The NFL Draft is every sports fan’s favorite lottery. Or it should be, at least.
Like a day in the life of Charlie Sheen, the NFL Draft is one of those things in life you’re never sure of until it actually happens. You can take all the advice and predictions you want from men like Mel Kiper, Jr., and their immaculate hair, but there is always that one name that throws every predicted draft order into chaos.
One example that comes to mind: “With the seventh pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Raiders select Darrius Heyward-Bey, wide receiver, Maryland.” But then again, there have also been surprises at the top, like in 2006, when the Houston Texans shocked the football world by passing on Heisman winner Reggie Bush and Vince Young to select Mario Williams with the No. 1 overall pick. Years later, the Texans were the last ones laughing, as Williams turned out to be the best pro of the two.
Yes, the NFL Draft is like the “Wheel of Fortune,” as teams spin the wheel of chance, evaluating and selecting the talent they believe can contribute to their franchise more than the hundreds of other names on the board.
This year, as ESPN has already spoiled for everyone, Andrew Luck – the quarterback from Stanford who experts are convinced is destined to thrive in the NFL – will be selected as the No. 1 pick in the draft by the Indianapolis Colts. With Luck gone, the Washington Redskins will most likely select Robert Griffin III with the No. 2 pick, taking away any suspense of who will be selected first overall.
But what comes afterward? There is no clear-cut, must-have star after these two bona fide former collegiate quarterbacks. The hapless Minnesota Vikings – just two years removed from their appearance in the NFC Championship game with then-NFL fossil and Iron Man Brett Favre under center – have the No. 3 pick in the draft and look more clueless than Plaxico Burress reading a handgun safety pamphlet before 2009.
There are several options that the Vikings could employ. The safest bet is most likely to take behemoth Matt Kalil, the 6-foot-6, 306-pound left tackle from USC. Why? Because when you go through quarterbacks like the Minnesota Vikings have recently, you need a top-tier offensive lineman protecting your signal caller’s blind side.
The Vikings have also expressed interest in drafting former LSU standout cornerback Morris Claiborne. Just in case you missed it (and this information should’ve never gotten out in the first place), Claiborne joined an elite company of draft prospects with an anything-but-wonderful Wonderlic score of four out of 50. That’s right; the guy got eight percent on a test, one of the lowest scores ever recorded from the pre-draft intelligence test.
A low test score can be interpreted two ways. In one sense, it can be a giant red flag that the player will struggle to learn and adjust to the strategy and complexity of the pro game. But, it can also be irrelevant, especially if the player is as talented as Claiborne. Frank Gore is just one example. The All-Pro running back recorded a six on his Wonderlic before going on to a successful career with the 49ers. Claiborne was able to master an almost NFL-style defense in regards to complexity at LSU, so reading far into his test score may be stretching it. After all, the Vikings have to face receivers like Calvin Johnson, Greg Jennings and now Brandon Marshall twice a year. In a division with two elite passing games in Detroit and Green Bay, it’s quite possible that Minnesota takes Claiborne instead of Kalil.
But then again, the Vikings may trade away the pick and wait to see if any of the other talented players fall down the board, as there is no major fallout in the depth of talent in the first round. Another team may want to sacrifice its first round pick and perhaps more to move to the Vikings’ spot for an opportunity to take Kalil, Claiborne or even standout running back Trent Richardson. But still, to this day, the Vikings have yet to trade away the pick, even after adamantly voicing their desire to trade down.
What it really comes down to for the Vikings is which player will give them the best shot against the opponents they face the most, mainly those in the division. If the team was in a position with Denver where the quarterback is already a proven starter – which Christian Ponder is not – then drafting elite protection for him would be the main concern. But, stuck in the rebuilt NFC North, a team that has potentially three playoff teams, the Vikings need to make the move that can make them competitive the fastest against division rivals.
The argument basically comes down to this. What’s more important to stop? The division’s elite pass rushers in Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, or the division’s elite wide receivers? Which pick will turn out to be the best professional player and not become another hopeless bust?
And in that uncertainty, in those unanswered questions, lies the reason we can’t get enough of the NFL Draft.
Nick is a senior majoring in English and history. Have a surprise bust or star of the draft? Let him know at firstname.lastname@example.org.