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Updated: April 18th, 2011 1:11am
Pelissero: Drafting a defensive end at 12 doesn't compute for Vikings

Pelissero: Drafting a defensive end at 12 doesn't compute for Vikings

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by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com

The majority of the Minnesota Vikings' scouts were around when the team found Ray Edwards, Brian Robison and Everson Griffen in the fourth round of recent NFL Drafts.

College scouting director Scott Studwell and others were present when the team blew consecutive first-round picks on Kenechi Udeze and Erasmus James, too.

That's one reason talk of the Vikings taking a defensive end with the No. 12 overall pick next week seems counterintuitive.

Yes, this draft class is considered talented at the top when it comes to defensive linemen. It's also viewed as a deep class that could offer help in the middle rounds for a Vikings line NFL scouts see as highly talented, the likely departures of Edwards and Pat Williams notwithstanding.

Even if a rookie wage scale trims in half the $15 million guaranteed San Diego halfback Ryan Mathews received as last year's No. 12 pick, would that be a worthy investment, given the Vikings' history of finding starting-caliber ends at a far lower price?

It's tough to do the same at quarterback and left tackle -- two core positions that predominantly are filled in the draft's first round. And although defensive linemen are selected nearly twice as often as any other position group in the top half of Round 1, the frequency of misses suggests too many teams may be overvaluing prospects at the position.

Of the 160 players selected between first and 16th overall in the past 10 drafts, 45 have been defensive linemen. That's 28.13%, with the rest of the picks comprised of 23 defensive backs (14.38%), 22 offensive linemen (13.75%), 19 receivers (11.88%), 18 linebackers (11.25%), 17 quarterbacks (10.63%), 13 running backs (8.13%) and three tight ends (1.88%).

Yet only 12 of those defensive linemen (26.67%) have been selected to even one Pro Bowl. Seven (15.56%) have been named first-team All-Pro. Seven others weren't even in the league last season. A 1500ESPN.com study creating composite rankings based on roster status, first-team All-Pro nods, Pro Bowl trips and years spent as primary starter revealed only receiver and quarterback had higher "bust" percentages than defensive tackle or end.

The Vikings surely know those numbers, which could mean nothing should a blue-chip prospect slides out of the top 10. If they're enamored with, say, Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers, the failures of past years or other teams rightfully would take a backseat to the evaluation process.

But NFL scouts would argue the Vikings have greater needs in the defensive backfield, along the offensive line and perhaps at receiver, particularly after top backup end Brian Robison re-signed a three-year, $14 million deal. And there is no question the Vikings must build their draft strategy around the quarterback(s) they want to target, with the No. 12 pick their most valuable bargaining chip for getting their man at the most important position.

Jared Allen was once a fourth-round pick, too. Former fifth-rounder Letroy Guion continues to round into a valuable role player. The Vikings' sixth-round pick in that brutal 2005 draft, defensive tackle C.J. Mosley, is the only one who is still in the league.

There's a saying in the NFL that the worst thing you can do is not admit a mistake soon enough. For the Vikings, the most important thing in this draft may be to remember what they've done right.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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