The draft is one of the most exciting weeks of the year. After months of dissecting and scouting potential draft picks, the results are in, and experts everywhere submit their grades.
If you’re a fan of the Minnesota Vikings, these grades will have you feeling like Thanos. Reality will be what you want it to be. If you believe in Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s plan, there’s an A for you. If you feel like Rick Spielman is still running the front office, there’s an F for you.
But what does it all mean? Thankfully, Football Outsiders has a method to the madness.
Dating back to 2004, the website has taken draft grades from notable experts and compiled them into one GPA. The cumulative number gives us an idea of how everyone feels about a team’s draft and gives us some nice fodder for online message boards.
But that doesn’t answer the question. What does it all mean?
It can mean a variety of things for the Vikings. While some prospects appeared to be of great value on draft day, they came up short of expectations.
Take the 2016 draft, for example. Fans jumped for joy when the Vikings took Laquon Treadwell in the first round. The rest of the draft also drew the complements of experts, who combined to give Minnesota a 3.26 GPA – the sixth-highest of that year’s class.
The excitement quickly dissipated when the rookies hit the field. Treadwell became one of the biggest busts in franchise history. Willie Beavers, Moritz Böehringer, and Kentrell Brothers followed. Four years later, not a single member of this class was on the Vikings roster until Mackensie Alexander returned in free agency before last season.
The 2021 class has a similar feel to it. Experts loved what Rick Spielman was able to accomplish, giving them the ninth-highest GPA at 3.30. With Christian Darrisaw, Kellen Mond, and Wyatt Davis leading the way, this is a class that should have had an immediate impact.
Mike Zimmer had other plans. We’re still not sure if the moth-balling of Patrick Jones II and Chazz Surratt was talent-based or part of a grudge with Spielman. But Darrisaw, Kene Nwangwu, and Camryn Bynum were the only meaningful contributors during their rookie season.
That doesn’t mean these grades are entirely wrong. The legendary 2015 draft class contained Eric Kendricks, Danielle Hunter, and Stefon Diggs. Even Trae Waynes, who didn’t live up to his billing as the 12th-overall pick, was a suitable starter, and the draft analysts took note. Football Outsiders charted the Vikings with the fourth-highest GPA at 3.57 in 2015, and that class went on to become the centerpiece of the 2017 team that went to the NFC Championship game.
The 2020 class also came up with some big names. Draft experts combined to give the Vikings the second-highest GPA at 3.77 on the strength of 7 As. While some of that was based on the sheer volume of the class, it has also created some significant contributors. Justin Jefferson is a superstar. Ezra Cleveland is a passable guard. Cameron Dantzler could be a starting cornerback, and K.J. Osborn has become a reliable third receiver. If D.J. Wonnum takes another leap, this class could be the core for another championship contender.
The 2019 class was also one where the experts got it right. Garrett Bradbury was the main reason the Vikings earned a 2.91 GPA (16th), but other players could pick it up. Irv Smith Jr. could break out if he gets past his injury woes, and Alexander Mattison has been a serviceable backup. Dru Samia, Oli Udoh, and Austin Cutting were disasters, but the Vikings still came out of this with an average class.
The same goes for 2018. The Vikings missed on Mike Hughes but hit on Brian O’Neill and Tyler Conklin. If Zimmer had used some patience with Daniel Carlson, we’re looking at a class that lives up to its 2.83 GPA (18th) and potentially leaves room for more.
It’s not just the Vikings. Experts get draft classes wrong throughout the league. Experts hailed the Chicago Bears’ draft with a 3.91 GPA last year, but Justin Fields, Teven Jenkins, and Khalil Herbert don’t look like franchise-altering prospects.
What about this year’s Vikings class? Football Outsiders compiled a 2.80 GPA for this year’s class, ranking 19th in the NFL. That makes sense considering this wasn’t a sexy class. Still, it’s one that could prove everyone wrong.
Lewis Cine could be a centerpiece for the Vikings’ defense. Andrew Booth Jr. was considered by many to be a first-round-caliber pick. Brian Asamoah reminds Adofo-Mensah of Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, and Ed Ingram has the talent to become a starting-caliber guard.
Many of these possibilities have been dismissed by draft experts. But if the grades have shown us anything, there’s no telling how any class can turn out.