Had the Vikings never traded for Sam Bradford they could have drafted QB DeShaun Watson from Clemson with the 14th pick in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Heck, maybe they could have moved up from 14th to 9th and taken Patrick Mahomes out of Texas Tech?
They didn’t of course. Losing Teddy Bridgewater to a freak knee injury, prior to the 2016 season, forced the Vikes to deal for Bradford and left them without a 1st round pick in the 2017 draft. Still, things appear to have worked out rather well.
There were thought to be six running backs worthy of a first-round pick in 2017, however, only two were taken in round-1. Leonard Fournette from LSU went to Jacksonville with the 4th overall selection, and Christian McCaffrey from Stanford was taken by Carolina at #9.
Fournette has turned out to be an oft-injured, reluctant player on a team that went from Super Bowl contender to league doormat, almost upon Fournette’s arrival.
McCaffrey, used almost exclusively as a slot receiver as a rookie, has emerged as a multi-dimensional weapon for the Panthers, his value only increasing from his first to second season. But, while McCaffrey appears to be on the verge of stardom, his team is struggling all around him.
When it finally came time for the Vikings to pick in the second round in 2017, at pick #41 overall, they had their choice of the four remaining high-value backs. The Vikings passed on Joe Mixon of Oklahoma, a player with a checkered past, who went 7 picks later to the Cincinnati Bengals, where he’s been a solid, if unspectacular starter on a bad team, ever since.
Alvin Kamara of Tennessee, who the Vikes had worked out individually, lasted until the 3rd round, when the New Orleans Saints grabbed him. Kamara, playing in tandem with Mark Ingram Jr. made the All-Rookie team, the Pro Bowl, and was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Finally, Kareem Hunt of Toledo was taken by Kansas City near the end of round-3. Hunt, who scored 3 touchdowns in his NFL debut, led the NFL in rushing as a rookie, and was also named to the All-Rookie and Pro Bowl teams.
Both Kamara and Hunt played vital roles on teams that became Super Bowl contenders with their addition to what were already powerful offenses.
Cook of course, played in 4 games his rookie year, before suffering a season-ending ACL injury. Then, in season-2 he was hampered by a lingering pulled hamstring and an offensive line that was clearly overmatched in the system in which they were operating.
Just when it looked like maybe the Vikings had taken the wrong guy, Hunt got dropped by the Chiefs for an ugly domestic violence incident. He’s since been picked up by the Cleveland Browns, but his reputation, and his future, remain in doubt.
Kamara continues to produce for New Orleans, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to find many Viking Fans who would trade Cook for Kamara, right now. Cook has always produced when he’s been healthy enough to do so. Now however, he has become the focus of the Vikings offensive, and everyone else, from Kirk Cousins to Adam Thielan, Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph, etc., all revolve around the sensational 3rd-year back.
Now comes a trip to Chicago, and a game against the defending division champs, a team the Vikings didn’t match-up well with last year, or even when beating them in 2017. Hopefully the Vikings learned their lesson in Green Bay, when after spotting the Packers 21 points, Cook and the Vikings ground attack had the Packers on the ropes, only to give the game away on Kirk Cousins’ ill-fated pass.
Don’t expect the purple gang to make a similar mistake in Chicago. The Vikings have the perfect back, in the perfect offensive system for this early season showdown, or for every other game Dalvin Cook is healthy enough to play in, going forward.
It was tough to watch those other backs have such great success while Cook was injured, and while it hurts to have lost-out on great young QB’s like Watson and Mahomes, the Vikings do appear to have made the right choice when they finally had their pick.