is talented, and the upcoming season could be his breakout season. In his first two years, he split time with Kyle Rudolph. He recorded 676 yards and seven touchdowns. After Rudolph was cut, it was his job, but Smith injured his meniscus and missed the season on injured reserve. He’s the only tight end in the room with pass-catching experience, so he has to work out in the 2022 season in O’Connell’s offense. There’s no alternative plan.
Alexander Mattison was Spielman’s third-round selection. He is a capable backup for Dalvin Cook. When Cook misses time, he’s the man in charge of the running game. In each of his three seasons, he finished the year between 400 and 500 rushing yards and added six scores on the ground. However, his receiving yards are getting more every year. Last season, he had a career-high 228 receiving yards. He is a reliable backup running back. A running back drafted in the third round has to be more than that, though. He’ll enter his contract year with competition for the backup spot from speedster Kene Nwangwu and rookie Ty Chandler.
A Few Contributors on Day 3
The fourth-rounder Dru Samia started four games for the Vikings. Those games were a total disaster. He spent less than two seasons with the Vikings before he was waived.
Fifth-rounder Cameron Smith retired in 2021 after having open heart surgery. He appeared in five games for the Vikings in his rookie campaign.
Sixth-round pick Armon Watts, however, is still on the team and has shown massive improvement in 2021. He appeared in all 33 games in the last two seasons and started nine games in 2021. Watts recorded five sacks in that season, ten QB hits, and 46 tackles. In the upcoming season, he’ll be an important rotational player on the defensive line.
Marcus Epps was another pick in round six. He played in eight games for the Vikings before he was waived. The Eagles picked him up, and he still plays for them. So far, he has played 37 games with eight starts for Philadelphia.
Oli Udoh, the Vikings starting right guard in 2021, heard his name called in round six as well. He started 16 games and is still on the roster. However, his performance as the right guard wasn’t good enough. Especially leading the league in penalties is unacceptable. He’ll probably be the backup offensive tackle in the upcoming season.
In the seventh round of the 2019 draft, the Vikings made four selections. Two of them are no longer on the team. Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell was on the practice squad for one season and was cut on final cut day. He’s been out of the league since then. Long snapper Austin Cutting was waived close to the end of the 2020 campaign. The special teams struggled, and he was part of the problem. He didn’t play another game in the league.
The two other picks in that round are still on the team. Kris Boyd has been a backup cornerback for the Vikings. He started six games in his career. Bisi Johnson, the wide receiver, played 32 games for the Vikings and started nine. He recorded 483 yards and three touchdowns before tearing his ACL in training camp last year. He’s back on the field. Both Boyd and Johnson are fighting for roster spots but have a chance to contribute in 2022.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt