Draft breakdown: Positional numbers game

The last two drafts have produced a similar number of players at each position selected in the early rounds. We break down the round-by-round numbers for each position in the last two drafts.

To hear Rick Spielman talk, the Vikings take a look at (in some form or another) about 500 college players each year. Some take themselves out of immediate consideration due to the lack of athleticism, but there are a solid 200-250 players that are given long evaluations. Some might wonder if that is necessary because you don't draft that many players.

In an attempt to get the general parameters of how many players from a given position are drafted each year, we went back through the last two drafts. While drafts can very greatly from year to year (some drafts are QB heavy, D-line heavy, wide receiver heavy, etc.), the numbers over the last two years were quite consistent.

Looking to be your own G.M.? Here's how deep you will have to look if you're trying to unearth who the Vikings will take in the seventh round of this week's draft. The numbers that follow are from the 2009 and 2008 drafts. The year is followed by the number of total players taken at the position, followed by a round-by-round breakdown.

QUARTERBACK: 2009 12 (3-1-0-1-2-4-1); 2008 13 (2-2-1-0-4-2-2) — The most important position on the team, they are only about 12.5 percent of teams (one in eight) that address the position each year with a high pick – four in the first two rounds each of the last two years. Those numbers should hold firm again this year.

RUNNING BACK: 2009 20 (3-1-2-3-2-4-5); 2008 23 (5-2-4-1-3-4-4) — Running backs are vital to offenses, but the number of high picks used on them is dwindling. In the era of specialization, there are multiple backs needed and the majority of picks typically come late. 2008 was an anomaly with five taken in the first round, with just three last year. That number could be just one or two this year.

FULLBACK: 2009 2 (0-0-0-1-1-0-0); 2008 4 (0-0-1-0-2-0-1) — As you can see, this isn't a high-priority draft position. With as many teams that use fullbacks, to have just six drafted over the last two years shows that most coaches and general managers believe they can find the talent they need without burning a draft pick to do it.

WIDE RECEIVER: 2009 34 (6-2-7-4-4-3-8); 2008 36 (0-10-5-6-2-6-7) – This is always a position that looks to be upgraded and used throughout the draft. In both 2008 and 2009, there were 15 wideouts taken in the first three rounds and more taken in the final four rounds (19 in 2009, 21 in 2008). Because of the depth of talent at the position, it tends to downgrade the number of high picks teams are willing to expend on a wide receiver.

TIGHT END: 2009 19 (1-1-3-2-4-4-4); 2008 16 (1-3-3-3-2-2-2) — No longer simply a position that gets filled late, a tight end or two consistently goes in the first round and, over the last two years, a round hasn't gone by without at least one TE coming off the board.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE: 2009 21 (4-3-2-2-7-1-2); 2008 27 (7-1-2-6-2-2-7) — A hugely important position, the numbers here remain consistent. In 2008, 10 OTs were taken in the first three rounds, with an unprecedented seven-player run in the first round in 2008. But, the numbers held true and consistent in 2009. While only four first-rounders went, nine came off the board in the first three rounds.

GUARD: 2009 10 (0-0-2-3-0-1-4); 2008 9 (1-1-2-1-1-1-2) — A disrespected position often filled by tackles that can't keep up with the speed of the NFL, only 19 guards have been drafted over the last two years and only one in the first round. In both seasons, five guards came off the board in the first four rounds.

CENTER: 2009 5 (2-0-0-1-0-0-2); 2008 4 (0-0-0-1-0-2-1) — Another position virtually ignored on draft day, 2009 was a banner year with two going in the first round. The activity, what little there is, will likely come on the final day of the draft.

DEFENSIVE END: 2009 23 (4-5-3-6-0-3-2); 2008 25 (5-4-2-3-0-4-7) — Everyone is looking for a pass rusher and willing to take chances on players with elite athleticism. Not only did the total numbers nearly match up over the last two years, the numbers taken in the first three rounds were almost identical – 12 in 2009 and 11 in 2008. Expect similar numbers this year.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE: 2009 19 (3-3-4-4-0-2-3); 2008 16 (2-1-4-2-5-2-0) — Last year was a pretty good year for tackles, with 14 coming off the board in the first four rounds. With the top of the draft heavy with talent, even if the numbers drop it will be viewed as a banner year for DTs.

INSIDE LINEBACKER: 2009 7 (0-2-0-2-3-0-0); 2008 5 (0-1-0-0-1-3-0) — You would think with the increase in teams running 3-4 defenses that these numbers would go up, but they remain low and, with a not-so-impressive 2010 crop, we could see many of these players falling off boards as well.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER: 2009 17 (4-1-3-1-2-2-4); 2008 25 (2-1-6-4-5-3-4) — An important position in any defense, the numbers were way up in 2008, but many of those were late-round project picks. In the numbers that counted – the first three rounds – there were nine OLBs taken in 2008 and eight in 2009.

CORNERBACK: 2009 38 (2-5-9-4-5-8-5); 2008 32 (5-5-4-8-4-2-4) — Just as wide receivers and defensive ends are crucial because of the passing element of the NFL, so too are corners. While the numbers fluctuate from year to year, in 2008, 22 CBs were taken in the first four rounds and pretty well spread out. In 2009, the first-round numbers were down, but in the first four rounds there were 20 CBs taken.

SAFETY: 2009 19 (0-5-1-2-3-3-5); 2008 14 (1-1-3-2-0-4-3) — Being a first-round safety is rare, and 2009 was a good year with five second-rounders. Look for Eric Berry to be an impact guy but the overall numbers to be down.

SPECIALISTS: 2009 6 (0-0-0-0-3-1-2); 2008 3 (0-0-0-0-0-2-1) — Kickers and punters don't get much respect and don't deserve it. Sorry, guys.

The 2010 draft will have its own set of runs and deeper positions than others, but, when all is said and done, expect to see very similar total numbers of players drafted by position this year as well. It always seems to come out about the same every year.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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