Griffen, Smith top 10 in Pro Bowl fan voting

Everson Griffen and Harrison Smith were the Vikings’ top candidates for Pro Bowl consideration among fans, garnering Brian Robison’s support, too.

The fans would appear to be getting it right in the fan voting portion of the Pro Bowl balloting. Only two Vikings were in the top 10 of the voting at specific positions – defensive end Everson Griffen and safety Harrison Smith.

If Brian Robison’s comments are any indication, the players may be mirroring the fan vote when they weigh in on the voting process. Asked who were the Pro Bowl players in the locker room this week, Robison was quick to point out both Smith and Griffen.

“I think we’ve got a bunch of guys that have played well, but two guys who stand out to me are Everson Griffen and Harrison Smith,” Robison said. “I think those two guys have had a tremendous year, especially Everson. I think if they don’t make it, it’s a shame.”

Griffen finished fifth in fan voting among defensive ends, but is first among NFC defensive ends, trailing J.J. Watt (Houston), DeMarcus Ware (Denver), Cameron Wake (Miami) and Mario Williams (Buffalo). But since the Pro Bowl is no longer determined along conference lines, that won’t matter in selecting Pro Bowl players.

Smith is currently sixth in the voting among strong safeties, behind Tashaun Gipson (Cleveland), Earl Thomas (Seattle), Charles Woodson (Oakland), Michal Hyde (Green Bay) and Eric Weddle (San Diego).

Robison went through a similar situation as Griffen did this season – replacing a starter by getting a contract during the offseason while the incumbent did not. When the Vikings had to make the decision whether to sign Robison to a contract extension or give a contract to veteran starter Ray Edwards, they gave the contract to Robison and let Edwards leave via free agency. During the 2014 offseason, with Jared Allen’s contract expiring, the Vikings made a deal to pay Griffen starter money -- $42.5 million over five years – and made no effort to re-sign Allen.

Robison felt a lot of pressure to live up to his contract when the organization selected him, but Edwards wasn’t an overly high bar to clear. Griffen was chosen over a potential Hall of Famer in Allen. There was considerably more pressure surrounding his signing because the fan reaction was that Allen was simply set adrift and Griffen had yet to prove himself.

Robison wasn’t surprised by Griffen’s production this year because, while the rest of the football world hadn’t seen it yet, the Vikings knew what they had long before he became a full-time player.

“We all knew he was an athlete,” Robison said. “We all knew what he could do on the field. When you get in a starting role, it’s a whole different playing field. For him to be able to come out this year having the pressures of a big contract, it’s very good to see the way he’s played this year and the way he’s come through. Now he’s become one of the leaders on the defense for sure. You’ve seen him grow through the years and become an all-around good player.”

The Pro Bowl players will be determined by a one-third split of votes of coaches, players and fans. Fan voting closed Monday and players and coaches voted this week, too. If you take the fan voting to heart, you would think that Green Bay and Cleveland are both 14-0 and on a collision course for the Super Bowl.

While there are other players who deserve recognition – Xavier Rhodes and John Sullivan come immediately to mind – the fact that Griffen and Smith are so high in the balloting shouldn’t be seen as a coincidence. Both are playing at a high level and are deserving of selection of the coaches and players, too … and Robison.

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