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Zulgad: Draft memories Part IV: Great expectations become big-time busts



The Vikings have made 22 first-round selections in the NFL draft since 2000 and that figure will increase to 24 (provided there are no trades) a week from Thursday when the opening round is conducted with team personnel working from their homes because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Those 22 first-round picks cover 20 drafts and bring back some good and bad memories for the Vikings and their fans alike. Over the next two days, we will continue to unveil memorable first rounds since 2000. Three will involve Rick Spielman, who has been an important part of the draft process since 2007 and has had final say since becoming general manager in 2012.

Part I featured the first round in which the Vikings had one big hit and one big miss. Part II was one big flop from 2011 and Part III focused on the Vikings jumping at a great opportunity to select a future star. Today, we examine a first round that most Vikings fans would prefer to forget ever happened.

THE YEAR: 2005

The situation: The Vikings had received the seventh-overall pick in the first round from Oakland in the March 2005 trade that sent Randy Moss to the Raiders and Minnesota also had the 18th selection. Coming off an 8-8 season in which they upset Green Bay in the playoffs before losing at Philadelphia, the Vikings used the seventh pick on South Carolina wide receiver Troy Williamson and the 18th selection on Wisconsin defensive end Erasmus James. The Vikings had taken USC defensive end Kenechi Udeze a year earlier in the first round and hoped that the combination of Udeze and James would give them two players capable of getting to the quarterback. Williamson, meanwhile, was expected to replace Moss as the Vikings’ top wide receiver with the expectation that his speed would create huge problems for opposing defensive backs and give quarterback Daunte Culpepper a dangerous target.

How it worked out: It remains unclear to this day exactly who gets the blame for the Williamson pick but to say he didn’t come close to replacing Moss would be a massive understatement. Williamson did have great speed but one of his primary problems was catching the ball and, when you’re an NFL wide receiver, that’s a huge issue. Williamson caught 79 passes for 1,067 yards and three touchdowns in three unproductive seasons with the Vikings before being traded to Jacksonville for a sixth-round pick in 2008 in February of that year. He played in10 games over two seasons with the Jaguars before his career ended. Williamson, who at one point spent time at the Nike Vision Clinic in hopes of holding onto more passes, played his final game as a Viking on Dec. 30, 2007. He had no catches in that game but did have two terrible drops, including one on a beautiful deep pass from Tarvaris Jackson that would have resulted in an easy touchdown. The Vikings lost that game, 22-19. James’ tenure as a Viking was just as forgettable. He had four sacks in 15 games as a rookie but got to the quarterback only once more in eight games over two injury plagued seasons before being traded to Washington for a conditional seventh-round pick. He appeared in five games for Washington before being placed on waivers in December 2008.

The verdict: Is their a grade worse than a F? It would have been bad enough if Williamson had flopped but to have two first-round picks in the Top 20 fail this badly. … Four picks after Williamson was selected, the Dallas Cowboys got a pretty good pass rusher in DeMarcus Ware, who had 138.5 career sacks. Overall this wasn’t a great first round but there is one player the Vikings passed on, as did many teams, who will go into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. That would be Aaron Rodgers, whom the Packers took with the 24th pick. The feeling was that either Rodgers or fellow quarterback Alex Smith was going to go first overall. Smith ended up being taken No. 1 by the 49ers and that began a free-fall for Rodgers as team after team passed on him because they didn’t need a quarterback. The Vikings had Culpepper at the time but eight weeks into the 2005 season he took a hit on his knee that ended his season. He never played a game for the Vikings again. Tice was fired after that season and replaced by Brad Childress. A few years later, the two players the Vikings hoped would become stars from the 2005 draft also were gone.





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