Souhan: Look around, Minnesota, drafts can lead you places

Jim Souhan, Star Tribune
·4 min read

The 2021 NFL draft will end someday.

Really. I checked.

Thus will cease seemingly millions of mock drafts, one or two of which will have proved somewhat correct. They will make way for the first 2022 mock drafts, which are being filed as we speak.

Thousands of hours of media coverage on draft speculation could have been better invested in just about anything. But as inane and endless as NFL draft coverage has become, there is this kernel of truth at the heart of all of the nonsense:

The most efficient, reliable and affordable way to build a professional sports team is with the draft. The Twin Cities, finally, can act as ground zero as proof.

Every team misses occasionally in the draft, and Minnesota's pro sports teams (with the everlasting example of the Lynx standing as the exception) haven't exactly covered themselves in postseason glory.

But each is promising at this moment in time specifically because it excelled when faced with the challenge of maximizing high draft picks.

Sports fans and writers spend a lot of time lamenting bad draft picks. Today, let's celebrate the good ones.

The Timberwolves, who had won four straight entering Saturday night, faced a difficult choice in the 2020 NBA draft. They held the first pick and had to choose between a 19-year-old who said he didn't always love basketball, a talented 7-footer in a league that no longer values pure size, a creative playmaker who didn't play defense, or a lesser prospect who might fit in more quickly.

They took the 19-year-old, Anthony Edwards, and he looks like a future superstar.

We may be years from knowing who the best player in that draft was, but Edwards is probably the right answer. He's an explosive athlete who can dominate an NBA game at a young age. He cares about winning. He has already displayed leadership. He's coachable.

So for all of the Wolves' woes, they appear to have made two excellent choices with the first pick in the draft: Karl-Anthony Towns and Edwards.

In 2012, the Twins were in the midst of an unwanted rebuild. The franchise collapsed in 2011 because of injuries to Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer and the franchise's traditional inability to draft and develop its own starting pitching.

In the 2012 draft, the Houston Astros took star shortstop Carlos Correa with the first pick. The Twins chose Byron Buxton with the second. Coming out of a small, rural high school, Buxton was going to take time to develop, and he has, and now he looks like the most talented player in the major leagues. And 31 picks later, with a supplemental first-round pick awarded as compensation for Michael Cuddyer leaving in free agency, the Twins chose Jose Berrios.

In one draft, they landed a potential superstar and a top-of-the-rotation starter. That is known as roster building.

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman will forever be linked with the failed draft pick of Christian Ponder, but he's done well at most other positions. Thursday he chose Christian Darrisaw to be his left tackle. Friday he chose Wyatt Davis to play guard.

His starting offensive line this season could include Darrisaw, Brian O'Neill, Garrett Bradbury, Ezra Cleveland and Davis — five draft picks, two or three of whom could turn into Pro Bowl-caliber players.

Spielman may have fixed the offensive line, finally.

The Wild has been known for desperate moves to bring talent into a franchise that rarely has owned a high draft pick. The team is dynamic and promising today because of a player taken with the 135th pick in the NHL draft.

Kirill Kaprizov is a star. He is the best player the Wild has ever employed. For all of his obvious mistakes, Chuck Fletcher deserves credit for his foresight and handling of a tricky, risky draft pick.

The Lynx play in a 12-team league. They held the sixth pick in the draft in 2019 and 2020. Each year, they drafted the rookie of the year: Napheesa Collier and then Crystal Dangerfield.

American media grotesquely overplays NFL draft coverage, because speculation is the best lure for the sports fan, but drafting well is essential, and the local teams have done well of late.

Jim Souhan's podcast can be heard at TalkNorth.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. jsouhan@startribune.com