The 2006 NFL draft marked the debut of Brad Childress and his new regime, who inherited from ousted coach Mike Tice a 9-7 squad that had huge question marks all over the defense and offensive line, and was still reeling from the departures of superstars Randy Moss and Daunte Culpepper (the latter was traded to Miami a little more than a month before the draft; the former had been gone a good while but the reverberations were still being absorbed). The Vikings held the 17th pick in the first round, but there was plenty of speculation about their wanting to trade up and draft QB Jay Cutler of Vanderbilt to replace the departed Culpepper. In the end, the Vikings would stay put at 17, and use their first pick to help their tattered defense, taking speedy Chad Greenway of Iowa.
Standing pat – or just doing the predictable at all – would not prove the rule for the Vikings on this draft day however. After selecting CB Cedric Griffin of Texas with the 16th pick of the second round, Childress and his war room compadres Fran Foley and Rob Brzezinski reached – some would say screwed the pooch – by taking center Ryan Cook with the 51st overall selection (acquired from Miami in the Culpepper deal). Cook was seen by draftniks as, at best, a second-day pick, but Childress and co. were said to like his size and versatility. The craziness continued a short time later when the TOA traded both the team’s 3rd round picks to the Steelers for the final pick in the 2nd round, and used it on obscure Alabama State quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, another player not necessarily seen as a first-day pick.
Childress and co. had proven their aggressiveness if not their savvy. Said aggressiveness would continue on the second day, with the Vikings sending two draft picks to Philadelphia in exchange for tackle Artis Hicks. This left the team with only two second-day picks, and they would use both of them on defense, taking DE Ray Edwards in the fourth round and DB Greg Blue in the fifth. By draft’s end, the team had legitimately addressed gaping holes at cornerback, linebacker and defensive end, but had people scratching their heads over some moves they made (reaching for Cook and Jackson) and did not make (trading up for Cutler).
Into the future…
Fast forward now to 2009. How does the Childress era’s first draft look in hindsight? Let’s review player-by-player:
Chad Greenway: Missed his first year after being injured playing special teams in the preseason, but has returned to become a near-Pro Bowl performer. Brad Childress and his staff took an incredibly weak linebacking corps and, by drafting Greenway, acquiring Ben Leber and moving E.J. Henderson inside, created one of the strongest threesomes in the league. There’s no arguing that Greenway was a great pick, and that the turnaround of the Vikings’ defense after the long, dark night of the late-Dennis Green/Mike Tice era has been Childress’s most laudable accomplishment. Grade: A
Cedric Griffin: Has had his not-so-memorable moments both on and off the field. Cedric has, however, shown an ability to learn and improve, and after three years in the league, he is a serviceable cover-2-style cornerback, physical enough at the line to get a decent jam and a solid tackler. For a second-round pick, he has been good enough. Grade: B
Ryan Cook: The Vikings’ right tackle situation was so miserable upon Cook’s arrival that, despite his being green as hell at the position (he played center in college), he would take over the starting spot by the end of his first year. Umpteen false start penalties and bad whiffs on pass rushers later, and Cook finds himself on the outs both with fans and coaches. Of course, had he been drafted in the fourth or fifth round where he belonged, we would consider him merely another pick that didn’t pan out. But because Childress and co. reached for him in the second round, passing over guys like Greg Jennings and Devin Hester, he must be considered one of the worst draft mistakes in recent team history. Grade: D+
Tarvaris Jackson: Few people could comprehend, at the time, why the Vikings elected to trade up to the last pick of the second round to take Tarvaris Jackson, a raw quarterback prospect probably not worthy of anything more than a fourth-round pick. And, three years later, we still don’t comprehend it. Brad Childress’s love affair with T-Jack has been the most vexatious issue of the coach’s entire tenure. The best I can figure is that, as with the mother of an ugly child, only Childress can see Jackson’s true beauty. What makes this all the more irksome is that the Vikings could’ve had Jay Cutler or Kellen Clemens in that same draft. Grade: C-
Ray Edwards: A fourth-round pick nets you a starting defensive end – hard to find fault there. However, given how much we’ve heard subsequently about how good Ray is supposed to be – mostly from Ray himself – there’s still a whiff of disappointment to his career. What saved him last year was the acquisition of Jared Allen; that took away any pressure there might’ve been on Edwards to be anything more than an adequate end, and that’s all he is. It’s an open question whether he will retain his starting spot this season, with Kenechi Udeze trying to come back, and Brian Robison hoping to emerge. Grade: B-
Greg Blue: The only 2006 draftee not still on the roster. He was a decent special teams player for one year but was a victim of the numbers crunch and was cut after camp in 2007. He was picked up by the Lions but only lasted to the end of the 2008 preseason. If you’re not good enough to stick on the Lions, you’re not good enough to stick. He was only a fifth rounder so, really, no harm, no foul. Grade: C+
And the overall draft grade? The Greenway pick is mostly what Childress has to hang his hat on. There were a couple more adequate selections and a couple of shaky-to-disastrous ones. The main minus here is that they didn’t end up with a more viable quarterback, given the guys who were available. I’m giving the 2006 draft an overall B-. It did help rebuild our defense. But Cook and Jackson, man…Cook and Jackson.
Topics: Artis Hicks, Ben Leber, Brad Childress, Brian Robison, Cedric Griffin, Chad Greenway, Daunte Culpepper, Dennis Green, Detroit Lions, Devin Hester, E.j. Henderson, Fran Foley, Greg Blue, Greg Jennings, Jared Allen, Jay Cutler, Kellen Clemens, Kenechi Udeze, Miami Dolphins, Mike Tice, Randy Moss, Ray Edwards, Rob Brzezinski, Ryan Cook, Tarvaris Jackson