Sport - National
Keep one eye on the clock and one on the Vikings
Until they make a first-round pick without chaos, confusion and embarrassment, the Vikings will be the most closely watched NFL team on the draft clock.
The Vikings are well aware they will be under the microscope when they choose with the No. 19 pick in the April 24-25 draft. That, of course, is the result of back-to-back draft missteps the past two years.
"People will likely make a big joke about us on draft day," Vikings vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski said. "But we're not concerned about this being a big problem or anything. What happened happened, but we feel good about our draft process."
The Vikings were a draft day story for all the wrong reasons last year when time ran out on their No. 7 pick while they discussed a trade with Baltimore and Jacksonville. As soon as the Vikings' 15-minute time allotment expired, Jacksonville and Carolina - alert because they learned from the Vikings' similar mistake a year before - snapped to action and made picks before anyone, including the Vikings, could blink.
The Vikings eventually recovered from their phone logjam with the Ravens and the Jaguars to chose Oklahoma State defensive tackle Kevin Williams with the No. 9 pick, falling two precious spots without any compensation. Williams was the player the Vikings say they wanted all along, but they were willing to deal the No. 7 pick to get him and a lower draft choice. The delay happened because the Vikings were close to completing a trade with the Ravens while they were still dealing with the Jaguars.
"I feel sorry for our guys on that one," said Vikings owner Red McCombs, who was in favor of trading out of the No. 7 pick. "It made them look bad. But it takes two to make a trade. (Baltimore) was stalling and it made our guys look bad. But in reality, they ended up with a nice pick."
Making the issue sting was the Vikings' 2002 draft day misdeed.
That year, the Dallas Cowboys, drafting No. 6, and the Kansas City Chiefs, drafting No. 8, were working a deal that would enable the Chiefs to leapfrog the Vikings, who had the No. 7 pick, and take defensive tackle Ryan Sims, the player the Vikings wanted.Time ran out before the deal could be consummated, but the Vikings were not prepared to bring their card to NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue's podium. As a Vikings representative hurriedly scribbled Sims' name on the card, the Chiefs beat them to the podium to complete the trade.
The Vikings ended up with left tackle Bryant McKinnie. He is on his way to becoming a standout, while Sims has been a disappointment thus far for the Chiefs.Brzezinski points out that while the Vikings are not happy about their mistakes the past two drafts, the incidents have not hurt the team. As McKinnie did, Williams produced right away, and appears on his way to becoming a stalwart.
"Of course, we wish it never happened, but it is not like we made the mistake two years in a row," Brzezinski said. "Time ran out on us while making a trade last year. But two years ago it happened to Dallas."
Despite the past problems, the Vikings are not running scared this year. Coach Mike Tice has said the Vikings will seek to trade down to compile more picks to take advantage of the depth in the draft. The Vikings say this year they will cut off trade talks with about two minutes left on the clock if a deal has not been made.
How sure are the Vikings that their past mistakes are behind them? Tice will take part in a spoof of the clock snafu for ESPN that will be shown as part of the network's draft coverage.
"We learned from what happened," Tice said. "We get our picks on time from now on and hopefully we will continue to make smart picks when we do pick in the first round."