Griffen finds consistency … in evaluations

Everson Griffen (Minnesota Vikings)

Everson Griffen's draft stock took a tumble worthy of Wall Street, but there was a ready explanation for it – NFL teams weren't sure he would be motivated. That's been a theme for Griffen over the last four years, as witnessed by evaluations from those who covered his recruiting and his USC career.

From recruiting analysts working the high school talent to publishers of college websites to NFL personnel evaluators, there is one thing that is consistent when it comes to Vikings fourth-round draft pick Everson Griffen – his evaluation.

The short version is this: long on talent, short on consistency and motivation.

"Everson was a former No. 1 player overall for Scout.com out of high school," said Scott Kennedy, Scout.com's director of scouting who has followed Griffen since he was 16 years old. "When I was scouting him, I said he reminded me of a 4.6 version of David Pollack (4.7), who was a three-time All-American at Georgia and a high pick of the Cincinnati Bengals.

"(Griffin's) intangibles aren't amazing, though, it's his physical ability that is amazing. He's as strong as an ox and faster than most linebackers. It's the intangibles that hold him back – working hard in practice, playing hard every down, being a leader on defense."

Griffen did have the second-fastest 40-yard dash (4.66) among defensive linemen at the NFL Scouting Combine in February and tied for sixth (with second overall choice Ndamukong Suh) with 32 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press.

Those numbers were hardly a surprise to those recruiting analysts who saw his impressive athleticism four years earlier at a Scout.com combine for high school athletes making the jump to college football.

"The day he ran a 4.47 at the Scout.com Combine I will still say the watches were a little quick, but watching on film you could see just the enormous potential in Griffen, not just from a collegiate standpoint, but also beyond," said Scout.com recruiting analyst Miller Safrit. "With just three short years under his belt in college, development is still ongoing for the big man."

The feeling, however, is that Griffen could have developed even more if he had applied himself during practices at USC. Former Trojans coach Pete Carroll, who became head coach of the Seattle Seahawks this year, passed on Griffen in the first three rounds of the NFL draft.

Many draft analysts rated the 6-foot-3, 273-pounder as a late-first or early-second-round talent based on athleticism. That would have put his value around No. 35 overall. Instead he last until the 100th pick, when the Vikings selected him with the second pick in fourth round despite not having an immediate need at defensive end.

Vikings director of college scouting Scott Studwell admitted that the phrase is overused when it comes to the NFL draft, but he said Griffen was truly the team's top-ranked player on their board at the time. He also said he believed Griffen enjoyed the college life, a point that Griffen admitted to after being selected.

Those that covered him in college saw the talent, and the potential that was only partially fulfilled.

"Everson Griffen was a guy that came in with a ton of hype and never quite lived up to the billing. He showed glimpses of being a dominant defensive lineman, like when he recorded 3.5 sacks as a freshman against Oregon State, but he was never able to sustain any consistency throughout an entire season at USC," said Kevin Carden, publisher of SCPlaybook.com. "He had a couple of different defensive line coaches, and while they were able to keep him focused at times, he seemed to lack motivation and desire on the practice field."

"If Griffen is motivated, he could be the steal of the draft and a guy that could be a real weapon rushing the passer off the edge or as an outside linebacker, but if not he will frustrate you by not reaching his unlimited potential."

For his part, Griffen believes that playing behind starters like Jared Allen and Ray Edwards will be helpful for him as a rookie. He says he is determined to show the coaches his talents, and the Vikings believe defensive line coach Karl Dunbar and their cast of Pro Bowl defensive linemen will be a positive influence on Griffen when it comes to making sure he is motivated and improving.

And motivation is clearly the overriding theme when it comes to evaluations on Everson Griffen.

"He certainly has all the tools, as we saw with his impressive performance at USC's Pro Day, where he ran a 4.59 forty at 268 pounds," Carden said. "And the good news for Vikings fans is he looked as focused as I have ever seen him in the time between the end of his junior season and the draft, so maybe he has matured and realized he needs to put in the work if he wants to make it in the NFL."

If that's the case – if he uses his precipitous drop in the draft to motivate – Griffen could be another fourth-round find at defensive end for the Vikings, just like Ray Edwards and Brian Robison, and even Jared Allen, who was draft in the fourth round by the Kansas City Chiefs.

"(Griffen) came to USC with a bit of a big head, and was humbled a bit. If he had stayed one more year with a chip on his shoulder, I think he could have been a top-15 pick," Kennedy said. "I have a feeling he's been humbled now, and I know he's got a chip on his shoulder.

"Athletically, this guy is everything you could ask for from an edge rusher. I think you have a future Pro Bowler on your hands."


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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