To a layperson, 15 minutes seems like plenty of time to select a single football player. But when one considers just how much time goes into the evaluation process and what’s at stake, perhaps it shouldn’t be so surprising that a team has gone over its allotted time to pick in the NFL Draft.
That’s exactly what happened to the Minnesota Vikings in 2003. It wasn’t just that the Vikings couldn’t decide which player to select. Front office executives not only know which prospects they covet but likely what teams picking near them are looking to do. If an NFL team can get the player it wants and possibly trade down to acquire more picks, it only makes sense to try to do that.
With the seventh overall pick, the Vikings were fielding offers from three teams looking to trade up — the Baltimore Ravens, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New England Patriots. With about 30 seconds remaining out of the 15 minutes the Vikings had to pick (first-round picks now have a 10-minute limit), Minnesota officials claim they submitted their draft card laying out a trade with Baltimore, acquiring the Ravens’ first- (10th overall), fourth- and sixth-round picks. League officials, however, told the Vikings that they never received verification of the trade from Ravens officials.
At this point, the clock had run out on the Vikings, making it possible for teams picking after them to swoop in and make their pick before Minnesota could. Sensing their opportunity, the Panthers quickly drafted tackle Jordan Gross and the Jaguars took quarterback Byron Leftwich, the player who the Ravens were supposedly trading up to obtain.
Even after slipping two spots in the first round, the Vikings still wound up selecting Kevin Williams, a defensive tackle who anchored their defense for 11 years, making the Pro Bowl five times in that span. Minnesota has always contended that Williams was the player they wanted all along. Even if that was the case, it’s still an embarrassing episode in the team’s history.
Incidentally, 2003 marked the second straight year that the Vikings had a blunder in the first round. The year before, Minnesota tried to undercut another team when it appeared that the clock had run out on a trade between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Dallas Cowboys for the sixth pick overall. Minnesota, picking seventh, attempted to submit its selection of defensive tackle Ryan Sims, but were informed that the Chiefs had submitted their pick of Sims in time. Instead, the Vikings took offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie.
Eight years later, the Ravens became the most recent team to miss its assigned first-round pick when a trade down with the Bears to the 29th spot from the 26th spot was not pulled off in time. Instead, Baltimore moved down to the 27th spot and selected the player they wanted anyway, cornerback Jimmy Smith. Ironically, it was Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome who had been trying to pull off a trade with the Vikings when Minnesota’s time to pick expired in 2003.