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Vikings re-draft: Picking only offensive players

Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Anthony Barr, right, talks with teammate Harrison Smith, left, before an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

What if the Minnesota Vikings had only drafted offensive players over the past five years?

As the best two offenses in the NFL get ready to do battle for a Super Bowl title, it’s worth asking whether the Vikings’ draft philosophy, which focused heavily on defense over the past five seasons, was the right way to build in today’s atmosphere.

But is it just hindsight to criticize the Vikings for loading up with 10 defensive picks in the first three rounds of the draft  since 2012 or would they actually have been a better team by going all-in on the offensive side?

There is no way to know what Minnesota’s draft board looked like, but we can see who would have been available at the time. So we can look at the next three offensive players drafted after each defensive player the Vikings selected and, using Pro Football Focus ratings, compare the results (PFF Ratings and Vikings’ actual pick in parenthesis).


23rd – WR – Laquon Treadwell

54th – (Mackensie Alexander) WR – Tyler Boyd (73.0, 61st), C – Cody Whitehair (87.2, 6th), G- Max Tuerk (N/A)

The Vikings probably thought their interior line was OK with Alex Boone, Joe Berger and Brandon Fusco, but Whitehair turned out to be one of the best at his position as a rookie. Boyd was a reliable receiver for the Bengals with 54 receptions for 603 yards and Tuerk did not see the field. Two of the three picks would have been more valuable than Alexander.


11th – (Trae Waynes) T – Andrus Peat (69.8, 44th), WR – Davonte Parker (79.6, 26th), RB – Melvin Gordon (82.5, 5th)

45th – (Eric Kendricks) C – Mitch Morse (81.1, 21st), Jake Fisher (43.5, N/A), Ameer Abdullah (74.9, N/A)

88th –   (Danielle Hunter)Chaz Green (N/A), Jeff Heuerman (73.8, N/A), TJ Montgomery (74.3, 19th)

Peat has not become a great tackle despite his draft status, but he is 23 and played better than any Vikings tackle this season, while Parker and Gordon are legitimate impact players. As for the second and third rounds, none of the available players would have come close to the impact Kendricks and Hunter had on the Vikings this season.


9th – (Anthony Barr) TE- Eric Ebron (50.6, 49th), Odell Beckham (84.3, 12th), Zack Martin (88.3, 3rd)

32nd – Teddy Bridgewater

72nd – (Scott Crichton) RB- Tre Mason (N/A), C – Travis Swanson (81.9, 17th), C – Spencer Long (79.5, 22nd)

96th – Jerick McKinnon

While the Ebron pick has gone bust for the Lions, Beckham and Martin are legitimate superstar players. Barr appeared on the track to be a superstar, but had a tough 2016. As for the third-round pick, Mason had troubles with concussions and is no longer in the league, while the other two have become average NFL centers. This draft would have been much better for the Vikings had they gone all-offense.


23rd – (Sharrif Floyd) WR – DeAndre Hopkins (80.0, 25th), Travis Frederick (90.4, 2nd), Justin Hunter (66.6, N/A)

25th – (Xavier Rhodes) Zach Ertz (75.0, 18th), Giovani Bernard (69.1 31st), Geno Smith (N/A)

29th – Cordarrelle Patterson

So, the Vikings had a chance to pick the two highest rated Dallas Cowboys offensive linemen, had they gone pure offense. Hunter is a bust, but Hopkins has become a top-notch receiver, while Floyd has struggled to stay healthy. The second pick has been a home run for the Vikings as Rhodes has developed into one of the best players at his position, while neither Ertz or Bernard is special.


4th – LT – Matt Kalil

29th – (Harrison Smith) WR – AJ Jenkins (N/A), RB – Doug Martin (66.8, 44th) – David Wilson (N/A)

66th – (Josh Robinson) RB – Ronnie Hillman (64.5, N/A), WR – DeVier Posey (N/A) – TJ Graham (N/A)

Picking an offensive player instead of Harrison Smith would have been a major flub, though Martin did have several good seasons before falling off in 2016. The third round pick would have been a bust either way.


Clearly the Vikings could have selected some terrific offensive players and would have ended up with a few serious busts had they gone all-in on the offensive side, but the question isn’t whether there were good players available, it’s whether the likes of Zack Martin or Melvin Gordon would have been more valuable toward winning than defensive stars like Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes. It’s also about how far the drop off would be in terms of wins or points allowed from a player like Smith or Rhodes to a free agent or late-round pick replacement.

What muddies the waters is the quarterback position. Given better offensive linemen or Odell Beckham alongside Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen or Melvin Gordon, how much would Sam Bradford’s (or Teddy Bridgewater’s, if healthy) play have been elevated?

Not that there is a huge debate anymore about whether offense is winning in the NFL, but one way to put it is this: How much better are you in terms of points above average if you are the best offensive team vs. the best defensive team?

Line up the 1-32 rankings in terms of points above average allowed and scored, and the No. 1 rated Broncos defense saved 61 fewer points above average than the Falcons’ offense did over an average offensive team. Likewise, the worst offense was 24 points below average more than the worst defense. Even the teams in the middle are mostly worth more points above average on defense than the teams in the middle on defense.

DEF points above average OFF points above average Difference Rank
114.4 175.6 61.2 1
80.4 104.6 24.2 2
72.4 76.6 4.2 3
67.4 67.6 0.2 4
58.4 56.6 -1.8 5
57.4 53.6 -3.8 6
53.4 51.6 -1.8 7
49.4 46.6 -2.8 8
43.4 45.6 2.2 9
37.4 34.6 -2.8 10
36.4 34.6 -1.8 11
33.4 31.6 -1.8 12
6.4 24.6 18.2 13
2.4 16.6 14.2 14
-4.6 4.6 9.2 15
-13.6 2.6 16.2 16
-13.6 -1.4 12.2 17
-15.6 -10.4 5.2 18
-18.6 -10.4 8.2 19
-20.6 -18.4 2.2 20
-23.6 -21.4 2.2 21
-27.6 -31.4 -3.8 22
-29.6 -37.4 -7.8 23
-34.6 -39.4 -4.8 24
-35.6 -46.4 -10.8 25
-37.6 -54.4 -16.8 26
-41.6 -55.4 -13.8 27
-44.6 -85.4 -40.8 28
-58.6 -85.4 -26.8 29
-87.6 -89.4 -1.8 30
-89.6 -100.4 -10.8 31
-115.6 -140.4 -24.8 32


  • Lester Stkl

    vikes need to dump spielman

    • Carl Brodin

      I totally agree send Spielman packing.

  • MC

    Theyve built a solid defense. Bridgewater and one draft plus the current interior line plus dumping floyd for Jonathan Hankins…. the Vikings were a sharif floyd away from 11-5, with SAM BRADFORD.

  • Andre Esters

    Entertaining break down, Coller… the Vikings definitely could’ve struck gold with a few lineman and some stars at RB and WR if they focused solely on offense. Unfortunately, along with the numbers that encourage offensive firepower vs defensive stoppage, hindsight could illustrate how these drafts had plenty of intangibles like roster needs, coaches, contracts, production, needs, and even best players available.

    Its the offseason, what else Vikings are we gonna talk.

    • Matt Coller

      Thanks, Andre. You’re absolutely right that the context to every pick matters. If they had drafted DeAndre Hopkins in one draft, they wouldn’t take Odell in the next one and on and on.

  • David Prestin

    I rather have our defense. Years and yrs of Viking teams that scored at will only to get beat cause the defense couldn’t stop anyone. With this defense, the Vikings are just a few offensive players away from playing for the title. Heck, even a few less injuries may have been all they needed.

    • Matt Coller

      Some of the defensive players on the list are tremendous, but the best days for Vikings fans were when the offenses were top notch, under Denny and then with Favre. If you’re talking about the Ponder years, it wouldn’t have really mattered what defense they had, you weren’t winning with that

      • Gordon Guffey

        The first year the Vikings had Favre did they not lose their last 5 games ~ ??? And who can forget their last second win over a very weak 49ers team ~ And that was with a healthy and productive AP to go along with the one year wonder Rice and headcase Harvin having outstanding seasons ~ Had the defense been able to stop the Saints on that last drive and injured Favre would never have had to take the field again ~ Had AP not had those fumbles the defense would not have had to take the field against a very talented Saints offense ~

        Green was never my favorite coach and while he did pick Moss who fell into his lap that was a no brainier on his part ~ He also run the team into the ground cap wise ~ And I dang sure could have done without his screwball coaching in 1998 NFCC game ~ Matt you can have Green ~ IMHO he was a winning coach in a very weak NFC Central division ~

        • Jake Johnson

          Gordon, what do you mean by, “the first year the Vikings had Favre did they not lose their last 5 games?” The 2009 Vikings lost their first game in week 7 at Pittsburgh, putting them at 6-1. They lost their second game at Arizona in week 13, putting them at 10-2. They beat Cincinnati in week 14 to get to 11-2. Their third and fourth losses came in weeks 15 and 16 at Carolina, at Chicago, dropping them to 11-4. Then they won the regular season finale at home against the Giants, finishing at 12-4.

          • Gordon Guffey

            Thats why I said did they not ~ My memory is not what it use to be ~ I really though I remember them losing their last 5 games including the Saints game ~ So they lost to the Cards~Panther~Bears~Saints while beating Cincinnati and the Giants winning two in their last 6 games ~ I think I got that right ~ Thanks for pointing that out to me ~ I think I must have had my head in the sand ~ LOL ~ Smile Face 🙂

          • Jake Johnson

            Hi Gordon, you’re right, they did fade some at the end of the season, but remember they pounded the Cowboys 34-3 before losing to the Saints. The game that really cost them was the loss at Chicago which gave home field advantage to the Saints.

        • cka2nd

          “Green was never my favorite coach and while he did pick Moss who fell
          into his lap that was a no brainier on his part ~”

          Moss fell to the 21st pick in the draft, so a lot of other teams didn’t consider him a no-brainer at the time. To his credit, Green had learned from his mistake of drafting Derrick Alexander instead of Warren Sapp by putting too much store into “character questions.” Unfortunately, Moss’ rookie success went to Green’s head and he took the tragic Dimitrius Underwood the next year.

          “He also run the team
          into the ground cap wise ~”

          Too true. Re-signing a 36-year old Randall Cunningham to a long-term deal and trading away Brad Johnson were the two worst decisions of Green’s career.

          “And I dang sure could have done without his
          screwball coaching in 1998 NFC game ~ ”

          Grant’s preparation for the four Super Bowls has been widely criticized, too.

          “Matt you can have Green ~ IMHO he
          was a winning coach in a very weak NFC Central division ~”

          Gordon, In Green’s ten seasons at the helm, eight of which led to the playoffs, Green Bay went to the playoffs seven times and appeared in two Super Bowls, Detroit made the playoffs five times, Tampa Bay four times and Chicago twice. During Grant’s first ten years as Head Coach, under today’s wild card rules Detroit would have made the playoffs three times instead of the one time they actually got in, Green Bay twice and Chicago and Tampa Bay not at all. The NFC Central was an incomparably stronger division from 1992 to 2001 than it was from 1967 to 1976.

          Dennis Green made his mistakes and had his weaknesses, but he was clearly one of the best head coaches of the 1990’s and is a very, very solid second best Vikings HC of all time.

          • Gordon Guffey

            cka2nd I must be losing it ~ LOL ~ I stand corrected ~ Good work ~ I use to go back an look up these kind of things ~ Looks like I need to get back to it ~ However we will have to agree to disagree on Green ~ I would take Grant any day ~ But thats just me ~

          • cka2nd

            Well hell, if you held a gun to my head I’d pick Grant, too, but it wouldn’t be by a huge margin. Green, like many coaches of his era, wanted more and more power within the organization – I like to think of it as Bill Parcells Disease – while Grant seemed content to just be the head coach and not try to run the draft, etc. And I love the fact that Grant quit after the 1983 season because the last of his kids had graduated from college; football was a job, a career, certainly, but not his life. Here again, Green was a man of his time and seemed to suffer from at least a touch of Joe Gibbsitis. I will say, though, that there were some wonderful pieces about Green after he passed away. His mentoring, especially of his assistant coaches, was particularly impressive.

  • linus

    I’m sure that if the Patriots win the Super Bowl, Coller will credit their offense (even though they scored ~100 fewer points than the Falcons did this year) rather than their defense (even though they gave up 150 fewer points than the Falcons did this year).

    • Matt Coller

      Here’s the thing, Linus, teams with really good offense and really good defense (Seahawks from a few years ago) will always have a chance to win. Having a good defense is a great bonus, but you’re more likely to be successful with a great offense than a great defense. Plus, think of it this way, the Patriots did allow the fewest points, but one of the ways they did so was by controlling the game with their offense. The other day I wrote about LaGarrette Blount and how New England used him to control the clock. They also had a very easy schedule. Football Outsiders has them as the 16th best defense in DVOA, because they adjust for competition.

  • GordonGekko

    “What if’s” are for writers that have to write something to fill space.

  • Gordon Guffey

    I’m not sure how injuries can count as busts unless these were players who have a injury history in college much like Diggs who dropped because of his injury history and we have seen it raise its ugly head for him in his first two seasons costing him game and other time having him on the field at when he was a none factor because he has been limited ~ And lets not forget Zigy and Mark Wilf didn’t want anymore headcases after Harvin was traded ~

    As for Treadwell I understand this pick perfectly just not the players ~ Norv wasn’t going to play Patterson no matter how hard he worked ~ No one and I mean no one knew Thielen was going to come on like he did or do we know for a fact he can do it again ~ I believe he can but that doesn’t make it fact ~ There were injury concerns because Diggs injury history ~ However this was another Norv pick IMHO ~ Much like him and his son Scott scouting and pushing for Bridgewater after a bad pro day I dont believe they had any trouble doing the same with Treawell after his pro day ~ If Spielman is guilty here of anything on this pick it is trusting a OC who was basically the HC of the offense who had a good to great history picking offensive talent ~ Seems the game hadhas passed him by ~ As for Alexander is raw and that was known by most of the mock drafters I read so I see no problem having him setting and learning ~ Its my understanding he was drafted right where many had him rated because of him being raw but Zimmer was said to be happy with the pick as were most who looked over this pick after the draft ~ But they also believe he has a boat load of talent to work with ~ And with the Vikings most likely losing both Newman and Munnerlyn getting him a year in Zimmer’s defense would be much more important than any player you listed ~ I will say O hope the Vikings can find a way to keep both Newman and Munnerlyn seeing how we know they do fit into Zimmer’s defense ~

    Peat being better than any OT the Vikings had this year isn’t worth a 1st round draft pick IMHO ~ Kalil was trying to play through his injury in game 1 if I remember right ~ Didn’t his injury happen in one of the last two preseason games ~ ??? If Kalil was healthy I would have took him over Peat know knowing that Shurmur would become the OC and that his blocking scheme should fit any OL on the roster ~ If I remember correctly and I dont always do that LOL wasn’t Peat rated poorly as a run blocker ~ ???

    As for players like Kalil and Floyd they had no real injury history in college that I know of so I dont know how anyone could call them busts when there is no way to predict future injuries and there are those who blame them on Spielman no matter what ~ When Floyd is healthy he is a difference makers ~ Bridgewater falls into this group also ~ Barr having one off years is nothing to worry about yet ~ However he has had some injury in his early years and may fall into the same group ~

    As for the paragraph above ~ If I’m the Vikings I would be looking into the kind of turf they have been using of late and it may not have anything to do with all the injuries of late ~ But it might not have anything to do with the players without that being known ~ There never seem to be this kind of problems with injuries in the old dome ~

    Patterson has been held back by Norv and Scott Tuner and I have little doubt its one of the many reason they are gone ~ Kind of hard to get any better when the only work you get throughout the week is on ST ~

  • cka2nd

    2016 – I’ll concede to you on Whitehair, but with Diggs, Thielen and Patterson, Boyd would have had little or no more impact than Treadwell and Wright.

    2015 – Waynes is a conundrum and was a reach, no doubt, but I’m not in love with any of your three alternatives, and I think Waynes is still on track to being a solid #2 CB in 2017 or 2018.

    2014 – It’s way too soon to write off Barr, although either of the two centers in the third round would have been nice.

    2013 – I really wanted the Vikes to draft Hopkins at the time, almost as much as I wanted them to draft Roddy White instead of Troy Williamson in 2005. Hopkins even would have been an ideal successor to White. Sigh!

    2012 – Hillman probably would have been at least as good and maybe a better back-up and fill-in for Peterson than Matt Asiata.


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