The NFL Draft begins in four weeks, and given the makeup of the Vikings’ current roster, the offseason moves and the players who might be available when they pick at 11 in the first round, they could go any number of directions. I thought it might be interesting to take a historical look back at the positions the Vikings have addressed with their first-round picks.
We’ve discussed the Vikings’ positions of need here at Vikings Journal ad nauseam all offseason. In short, they seem to be set at quarterback, tight end and kicker. Beyond that it’s pretty wide open (especially if Adrian Peterson is traded). The top needs depend on whom you ask and when you ask them. Thus, I decided to take the temperature of Vikings fans with a little crowdsourcing on Twitter and Facebook yesterday. I threw out the simple question, “What position should the Vikings address with the 11th pick in the NFL Draft?”
This highly unscientific method revealed that the two most coveted positions, by far, among Vikings fans and observers are cornerback and offensive line. There were some calls for wide receiver, linebacker, defensive line and the proverbial “best player available,” but about three-fourths of the responses received in my incredibly air-tight scientific poll have been corner or offensive line. The responses are still trickling in and the next most popular response has been wide receiver.
These results didn’t surprise me too much given where we are at this offseason. I will say that I expected more wide receiver answers since it’s a sexier position and since there should be some good wideouts available when they pick. However, folks must think the Vikings are set now that Mike “No really, I’m happy to be here” Wallace is in the fold. Additionally, it seems few people are sold on the Vikings’ cornerback depth chart as being a finished product with the addition of 36-year-old Terence Newman. Either that or people didn’t realize the Vikings had signed Newman given the news has been literally and figuratively overshadowed by the signing of 6-9, 351-pound tackle Babatunde Aiyegbusi.
When it comes right down to it on draft day, not much would surprise me with the Vikings’ pick at 11 – a cornerback, wide receiver, offensive lineman, linebacker or even trading down to accumulate more picks.
The discussion got me wondering: which positions have the Vikings drafted the most with their first-round picks in the past? Which have they drafted the least? So I did a little digging and found out.
Here are some Vikings’ first-round facts and figures.
- The Vikings have had 56 first-round picks in 54 drafts, beginning in 1961 with the selection of running back Tommy Mason with the No. 1 overall pick.
- They have not had any first-round picks in nine drafts, including zero first-rounders from 1989-1992 (thanks, Herschel Walker).
- The Vikings have also had multiple first-round picks in nine drafts, including a whopping seven first-rounders over the past three years.
- The Vikings have drafted five Hall of Famers in the first round: Carl Eller, Alan Page, Ron Yary, Chris Doleman and Randall McDaniel. Oh and one future Hall of Famer: Randy Moss.
Now for the positional breakdown. Here are how many players at each position the Vikings have used their 56 first-round picks on -- 28 each on offense and defense:
Running back: 10
Wide Receiver: 6
Offensive line: 8
Defensive tackle: 9
Defensive end: 10
Those positions not listed (tight end, kicker, punter, long-snapper, etc.) have not been addressed in the first round by the Vikings.
What stands out to me is the fact the Vikings have used just over one-third of their first-round draft picks on defensive linemen (19 out of 56). There have been some major hits (Eller, Page, Doleman, Keith Millard, Kevin Williams) as well as a bunch of misses (Derrick Alexander, Duane Clemons, Erasmus James and of course Dimitrius Underwood).
Another big takeaway: running back is tied with defensive end as the most popular position for a first-round draft pick in franchise history. How times have changed! There have been zero first-round running backs selected by any teams in the last two NFL Drafts. That streak will most likely end this year because of Melvin Gordon and/or Todd Gurley. Vikings fans shouldn’t be expecting either one unless of course Peterson is dealt before Draft Day.
The Vikings have used first-round picks on the three most popular positions among Vikings fans this season (cornerback, offensive line and wide receiver) 19 times combined – or equal to the number of times they have picked a defensive lineman.
If the Vikings select a cornerback in round one, as many people think and/or hope they will, it will only be the third corner taken in round one in team history. The others are Xavier Rhodes (2013) and Dewayne Washington (1994). That’s it. Using that first-rounder at the end of the month on a corner like Trae Waynes, Marcus Peters, Kevin Johnson or Byron Jones would indeed be a rare move for the Vikings. Moreover, given where most of those corners are projected to be drafted, the Vikes will trade down in the draft and still be able to get one of them.
What position do you think the Vikings will adress this season? No, I’m not suggesting Rick Spielman and his crew will draft based solely on position, plugging a hole at the expense of leaving a better player at a different position on the board. I’m just interested in where Vikings fans view them going as we sit here one month away from the draft. Give me a prediction.
Knowing Spielman, he will probably figure out a way to get two or three first-round picks again this year and make most of our prognostications correct.
Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData, head writer at VikingsJournal.com, co-host of the Fantasy Football Pants Party at 1500ESPN.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell