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A Look At The “Safe” Route In The NFL Draft

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 14, 2011 – 7:42 am

Are you getting excited yet? The 2011 NFL Draft is now only 2 weeks away. Soon all the pre-draft speculation and hype will finally be over and we’ll get down to business.

In exchanging ideas with fans about the draft this year, one opinion I hear frequently is that beyond Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton – who will almost surely be off the board before the Vikings pick at #12 – there are no QBs in this year’s draft class who are ready to come in and be the starter right off the bat. Certainly the current NFL labor dispute only fortifies that opinion because as of right now a newly-drafted QB is not allowed to come to the team’s facility to begin learning his new offense.

With that being the case, many Vikings fans prefer the team make a “safer” selection by selecting a DE with the #12 pick. In fact, if you look around at many mock drafts, the general consensus is the Vikings will take a pass-rushing specialist with their 1st-round pick.

But is that the safe pick? And is going the safe route the best method?

After reading a recent article by John Clayton of ESPN.com, I think it’s more than fair to question the “safe pick” method. Clayton’s piece begins by referencing recent comments made by former Dolphins GM Bill Parcells regarding the 2008 NFL Draft, in which Parcells and the Dolphins chose the safe route by taking OT Jake Long. When the Dolphins selected Long, QB Matt Ryan was still on the board.

Obviously hindsight is always 20/20, so it’s a bit unfair to criticize Parcells for his choice. Plus, Long is certainly no slouch. He’s been to 3 Pro Bowls in 3 seasons and looks to be destined for a fantastic career. But to Clayton’s point, even the best OT can’t change the fortunes of a franchise. Ryan was eventually drafted by the Atlanta Falcons and has been to the playoffs twice. The Dolphins went to the playoffs in 2008, but followed that up with consecutive 7-9 campaigns.

Clayton uses two more examples of the safe route not working: St. Louis taking DE Chris Long #2 overall in 2008 (with Ryan on the board) and Seattle taking LB Aaron Curry at #4 overall in 2009 with Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman still on the board. After those examples, Clayton points out the Rams abandoning the safe route and taking a stab at a QB in 2010 by selecting Sam Bradford #1 overall, even with DT Ndamukong Suh – considered the “safe” pick – on the board. The Rams went 7-9 after going 1-15 the season prior.

But the assault on the safe route doesn’t end there. Clayton points out in his piece that of the 17 DEs taken in the 1st round since 2007, only 1 has gone to a Pro Bowl – Washington’s Brian Orakpo. If you check out Clayton’s article, he lists the other 16. Take a quick look at that list and you’ll notice that many of them were considered “safe” picks, only to not work out for their teams (at least not yet).

So am I saying that the Vikings should take a QB with their 1st-round pick this year? Not necessarily. I’m only pointing out, with the help of Clayton’s article, that shying away from taking a QB in favor of a safer route is not necessarily the way to go, either. In fact, Clayton points out that the safe route, at least recently, is actually to take an offensive lineman in the 1st round. Of the 27 offensive linemen taken in the 1st round since 2006, 26 are full-time starters right now.

Although the Vikings have bookend OTs in Phil Loadholt and Bryant McKinnie, don’t assume the team has discounted the possibility of taking an offensive lineman in the 1st round. VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman is committed to truly taking the best player available, and that could very easily be an offensive lineman. If that happens, the rookie lineman could play an interior position on the Vikings offensive line or the Vikings could move one of their tackles to guard to make room for the rookie.

That’s a lot to think about for one blog entry, but I thought Clayton’s piece was interesting, especially given the specific circumstances surrounding the Vikings in this draft.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below this entry.


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Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 57 Comments »


57 Responses to “A Look At The “Safe” Route In The NFL Draft”

  1. By Daniel on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    YES! Love this Article! This is where our foundation lies Fellas!
    Now, the oppertunity of taking Ryan in our current situation, would be obvious. I am sure we would give up the farm to grab him this year IF a guy like him was coming out of school. I remember the hype of Matt and the upside. I DO NOT get that from any one of these QBs AT ALL!
    I do however get that sence from Luck and Barkley NEXT year.
    Do I think Anthony Castonzo is that player like Jake Long? YES! Would I compare him to Joe Thomas? Watch the tape. As a Junior, out of 650 snaps, gave up ONE sack. He is no Joke. He is 6-7 and is a big time run AND pass protector.
    Grab him Vikes Please! We will not regret it! “it starts up front!”
    Lets get Luck next year. Sell the farm if we have to. ST Louis go Bradford, and I would LOVE to see LUCK in purple. That will draw income far more than This years truly weak QB class. I also like John Moffitt out of Wisconsin. 6-4 G/C predicted to be the best Center this year.

  2. By Daniel on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    Great Article Mike Wobschall!

  3. By Lito on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    Vikes started with hiring very good coaches. I would be surprise if they don’t have a very good draft as well. Good luck Vikings!

  4. By Guest on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    We need a qb our division has there qb situation settled except us, I don’t see how we can compete. I think we can still find a solid ot in the later rounds. If we don’t draft a qb in the first round we will probably lose out on mallet and locker in the 2nd. We cannot afford to have a mystery qb year after year vikes need a qb if they want to head to the playoffs superbowl.

  5. By Alex Collyard on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    Spell check and edit your articles Mike.

  6. By Stoney on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    You can never have too many good O-linemen. The better the O-line the better the O. Pick the best player available or trade the pick. Do not reach for a QB.

  7. By Rogerthevikefan on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    DE Cameron Jordan

  8. By Guest on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    When was the last time we drafted a first round defensive end or offensive tackle that made an impact on this team, from what I recall most are out of the league flipping burgers somewhere. We never had any luck for some odd reason defensive ends drafted do not flourish in a vikings uniform I don’t know what it is but they just don’t. Not to start a fiery discussion just an opinion.

  9. By Seabass on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    I would really enjoy Musgrave to groom Blaine Gabbert but if he doesn’t fall to at least 6 or 7 then what the Vikings would have to give up would be just too great. Im still on the Ryan Mallett wagon and fully believe that he will be a great QB. Mallett would indeed flourish with the weapons the Vikings offense has.

  10. By Seabass on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    @Lito———— Definitely agree with you there! Leslie is a fantastic guy that has coached under other great coaches for years. He has won a Super Bowl as a player and coach so he understands what it takes to win the big one. Tack on Frazier being a class act and enjoyable to be around….the team will be more than willing to play for him. Frazier has put together an amazing group of coaches/staff and am fully expecting a lot of good things to come out of the 2011 NFL Draft for the Vikings.

  11. By Sean on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    i agree with daniel but i think we should go after matt barkley hes a great quarterback and i think he would do great in purple

  12. By James on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    Claytons article has no merit if some of his perdiction would of happen.Moving up and getting Gabber or moving back and getting Mallet would be better,,,,, thinking the Vikings have any chance at Luck next year would only happen if they get the overall pick next year………..The Fins and Long made more sense because who would of pertected Ryan.And could be like the Lions paying Stadford to watch from the side lines and Cutler is still an average(maybe more)as a QB.

  13. By James on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    Clayton can say what if but it will not change that teams draft BPA,, maybe trade out of #12………Castonso is not worth the reach at #12 and picking need at 12 does not make sense……The vikings should pick BPA at #12 or move out of that pick and gain picks or loose some and move up for an impact player and starter. But that won’t promise a great player or a bust.Just hope they get value for #12.

  14. By Frederick Jones on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    Mike Woschall,

    How do you determine that the fans want a Defensive Lineman in the 1st Round? The question of which position (other than QB) that was asked on Vikings.com had Offensive Line as the favorite among participating fans.

  15. By Frederick Jones on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    With Ray Edwards attempting a boxing career, perhaps many of us would change our minds and want a defensive lineman selected in the first round.

  16. By Frederick Jones on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    I follow this blog pretty religiously. To me, fans want QBs first, Offensive Linemen second, Defensive Backs and Defensive Linemen third.

    We have needs in so many areas it’s scary. Get a good player ! ! !

  17. By Frederick Jones on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    It still might be best to select an offensive lineman because lots of teams are dumb like fans, and only care about the glamour positions.

    So a great offensive lineman, like Ron Yary, may be available THIS YEAR.

    :) :) :) :) :)

  18. By Odin on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    when do we address our weak secondary? We need some real speed in the DF secondary.

  19. By daniel on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    As far as DE goes, I never liked udez,or erjasmus james. didn`t go for troy williamson either. But when there is a “safe” pick and he is there, grab the guy! (peterson,harvin) Castonzo would be so big for us. Stafford is running and sitting himself on the bench. Where bradford would be if they did not repair line first. They made the right move and moved on from pace and got smith. and he will be good for years.

  20. By daniel on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    I like Barkley out of Usc. Luck will go number one, but Barkley can be obtainable for us. I only like Dalton this year. We should have picked up colt last year to sit under Farve (thanks Childress!) Dalton is like colt, But still both are not Franchize QBs! Barkley next year is. so many will bite on this years class that our chances next year are big. I like Stafford in Detriot But they should have beefed up the line first. Vikings, don`t make that mistake! Castonzo, tyron smith, or Pouncy. Castonzo is not a reach at 12. He should be rated alot higher. He is as safe as von miller. Future pro bowl for sure.

  21. By steve on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    I think we should trade tavaris Jackson for a higher pick and go for blane gabbert
    then we should trade benard barrian for marc bulger
    then go all defence in the rest of the draft!

  22. By steve on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    or Kevin Kolb would be a good fit here !

  23. By paul on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    Bookends for O.T. give me a break..

    Trade with Dallas for Romo.

  24. By dave on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    i think we should trade back unless prince is going to be there but trade back if hes not and get a good lineman like mike pouncey and get an offensive tackle in the second round but dont reach for a quarterback. The quarterback class isnt good this year.

  25. By dave on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    and steve t jack isnt going to get a good pick at all hes had chances and blown it nobodys gonna want him

  26. By Vikings FAN 15 on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    I Would LOVE RYAN MALLETT on the Vikings!!! He has Serious skills. Best arm and knowledge of the game. Best QB in draft!!! If these unfounded rumors weren’t floating he would be a top 5 pick easy!!! Someone wrote really good article detailing his past and physical tools called lies, d**n lies, and RYAN MALLETT.
    I say take Mallett at 12 and trade down the 2nd round pick and pick up a 3rd rounder. We did that last year. Franchise QB is too important!!! Need some one who can throw the ball a mile and accurately. he seems like a good guy. Frazer and Bill will do great with him

  27. By Stoney on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    Steve & Dave, TJ is a free agent, the vikes did not make an offer. Daves not here man. Good points Daniel!

  28. By RAP99 on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    STONEY, Dave’s not here, man? I bet you’re stoney right now! Are you a Cheech &Chong fan? Have a Fatty for me!

  29. By Stoney on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    RAP99, thanx for getting the line. I didn’t think anyone would. I am a big Cheech and Chong fan (more Chong) and yes, I am Stoney.

  30. By Danorseman on Apr 14, 2011 | Reply

    Ryan Mallett!!!!!

  31. By Danorseman on Apr 15, 2011 | Reply

    Why cant I comment ever!! I will write something up that I wish to share or talk about but went I submit it doesnt go through. I bet this comment will for whatever reason, I just dont get it!

  32. By daniel on Apr 15, 2011 | Reply

    We need a qb, dont matter how we get it, however I feel Vikes should make a real move to get Kolb. If they can use 2012’s picks to get him after the draft then we could get back to being a top team next year, and with a up and coming qb it may help influence sidney to stick around.

  33. By daniel h on Apr 15, 2011 | Reply

    Now frazier has came out and said that they will address the qb postion via draft, free agency and or trade. So dont think the only way to pick up a qb is through the draft. I have faith that the vikes will make a move for a solid qb and draft another one in the latter rounds. I think it’s more important to have an established qb starting for a new team rather then a rookie. But in a perfect world we can have both.

  34. By Daniel on Apr 15, 2011 | Reply

    I hope ALL these teams that are so desparate to get a QB, get one. That leaves A great QB class next year for us. With Two Franchize QBs.
    We do not need one this year. This years draft looks so identical to the 2007 draft except for Gabbert . Just look at the comparisons, It will blow your mind. I really think Locker is so much like Brady Quinn it’s silly, and Mallett, He reminds me so much of Jamarcus Russel. WE DO NOT NEED A BUST!!!!!!!!
    The safe pick in this years draft for need is the top proirity!!!!! Look when we picked Troy williamson because we thought he would answer alllllllll of our WR problems. EERRRRRRRR. where is he now? not here. Erasmus James? ” OH he has some BIG TIME skills, EERRRRRRR! where is he? We could have got Beason, Joe staley, ben grubbs, REVIS!!!! come on. W e do not nee that same mistake guys. No Braddy bunch please, No Russel bombs please, no bowers bust please. oh ya, no Corn on the Kolb either.

  35. By MGR4FUN on Apr 15, 2011 | Reply

    i hav been sayin all along that the best selection for the purple at #12 is the florida c/g michael pouncey … given the purple will be a run first team pouncey is my pick … the diversity of california’s de cameron jordan also makes alot of purple sense at #12 … i do not think the vikes could go wrong with either selection …

  36. By Parody on Apr 15, 2011 | Reply

    Pouncey is not worthy of that high of a pick. If that’s the direction we’re going, we’ll be much better off trading back. I see 4-teams who we could trade with that will add a lot of value to our draft. New England, New Orleans, San Diego and Denver all have multiple picks in at least one of the first-3 rounds. We could perform a trade with any of these teams, adding a couple of quality draft picks, and still be able to grab an interior lineman like Pouncey.

  37. By Stoney on Apr 15, 2011 | Reply

    PLEASE, stpo with Kolb, the guy was a 2nd rd pick, has 60% completion, 73 QB rating, 11td’s/14 picks, and would probably have to give up alot to get him.

  38. By DRS on Apr 15, 2011 | Reply

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/664727-vikings-new-stadium-bill-proposal-creatively-ties-team-to-minnesota?source=rss_teams_Minnesota_Vikings

  39. By DRS on Apr 15, 2011 | Reply

    http://www.startribune.com/politics/blogs/119875009.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

    Mike Kaszuba, Baird Helgeson and Rachel E. Stassen-Berger

    Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf visited the Capitol on Thursday to meet with legislators and express his hope that a stadium deal could get done soon.
    “We’re confident that we have the parts in place to get this done this session,” Wilf said in a brief news conference. “I am optimistic it will get done this session.”

    Wilf said he believed the team was close to securing a local governmental partner, which could be a crucial lynchpin for legislators critical of a new stadium as the state faces a $5 billion deficit.

  40. By DRS on Apr 15, 2011 | Reply

    http://www.startribune.com/sports/vikings/blogs/119086629.html

    The Vikings are finding out just how difficult it is for a team to assure itself of a franchise quarterback without the No. 1 pick in a year in which there’s clearly a franchise QB to select. The team’s No. 1 priority in the draft is quarterback. But if Bowers is on the board and your choices are Ryan Mallett as the top QB or Bowers as the top DE, whaddaya do? Take the QB you think is OK or the DE you think is dominant? With as many holes as the Vikings have, no one can fault them for using the 12th pick on the best player. The only position they shouldn’t consider at No. 12 is running back.

  41. By DRS on Apr 15, 2011 | Reply

    Have to go, God bless you all.

  42. By vikeforever on Apr 15, 2011 | Reply

    I was reading an article in the Pioneer Press regarding what the VIkes will do in the draft. they would draft down and select a CB and get a much needed 3rd pic. I was okay with that but they also mention that he had sources that said the VIkes are interested in McNabb. That will be the biggest mistake to even try to acquire him. Please say it ain’t so

  43. By Titus on Apr 15, 2011 | Reply

    I bet Brett Favre is ready to come out of retirement soon.

  44. By Titus on Apr 15, 2011 | Reply

    Please– no McNabb or Palmer.

  45. By Titus on Apr 15, 2011 | Reply

    Warren Moon before McNabb.

  46. By Daniel on Apr 15, 2011 | Reply

    Could Mcnabb influece Joe Webb? just a thought? Here is some Stats of Mcnabb in 08-09 for the Eagles.
    QB rating-08-86.4 09-92.9 Completion pct-08-60.4 09- 60.3
    YRDS- 08-3,916 09-3,553
    TDs- 08-23 09-22
    I think he would do well as a Mentor.

  47. By Frederick Jones on Apr 15, 2011 | Reply

    Take the best offensive lineman available at #12.

    Somebody said that if we are to be a run first team, we have to improve the offensive line.

    :) :) :) :) :)

  48. By Frederick Jones on Apr 15, 2011 | Reply

    I hope Hutchinson has at least one more pro bowl season in him. We need a strong replacement for him soon.

  49. By Frederick Jones on Apr 15, 2011 | Reply

    Sullivan could play guard, instead of center. Picking Pouncey might be a good idea. Pouncey is probably a first round choice regardless.

  50. By QB FEVER on Apr 15, 2011 | Reply

    I’m starting to think its exaggerated. If it is then it puts him top on my qb list. You look at what he can do on his highlights and game tape and its like d**n, he can throw. He can read defenses, calls protection at the line. has worked under center, Insane arm and good accuracy. He has Improved each year. And really doesn’t do too bad with the rush as everyone says, pocket presence looks ok to me, steps up, moves around well. definitely can’t run for a 40 yd TD, but thats why we have AP, harvin etc. played SCC defense against many players in the top 10 and put up great numbers. The main thing i see in Mallett then in the other Qbs is being willing to take shots, cut throat. When Malletts throws I see COLD BLOODED CONNECTIONS!!

  51. By chibi on Apr 15, 2011 | Reply

    I like what Daniel said we should go for those two qb next year we should beef up our o line and d line maybe get asumogha for cb from free agent and try to get rice back if we could that way we can focus on qb next year who knows maybe joe webb might not be ready but hey look we did beat eagles

  52. By dave on Apr 15, 2011 | Reply

    stoney i knew he was gone im just saying nobodys gonna want t jack is all im saying.

  53. By dave on Apr 15, 2011 | Reply

    and i agree with Daniel and i like this article it makes sense.DONT REACH FOR A QUARTERBACK!!!!!!!!!!!! and next year get 1.

  54. By BaazookaJoe on Apr 16, 2011 | Reply

    good artical.. and i agree with you saying not to reach for qb. there is no need to gamble with our first few picks. address they areas that need to be addressed OL, DE, DB, WR. All in all i’ve been happy with the vikes picks last few years and they have more info on these guys than i do so i’m sure they’ll make the best of it.

  55. By Podgornski on Apr 16, 2011 | Reply

    Ask your most prized offensive star (AD) who he would pick first. Give Joe Webb 3rd and threes 60 – 70% of the time and watch the 1st downs come. Give adrian daylight and the QB time, and the offense becomes much more effective. Vikes do have some needs…..WR, CB, QB. Lets go the SAFE route. Make the O more efficient and go from there.

  56. By smelltourjzy on Apr 17, 2011 | Reply

    With the current state of things I say trust what the front office knows is more than we do(I went with the experts in the basketball tounament now I know the experts should be happy to collect their paycheck) but with all this talk about Mallet’s inability to reset his feet(NFL you are going to be moving)…I just think you can’t miss with that first pick got to be a “can’t miss”. Free agency and late pre-season deals will give the team access to QB’s that get you through a season. I think that first pick must be a building-block of a player! Good Luck hope to see you in September!

  57. By smelltourjzy on Apr 17, 2011 | Reply

    Titus I agree no McNabb! Palmer is a whole nother case if he just falls in our laps I say welcome aboard! I don’t want to give up anything for him but I think he has some skills left. I’d call him a gap filler as was Brett ,only thing we never filled that gap tells me that this QB game is real hard to call. Saw that ESPN special about Brady’s draft. Forget what became of Brady I looked at what these teams were trying to do with the first 5 QB’s taken. SF 49er’s took a guy out of Hofstra(yeah that QB factory) not knocking on Hofstra or the 49er’s or the QB they took(Mariucci and Walsh two well respected NFL guys)thought they could get some milege out of this guy. Go figure

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