Vikings Bad Luck of Drafting 1st Round DEs


Ever since the season ended, us Vikings fans have seen Mock Draft after Mock Draft. I’ve read probably 50. And with the draft still 7 weeks away, 100 would be a fair over/under on how many more I view.

Whether or not it’s from a college kid with a modem to an “expert” that writes for a major publication, an overwhelming majority of them show the Vikings selecting a Defensive End at #12 in the first round.

We’re not here to debate the importance of the DE position in football. If anything, it’s one of the 3 most important positions and our new head coach realizes that. Leslie Frazier runs a 4-3 defensive scheme that’s predicated on always having a loaded, fast and agile defensive line where the 4 lineman are able to constantly put pressure on the QB without having to blitz more than one LB or member of the secondary. Many also believe that Ray Edwards will leave in free agency, Brian Robison and Everson Griffen won’t be able to fill his shoes and we will be immediately thin at this position. But before we pre-order our Adrian Clayborn or Robert Quinn jersey, lets review how downright pitiful this franchise has done drafting this at this position the last 25 years…

1986: Gerald Robinson, Auburn University. Picked 14th overall. Played only two years for the Vikings. Netted 3.5 sacks in the ‘86 season; did nothing in ’87 and put up pedestrian stats for two other teams before being out of the league at 31.

1995: Derrick Alexander, Florida State. Picked 11th overall. Much of Derrick Alexander’s success at Florida State had a lot to do with playing on the same defense as Derrick Brooks and Peter Boulware. And it took playing with a darn good defensive lineman in John Randle to even notice Alexander in the NFL. His best season was on the almighty ‘98 team where he had 7.5 sacks. But he too didn’t show enough to stay in the league for long and was toast at 26.

1996: Duane Clemens, California. Picked 16th overall. This guy was a yawner. Was only able to get 2 tackles as a rookie, never was able to crack the starting lineup much until 1999 where he did get 9 sacks, but then left for Kansas City and never was much of a difference maker there or with Cincinnati.

1999: Dimitrius Underwood, Michigan State. Picked 29th overall. Underwood was so mentally unstable that he’d make Charlie Sheen look sane. Never finished training camp with Vikings as a rookie and was then cut. Is remembered for never really being focused on football, being arrested not paying child support, attempting suicide multiple times, escaping from a psychiatric care facility after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and having to serve time in a closed custody cell. Underwood is the worst 1st round draft pick the Vikings may have ever had (at least Troy Williamson found the field). We’d just hope at some point Underwood found some peace of mind.

2004: Kenechi Udeze, Southern California. Picked 20th overall. In many ways, it’s not fair to include Udeze in this post. He did show promise as a rookie getting 5 sacks playing on the same defensive line as Kenny Mixon, Chris Hovan, Spencer Johnson and a young Kevin Williams. Udeze was hurt in his second year and returned to start in both the ’06 and ’07 seasons. Unfortunately, Udeze was diagnosed with leukemia in ’08 and never played a game again. The good news is Udeze lives happily now in Washington, is still in football with the University of Washington, obtained his college degree and is active with a number of charities.

2005: Erasmus James, Wisconsin. Picked 18th overall. Nicknamed “The Eraser” as a Badger, the only erasing James did in his 4 years in the NFL was his name from rosters. He had the benefit of playing with the “Williams Wall” as a rookie in ’05 through ’07, but was never able to produce and was always injured. He was traded to Washington for a measly 7th round pick, rarely found the field there and is now also out of the league.

If there’s any saving grace reviewing this, none of the listed DEs were drafted by Rick Spielman. Also to Spielman’s credit he was very instrumental in trading for Jared Allen in ‘08, which has proven to be very much of a success. But if the Vikings are looking to draft the second coming of Chris Doleman, don’t forget he first wore purple 26 years ago. About the same time the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome was the premier stadium in all of sport.

Jon Merckle may be followed on Twitter @thevikingpig