Rhett Ellison: the next Jim Kleinsasser? We can only hope.
Saturday has been a very busy day for the Minnesota Vikings. The fourth and fifth rounds resulted in four draft picks:
- Jarius Wright, WR Arkansas
- Rhett Ellison, TE USC
- Greg Childs, WR Arkansas
Robert Blanton, CB Notre Dame
The Arkansas wide receiving duo addresses the need at wide receiver for the Vikings: Wright is a smaller speedster that can line up all over the place and Childs is a bigger target that's also versatile. The Rhett Ellison selection caught a lot of people off guard since the Vikings already had a lot of depth at the TE and FB positions. Ellison is an H-back type that could fit well in the Vikings' offensive scheme, but it might be hard to get him many plays with the current state of Minnesota's roster. Blanton could play either corner or safety at the next level and hopefully can add depth to a unit that desperately needs it.
Since most guys taken on the third day of the NFL Draft aren't exactly household names, we'll help you get to know more about the Vikings rookies straight from the players themselves. Read on for highlights and full audio of all four of their conference calls.
Jarius Wright put up some incredible numbers during his tenure at Arkansas. He started 44 of 50 games, hauling in 168 catches for 2,934 yards and 24 touchdowns. His reception and yardage numbers are both school records. He had an absolute monster of a game last year against Texas A&M, hauling in 13 grabs for a whopping 281 yards--again, both school records.
Much like third round pick Josh Robinson, Wright made a splash with his agility tests, running a 4.27 40-yard dash with a 38" vertical leap. Wright isn't a big guy--he's 5' 9 1/2" and a 182 pounds--but he thinks he'll be able to line up all over the field at the next level.
I'm pretty comfortable playing either [slot] or [outside]. Being at Arkansas I had the chance to move around and play a lot of different positions, so I'm pretty comfortable playing inside or outside. I would say I'm most effective inside just because of the different matchups with my speed against linebackers or their third corner.
Wright sees the similarities between himself and Vikings receiver Percy Harvin and thinks they could work well together:
[Harvin] is definitely a guy I see some similarities between in the way we play, and what we bring to the game. With me and Joe Adams [his Arkansas teammate of similar stature] it was about getting the ball to whoever had the hot hand...Joe and I weren't selfish guys, and I don't think Percy and I will be selfish guys and we will be real good team players. Whoever has a good game, whether it's me or Percy or any other receiver I'm sure we'll all be happy about it.
Wright also mentioned that he did a lot of returning earlier in his career and practiced it throughout his career. With his speed and quickness, the Vikings could definitely give him a run in the return game.
Jarius Wright Conference Call
Rhett Ellison wasn't exactly expecting to be selected in the draft. The TE/FB/H-back hybrid didn't put up gaudy stats--he caught 53 passes for 471 yards and 6 TD in his career at USC. He did a lot of work in the trenches, but it's tough to stand out in a role like that. So when he got the call from the Vikings, he was pretty surprised:
I wasn't really expecting to get drafted or anything like that. I was pretty shocked and I'm still trying to calm down right now...They asked me if I was watching the TV but I was out on the river at that point. I said no I'm not watching it and they said well, you're about to be a Minnesota Viking. They put me on the phone with everybody but I was crying pretty hard so I don't know if they understood anything I was saying. I'll have to give them a call back later.
Thankfully, Ellison kept it together throughout the conference call and was able to tell us how excited he was to be reunited with USC teammate Matt Kalil. He's ready to do whatever it takes to help the team and would love to be compared to Jim Kleinsasser in the future:
Yeah, number 40! [Ellison also wore 40 in college.] I watched him a bunch. I love how he plays. That's how a tight end should play.
Rhett Ellison Conference Call
Greg Childs knows Jarious Wright rather well. The two former Arkansas teammates have known each other since the third grade--they played together in high school, in college, and now they've both been drafted by the same team in the pros. He's quite a bit bigger than Wright, measuring in at 6'3" and 219 pounds, so he brings a different skill set to the table. He didn't put up the numbers that Wright did, but he still managed to get 133 receptions and 15 TDs in his career.
Childs had some injury problems in college, but he's back to normal these days:
I feel great. During my pro day I had the fast 40 everyone wanted [4.40], the fast three-cone, the fast shuttle, the routes. It all felt really good.
In October 2010, I tore my patella tendon. It was a complete tear, and it takes about a year and a half to get it completely right. I came back to the team in about six or seven months, which was too soon...Before I got injured I was projected very high. There weren't too many guys that were necessarily better receivers than me.
Childs believes he can line up all over the field and considers overpowering defenders and catching the ball at its highest points his best strengths. Hopefully he and his longtime teammate will be able to improve the Vikings receiving corps for years to come.
Greg Childs Conference Call
Childs wasn't the only new draft pick joining his college teammate today--Robert Blanton was drafted in the fifth round and rejoins Harrison Smith in the defensive backfield. Blanton started 26 games at Notre Dame in his career, tallying 195 tackles and 2.5 sacks. He had eight picks in his career and batted down another 16. Blanton was also a standout on special teams, including a return TD from a blocked punt.
Blanton played mostly corner at Notre Dame, but he believes that he could play either corner or safety in the NFL:
I believe I can do both. Wherever they need me I'll be more than happy to go out there and dominate...My [strengths are my] versatility and my ability to be a lockdown corner. Also being able to help on run support as well and just being a "count-on-me" guy.
A lot of teams were looking at me to play safety. I was happy and relieved that I can play somewhere. I am comfortable out on the field and being a player. At the end of the day there is no real big difference between safety and corner. You still have to cover a guy and you still have to tackle when it comes time to tackle. You have to make plays on the ball in the air and you have to be a football player. You've got be be great to play either one.
Blanton explained that he loves to play the run and is more than willing to take on special teams responsibilities.
Robert Blanton Conference Call
Stay tuned for more information about the Vikings final draft picks of the year.