NFL Nation: Marcus McCauley

MINNEAPOLIS -- Somehow, we're still six weeks away from the NFL draft, which kicks off on May 8 in New York, but while the Minnesota Vikings are still busy making preparations for general manager Rick Spielman's eighth draft in Minnesota, we thought it would be a good time to look back at how the Vikings fared in his first seven.

So this morning, we're kicking off a day-by-day review of the Vikings' 2007-13 drafts. We'll review how each one turned out for the Vikings, look back at a pivotal pick, and attempt to take a rough measurement of how the team stacked up against the rest of the league, with the help of Pro Football Reference's Approximate Value statistic. The metric gives a general idea of how productive a player has been, based on his years as a regular starter, Pro Bowl selections and statistics. In this case, we'll be using the Draft AV, which measures what a player did for the team that originally drafted him. It's far from a perfect assessment of the situation, but it will give us some sense of how the Vikings have done.

Without further ado, we'll begin our series with a look at the 2007 draft:

Vikings' first-round pick: No. 7 (Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma)

Number of picks: 8

Total Draft AV: 131 (5th in NFL; San Francisco was best with a 232 AV)

Highest player AV: Peterson, 77 (2nd; San Francisco's Patrick Willis was best with an 89 AV)

Peterson
Peterson
How they did: The Vikings' first draft under Spielman will be forever defined by their first pick; Peterson will go down as the greatest running back in franchise history, and one of the best of all time. The fact that Chester Taylor had run for more than 1,200 yards the year before made the Peterson pick seem a bit superfluous at the time, but when injury concerns kept the former Heisman Trophy runner-up on the board until the Vikings picked, they knew they had a rare opportunity. It was an early victory for Spielman's best-player-available strategy, and Peterson remains the team's franchise player as he heads into his eighth season.

Rice
Pivotal pick: When they were on the clock in the second round with the 44th overall pick, the Vikings had the option to take either South Carolina receiver Sidney Rice or USC receiver Dwayne Jarrett, who had had the more decorated college career but had also played in an offense designed to produce big numbers, and had raised concern by skipping the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine. Jarrett eventually ran a 4.62 at USC's pro day, and after being projected as a first-round pick, he was still there for the Vikings in the second round. They instead took Rice, who has been injury-prone, but had a Pro Bowl 2009 season with Brett Favre. Jarrett played 32 NFL games, caught 35 passes and has been out of the league since 2010.

Robison
Best pick: Peterson is the obvious choice, but for sheer value, we have to go with fourth-rounder Brian Robison, who became a starter in 2011 after four seasons as a rotational player and earned a four-year contract extension in the middle of last season. Robison had the best season of his career in 2013, and has seen his sack totals increase each year he's been a starter.

Worst pick: In need of a cornerback after allowing the second-most passing yards in the league the previous season, the Vikings used their third-rounder on Fresno State's Marcus McCauley, who was gone after two seasons and out of the league after three. McCauley stepped in for an injured Antoine Winfield late in his rookie year, and got burned in a pivotal Sunday night game against the Washington Redskins in December. He is currently playing in the United Football League.
MINNEAPOLIS -- A year ago this week, the Minnesota Vikings cut veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield, making Chris Cook the senior member of a secondary the team was gambling could work without a proven veteran in the group. Cook was entering his fourth season and seemed to take the charge of extra responsibility seriously; he went back to school at the University of Virginia over the summer, working toward his degree and making sure to stay out of trouble, and came to training camp proclaiming he was ready to have the kind of breakout season that would lead to a long-term contract.

Cook
Cook is on his way out of Minnesota a year later, heading to the San Francisco 49ers on a one-year contract, closing a disappointing chapter of the Vikings' struggles to stock their secondary through the draft. They spent a second-round pick on Cook in 2010, only to see him get suspended for the second half of the 2011 season as he battled a domestic assault charge, struggle with injuries throughout his career and fail to make plays on the ball. His 29 starts without an interception are the second most by a defensive back in NFL history, and his most memorable moments of the 2013 season came on plays he was in position to make but couldn't close out -- such as the touchdown Alshon Jeffery caught over the top of Cook's head on Dec. 1, running almost five yards holding the ball just above Cook's helmet. The cornerback stuck an arm back toward Jeffery, but never turned his head to locate the ball, and was subsequently ejected for making contact with an official, whom Cook argued should have called pass interference two plays before.

Cook is 6-foot-2 and has the size and speed to match up against big receivers, which is why the 49ers are spending a low-risk deal on the chance they can turn him around. But he exits Minnesota as the latest cornerback not to make it after being taken early in the draft. Xavier Rhodes, one of the Vikings' three 2013 first-rounders, looks as though he can play, but 2012 third-rounder Josh Robinson still has much to prove. Cook was a second-rounder in 2010, and 2009 third-rounder Asher Allen was gone after starting 21 games in three seasons. Marcus McCauley, a third-round pick in 2007, washed out of Minnesota after two seasons, and while 2006 second-rounder Cedric Griffin looked as though he'd turn into a solid cornerback, two torn ACLs ended his career. Griffen and 2002 fourth-rounder Brian Williams are the only two Vikings draft picks to start more than three years at cornerback in the last 12 years.

Rhodes has a chance to reverse that trend, and while the Vikings have had plenty of trouble pinning down safeties, Harrison Smith looks like a star on the rise heading into his third season. But the Vikings' inability to stock one of the league's most important positions stands out as a major black mark on their recent draft history. Cook's ignominious exit from Minnesota is only the latest example of it.
 
  AP Photo/Jim Mone
  With Brett Favre out of the picture, the Vikings' quarterback competition comes down to Tarvaris Jackson (7) and Sage Rosenfels (2).

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

MANKATO, Minn. -- The scene was set for a rock concert. Now, temporary bleachers sit empty at one end of the practice fields at Minnesota State University, Mankato. A super-sized interview tent now seems out of place. One lowly blogger sits in the overflow media room.

Camp Confidential: NFC North
Vikings: Sun., Aug. 2
Packers: Sun., Aug. 9
Bears: Thurs., Aug. 13
Lions: Fri., Aug. 21
Training camp index

Vikings training camp opened to a quiet and anticlimactic scene, one that once seemed destined to be dominated by the arrival of quarterback Brett Favre. Instead, the Vikings have been left with Plan B and C at quarterback as they prepare to defend their NFC North title. And a largely veteran roster has been left to pick up the pieces and steer clear of the letdown that surrounds it.

"That's our job as adults," defensive end Jared Allen said. "We're not in high school. You don't need to carry little grudges with you. It's professional football. [We're] professionals. Let's go do our job. Our job is to win games, defend our division championship and hopefully win the Super Bowl."

Key questions

1. Can Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels be a competent starting quarterback?

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It's a fair question. After all, in a combined 11 NFL seasons, neither player has proved worthy of a full-time starting job. For what it's worth, camp hardly started in ideal fashion. Rosenfels appeared still to be growing comfortable with the offense while a sprained knee felled Jackson in the third practice.

Jackson's injury is not serious, but his long injury history illustrates the perils of counting on him to be a full-time starter. Rosenfels, meanwhile, is a career backup who now realizes the Vikings' offense isn't as familiar as he previously believed. His transition from Houston's version of the West Coast scheme will take some time.

 
  Tom Dahlin/Getty Images
  Rookie Phil Loadholt is the early favorite to win the starting right tackle spot.

But at this point, the Vikings have given themselves no choice but to count on one of them to step up after Favre turned down their overtures last month. In the competitive NFC North, that gambit could mean the difference between the division title and missing the playoffs.

2. Can the offensive line withstand the addition of two new starters?

Rookie Phil Loadholt appears set to take over the right tackle position, and his sheer girth -- 6-foot-8, 343 pounds -- will make it difficult for most defensive ends to get around him. Loadholt also looked relatively smooth as a run-blocker early in camp, and it's hard to imagine him losing a competition for the starting job.

The prognosis for new center John Sullivan, however, is not as certain. He is universally recognized as a smart player, but his ability to match up with the NFL's top defensive tackles has not been measured yet. From a physical standpoint, Sullivan might be at a disadvantage. The Vikings list Sullivan at 6-foot-4, but he has an odd build -- short legs and a long torso -- that make him look and play much shorter.

I asked Pro Bowl nose tackle Pat Williams if he thought Sullivan was ready.

"He doesn't have a choice," Williams said. "That's all we've got. He's still learning, but I think he'll be a good center for us."

Williams, however, also noted the long list of big defensive tackles Sullivan will have to match up against this year -- starting with Cleveland's Shaun Rogers in the Sept. 13 season opener.

"He's got to be strong," Williams said. "The guys he is going to be playing are some big dudes."

3. Are the Vikings prepared for the possibility of losing the Williams Wall?

 K. Williams
 P. Williams

The team is developing a contingency plan in the event that defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams are forced to serve their four-game suspensions. (A Minnesota judge will decide by Aug. 7 whether the players' legal case can proceed in state court.) Few teams have starting-caliber defensive tackles in reserve, but the Vikings are hoping to patch together a decent lineup if they have to.

Fred Evans, Jimmy Kennedy and Letroy Guion have been working as the second-team defensive tackles during practice. Guion also has been working with the first-team nickel defense when Pat Williams takes a breather.

Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier acknowledged it will be "a bit of a drop-off" if Evans, Kennedy and/or Guion is forced into the starting lineup. But Frazier added: "We feel confident we will still be able to play good defense with those other guys in the lineup."

I think that's a fair way of looking at it. The question will be whether the replacements can hold their own, not whether they can maintain the NFL's top-rated run defense. That's an unrealistic expectation.

Market watch

You have to wonder where veteran receiver Bobby Wade will fit in after the Vikings drafted receiver Percy Harvin and welcomed back a healthy Sidney Rice. Even with Harvin unsigned at the beginning of training camp, it seemed clear that Wade will lose some playing time after leading the team in receptions the past two seasons.

If everyone stays healthy, early indications are that Bernard Berrian, Rice and Harvin are first in line for snaps this season. Wade could share some slot responsibilities with Harvin, but the Vikings want the exciting rookie on the field as often as possible.

It's hard to imagine Wade not making the team after catching 107 passes since 2007. But he does appear to be in a fight for playing time that also includes youngsters Jaymar Johnson and Darius Reynaud. Depending on how many receivers they carry on the roster, the Vikings might have to decide whether to keep a reliable veteran or an intriguing up-and-comer.

 Harvin

Newcomer to watch

Harvin missed the first three days of training camp, but it wasn't difficult to see the multi-faceted role the team has mapped out for him.

Reynaud played Harvin's role during practice, roving all over the field -- much like Harvin did while playing at the University of Florida. It's also possible the Vikings will use Harvin as a punt and kickoff returner if he gets into camp soon enough.

Harvin is the kind of open-field runner who can change the dynamic of a game on one play. He'll give the Vikings the best weapon they've ever had in taking defensive attention away from tailback Adrian Peterson. If he and Peterson stay healthy, Harvin is an early candidate for rookie of the year.

Observation deck

Middle linebacker E.J. Henderson is back after a pair of dislocated toes caused him to miss the final 12 games last season. In his first practice this summer, Henderson brought the entire defense together to discuss his goals for this season. "You could hear a pin drop in our huddle," Frazier said. Henderson is normally a quiet leader. "For him to do that," Frazier said, "it makes everyone feel as if this is for real. No more playing around." ... The Vikings signed free agent Karl Paymah ostensibly as their nickelback, but early in camp he was playing with the third team. Benny Sapp, Marcus McCauley and rookie Asher Allen were rotating at nickel. ... Coaches would like to get Peterson more involved in the passing game, but so far tailback Chester Taylor has gotten most of the third-down snaps. "We have a Chester Taylor and we might as well use him," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. ... Peterson on rushing for 2,000 yards in a season: "It is something I think about and dream about." ... With Loadholt the likely starter at right tackle, Ryan Cook is getting a chance to win a backup center/tackle job.

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Eagles had done a nice job of setting the edge against Adrian Peterson and not giving him any cutback lanes -- until that last run. The Vikings had everything pointed toward the right side and then Peterson spotted a massive lane and cutback to his left for a 40-yard touchdown.

Looked like linebacker Chris Gocong had the only legitimate shot at bringing Peterson down, but there's no way you arm tackle this guy once he gets to the second level. Meanwhile, on the ensuing drive, Donovan McNabb just completed a ball to Kevin Curtis into tight coverage.

And while we're in a timeout, let's talk about how predictable the Eagles' offense is at times. Other than the one long run by Correll Buckhalter, there hasn't been much available on the ground. But part of that is the fact that the Eagles almost always seen to run on second down. At some point, it might not be bad to mix in a run on first down to keep the Vikings honest.

Well, DeSean Jackson just completely burned Vikings cornerback Marcus McCauley on a deep ball down the sideline. Everyone wanted to know how Jackson would perform in his first playoff game. So far, so good.

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