Now, I’m not a huge fan of trading up for Harrison Smith, but I don’t think he would have been an unreasonable choice in the 2nd round. He might not end up as an All-Pro, but he looks like he can be a very good safety and he’s quite good at run support. And once the Vikings made the decision to draft Smith with their second choice, it made sense for them to wait on wide receivers with their third pick. And here’s the thing—I like the potential of the receivers the Vikings drafted. Nor do I think Jarius Wright and Greg Childs are so much worse than the receivers that were drafted in the late 2nd and early 3rd round that it would have justified trading up for Randle/Hill/Jeffery. I’d much rather have Wright, Childs and Josh Robinson than only one of the second round receivers.
I especially like Greg Childs as a high upside play for the same reason that I liked Rueben Randle—he’s fast enough and a good enough route runner to develop into a Sidney Rice clone. Childs won’t be beating guys running a vertical route, but he can work the deep post/corner/fade routes and stretch the field that way. Childs’ time in the forty was as fast as Randle’s. While he will probably never be as explosive as he was before tearing his patella tendon in 2010, he should be more explosive in 2012 than in 2011 as he regains his trust in his knee and as he gets further away from the surgery. And the fact that Childs was even able to get back on the field within a year and have some success bodes well for how much of his pre-injury potential he can achieve.
Another thing that I liked about picking Wright is that he can pair with Harvin to create a lot of mismatches. They’re both so fast that linebackers and some safeties won’t be able to cover them. Additionally, if the Vikings are smart, they’ll move Harvin and Wright in and out of the backfield to try to get them the ball in space with only a linebacker between them and a huge play. A formation with Harvin in the backfield, Wright and Simpson on the outside, and both Randolph and Carlson is almost assuredly going to end up with a mismatch that can be exploited, either because the defense has to single cover Simpson or Wright, or have someone too slow on Harvin or too small on a tight end, or they will be in a formation that makes it easy for the Vikings’ line to create a big hole for Harvin to run through.
Thinking about that, however, makes me worried about the Vikings’ linebackers again while also helping to justify the Smith pick. Offenses in the NFL are changing and changing rapidly. Those changes are going to require fast linebackers that can cover fast quick running backs like Percy Harvin and Darrin Sproles and safeties that can shoulder the responsibilities of a linebacker in running game. There’s going to be a lot more nickel in the NFL’s future and I’m not sure that the Vikings’ roster has the hybrid linebacker/safeties it needs. It seems that drafting Smith was an attempt to rectify that, although waiting until the 7th round to draft a linebacker makes me worried the Vikings’ weren’t focused enough on their roster’s ability to keep up with the changing roles linebackers have to play.