Griffen's drop is Vikings' gain

In many mock drafts, USC Everson Griffen was projected as being a first-round draft choice. His was one of the most improbable draft-weekend drops, but that ended when the Vikings made him the second pick of the final day. Scott Studwell talked about many different angles when it comes to Griffen's skills and potential uses.

When the final pick of Friday's portion of the 2010 NFL Draft concluded, there was one name that stood out more than most – USC defensive end Everson Griffen.

Griffen was projected in most mock drafts to go late in the first round. ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper projected Griffen not being available when the Vikings were scheduled to make their first-round pick at No. 30 – having Griffen going to the Jets with the 29th pick. But, as the draft moved into the second, third and eventually the fourth round, Griffen remained undrafted.

But, as the Vikings got on the clock with the second pick of the final day, Griffen was the man they wanted and, when St. Louis went in a different direction, Griffen fell into the Vikings' lap. Director of college scouting Scott Studwell said that, despite defensive end not being a huge area of need, Griffen's talent outweighed any potential downside.

"You hear it all the time, but he was the highest player on our board," Studwell said. "He was a player that was too hard to pass (up). He has all the athletic traits that we're looking for in a defensive lineman. He can play on both sides and probably even go inside on nickel (packages). He can run. He's athletic. But the consistency level has to improve somewhat in his play. There were games when he was a first-round pick and games where he disappeared. He's got great value where we took him and I think he'll blossom as a pro."

Although the Vikings didn't intend to use an early-round pick on Griffen, they did their due diligence. They had three scouts check him out during the season and at his Pro Day and spoke with then-USC head coach and former Vikings assistant coach Pete Carroll. Griffen's off-field life came into question as a contributing factor to his drop on the draft board, but Studwell said it is just part of being a college student in a big city.

"He's a college student that enjoyed the college life a little bit," Studwell said. "We're not going to kill him for that. We're not worried about the background. We're not worried about his character. He's fine that way. He has to grow up a little bit, like they all do."

One of his selling points to the Vikings was his pedigree from USC. Known for consistently producing NFL talent, the Trojans program is highly respected around the NFL and the players that come out of that system are usually close to NFL-ready.

"He's coming from a program that competes and plays hard every day in practice," Studwell said. "He's going to come into our tempo and understand it. I think he'll buy into it quick."

The knock on Griffen has been his consistency. He looks like a world-beater in one game and goes invisible for long stretches in the next game. But, when it comes to being a player that defensive line coach Karl Dunbar can groom, much in the same way Ray Edwards and Brian Robison – both fourth-round draft picks of the Vikings in previous years – developed into solid NFL players, Studwell said there is a lot to work with when it comes to Griffen's ability.

"You look at guy that is 273 pounds, that runs under 4.6, that can drop and move like a linebacker in space, that can pressure an edge and that can play with power," Studwell said, "the athletic traits on this kid are exactly what you're looking for. We've got to get it out of him. He shows to you in flashes. We're looking for a consistency level out of this player and I have no doubt we'll get it out of him."

If there were any doubts about Griffen's willingness to give 100 percent all the time, Studwell said the Vikings have the perfect antidote – a defensive line that includes Pro Bowl veterans Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Pat Williams.

"There will be enough peer pressure in that (meeting) room," Studwell said. "He's not a bad person. He doesn't have poor work habits. Why did he drop? Who knows? Things happen. People go in different directions. People fill different needs. It wasn't a priority position for us. We've got some pretty good defensive ends right now, but he had too much ability to pass."

The best part of the Griffen-Vikings professional marriage is that, barring injury, there will be no pressure for him to start immediately. The Vikings will be able to experiment with him and see where he fits in. With the ability to drop in coverage and even move inside on plays, the Griffen Experiment could find him being a jack of all trades on the Vikings defense.

"He's big enough to be a base end, he's athletic enough to be a right end and he can also go inside on nickel," Studwell said. "He's got a lot of versatility. He could actually be a stand-up player in a 34 (defense). We've got a new toy and we may put him a lot of different places."

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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