Vikings have hit on compensatory picks, but not in more than a decade
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The two compensatory draft picks the NFL awarded the Minnesota Vikings last week probably won't play a pivotal role in the future of the franchise, but they're notable nonetheless.
Only the Cleveland Browns had received fewer compensatory selections since the 2002 realignment than the Vikings, whose organizational philosophy of re-signing their own starters early and aggressively pursuing free agents had left them without a single "comp" pick for seven years before they got a fifth-rounder in 2010.
On Friday, the NFL handed out 32 compensatory selections in next month's draft to 23 teams -- including sixth- (No. 200) and seventh-round picks (No. 235) for the Vikings' losses of running back Chester Taylor and offensive lineman Artis Hicks.
A look at the Vikings' history shows they've found some serviceable players in the past with compensatory picks, which are awarded using an unrevealed formula to teams that lose more or better unrestricted free agents than they acquire during the designated signing period. It also shows how those picks dried up for the Vikings around the same time the Vikings added the Houston Texans as a 32nd team in 2002.
1994 (1): The Vikings received a second-round pick (No. 45 overall) and traded it to Atlanta in a deal involving Chris Doleman. The NFL later outlawed trades of compensatory picks and reduced slotting to no better than the end of the third round.
1995 (1): Nose tackle Jason Fisk (seventh round, No. 243 overall) played four seasons with the team -- mostly in a reserve role -- during a 12-year career that also included stops in Tennessee, San Diego, Cleveland and St. Louis.
1997 (1): In three seasons with the Vikings, receiver Matthew Hatchette (seventh, No. 235) caught 27 passes, including 15 for 216 yards as the No. 4 receiver on the high-powered 1998 team that reached the NFC championship game.
1998 (1): Cornerback Tony Darden (seventh, No. 225) never appeared in a regular-season game with the Vikings. He played 16 games for San Diego in 2000.
1999 (1): Linebacker Chris Jones (fifth, No. 169) didn't make the team. He had a stint on Denver's roster in 2000 but didn't get into a game.
2000 (4): The Vikings used a fifth-round compensatory pick (No. 165) on receiver Troy Walters and three seventh-rounders on center Mike Malano (No. 240), tight end Giles Cole (No. 244) and guard Lewis Kelly (No. 248). Walters played two seasons with the Vikings, mostly as a return man, and eight in the NFL. Malano spent several years in the organization but never saw regular-season action. Neither did Cole. Kelly mostly was a backup who started five games at left tackle in 2002, when Bryant McKinnie was holding out, and played in 12 more over four seasons before moving on to a two-year stint with the New York Giants.
2001 (2): Defensive tackle Shawn Worthen and receiver Cedric James were back-to-back picks in the fourth round (Nos. 130 and 131). Worthen played in three games as a rookie, James played five the following season and both were gone within two years.
2002 (1): Guard Ed Ta'amu (fourth, No. 132) never played in an NFL regular-season game.
2010 (1): A former walk-on with the Gophers, linebacker Nate Triplett (fifth, No. 167) flopped in training camp and wasn't even offered a practice-squad contract after his Aug. 31 release. He ended up spending time on the practice squads for San Diego and Indianapolis, which signed him to the active roster on Dec. 1 and played him in six games, including its wild-card playoff loss.
Toss in the two picks the Vikings received last week, and that's 15 -- about average -- since the NFL first awarded compensatory picks in 1994. Baltimore (31), Dallas (29), Philadelphia (29), Tennessee (27), Green Bay (26), New England (26) and St. Louis (26) lead the pack, with Denver (nine), the New York Jets (five), Houston (four) and Cleveland (two) bringing up the rear.
Is there any correlation between such picks and winning? Not necessarily, although it's worth noting the seven teams listed above with the most compensatory picks have combined for 11 Super Bowl appearances since the 1999 season. The New Orleans Saints, who won the Super Bowl 14 months ago, have received only three "comp" picks since 2002.
As with any other draft picks, quality ultimately outweighs quantity. The Packers won Super Bowl XLV with an offensive line 40% filled with compensatory picks: center Scott Wells (seventh round in 2004) and right guard Josh Sitton (fourth in 2008).
Pending trades, the Vikings are scheduled to have nine bites at the apple April 28 to 30 -- one in the first (No. 12 overall), second and fourth rounds, and two each in Rounds 5 through 7.
* Special thanks to Vikings PR guy Jon Ekstrom for his research assistance.