Rick Spielman had a very busy weekend.
The 2012 NFL Draft has finally come to a close. It was three days full of twists, turns, surprises, reaches, steals, and deals, and the Minnesota Vikings were heavily involved in every aspect of it. The Vikings had ten picks going into the the draft and they ended up with ten players along with two picks in the 2013 draft.
Of course, the natural thing to do as soon as the draft is over is to hand out grades and decide who the "winners" and "losers" of the draft were. If you're looking for that kind of instant analysis here, you won't get it. For me, all 32 NFL teams currently have a grade of "Incomplete"--you need at least a few years to see how players selected in the draft unfold.
That said, the Vikings definitely addressed most of the positions that they considered to be needs throughout the weekend. They ended up with an offensive lineman, three secondary players, two wide receivers, a tight end/fullback, a linebacker, a defensive lineman, and a kicker. They picked up some bruisers like Rhett Ellison and Audie Cole. They picked up some athletic speedsters like Josh Robinson and Jarius Wright. Nobody knows for sure how any of the new guys will work out, but the bottom line is that the Vikings have ten new bodies that can hopefully improve a team that definitely needs to get better.
To put a bow on our weekend coverage from Winter Park, we have highlights of Rick Spielman's final draft press conference as well as the conference calls for the last three players taken in the draft by the Vikings:
As we've done throughout the draft, we provided full audio of each event for your listening and learning pleasure.
2012 marked the first year that Rick Spielman had sole authority as General Manager over the Vikings draft. It's safe to say that he made quite a splash as the lone man in charge. When the dust had finally settled after seven rounds, ten draft picks, and four trades, Spielman talked with the media and discussed the third and final day of the draft.
The overlying theme of Saturday's draft picks for Spielman was finding tough, intelligent, versatile players. First he discussed the pair of Arkansas wide receivers taken in the fourth round, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs. After joking that the long-time teammates had "pretty much been together since birth":
[Wright] is a very explosive playmaker. I just happened to be at the Texas A&M game when he had his big game down in Dallas Stadium and he did put on a show. He's an extremely gifted athlete. He has great speed, and we're trying to increase our speed both on the offensive and defensive side. We feel that he has the ability to come in and potentially be a punt returner.
Greg Childs had an outstanding year. The year before he blew out his patella tendon. He's a big receiver, he can go up and get the ball in the red zone. If you watched him in 2010 in the Auburn game, some of the other big games he played in, the Alabama game, we felt we got great value with him there.
Spielman added that Childs looks 100% healthy after his injury.
One of the surprise moves Spielman made was taking Blair Walsh in the 6th round when the Vikings have had Ryan Longwell kicking since 2006.
[Walsh] was just one of those players on our board where we thought he could come in and compete.
I know watching him at the combine, he was the best kickoff guy as far as averaging almost 4.5 hang time and he had a lot of touchbacks. I know during the combine he's been very successful from plus-50 so we know he does have the leg strength.
What we were looking at was just value and football players regardless of position and felt where he was a good value where we got him.
Another big surprise that Spielman made was drafting Rhett Ellison in the fourth round when most experts didn't have him projected that high. Even Ellison himself didn't fully expect to get drafted at all, but Spielman ensured us that that was Ellison being his usual modest self and that he "knew for a fact" that Ellison was getting drafted at that range in the draft.
If you notice as we're going down through that third day, all these guys are big time special teams players. Rhett is a great character guy, extremely bright, can play multiple positions. We lost Shank [Visanthe Shiancoe] and we lost [Jim] Kleinsasser so we're trying to create as much competition at that third tight end spot as possible.
Passion for the game was a big factor in Saturday's picks, and Spielman feels that 5th round pick Robert Blanton has it:
That guy loves the game. If you can get smart, intelligent players that are good football players that love the game as much as these guys do, it gives you an opportunity and a chance.
Blanton might play either safety or cornerback with the Vikings, and Spielman appreciated the versatility that he brought. Versatility is what made seventh rounder Trevor Guyton appealing:
Guyton can play three-technique [defensive tackle]. He can also play left defensive end. It gives you another rotation guy. [Cal] used him inside as a nickel rusher, so he's been used over the nose as a nickel rusher. So the more guys that we can bring in here that have versatility to play multiple positions, the more value they have for us.
Unfortunately, not all the Vikings news today was about the draft. Current Vikings running back Caleb King was arrested and charged with third-degree assault. The guy he allegedly assaulted is in pretty bad shape. Spielman acknowledged that he had heard about King's arrest, but he wouldn't comment on the situation until he and the team had gathered all the facts about it.
Listen below for Spielman's entire press conference.
Rick Spielman Draft Wrap Press Conference
Ryan Longwell has been a mainstay for the Vikings since 2006. But he is also 37 years old and had a subpar season in 2011. The fact that the Vikings drafted Blair Walsh in the sixth round may have surprised some fans, but it didn't really surprise Walsh.
No it didn't surprise me. Coach Priefer [Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer] had come in and worked me out, and I played under his dada at the East-West Game. I knew he was very interested, and he's a great coach and I'm happy to be playing underneath him.
Walsh has a big leg. His career long in college was 56 yards and he hit 10 field goals of 50 yards or longer in his career. However, he struggled at times with his accuracy last year, hitting only 21 of 35 attempts. Walsh acknowledged that while he did have a rough patch, he finished strong and learned from it:
My senior year didn't go the way I wanted it to. I ended up missing early on in the season, I missed a couple kicks and I started pressing a little bit. I'm my own worst critic. I jsut want to be there for the team, and help the team out. I feel like I got it back on track in the middle and end of the season. I learned from it, and I think I'm a better man and kicker for it.
If Walsh can improve his accuracy and show off his big leg, he just might give Longwell a run for the kicker job.
Blair Walsh Conference Call
Throughout the weekend, Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman kept on saying on how they wanted to add depth at linebacker in the draft. It took them a while, but they finally did so by selecting Audie Cole with the 210th overall pick. Cole is listed as an inside linebacker, but he played all over at North Carolina State. He started 38 of 51 games for the Wolfpack--25 at strong-side outside linebacker and 13 at middle linebacker. Cole finished his career with 276 tackles, 14 sacks, and 32 tackles for loss.
Cole wasn't sure where he was going to go in the draft--he had heard everything from second round to undrafted free agent. Therefore, he was a little surprised when the Vikings finally did give him a call. He embraced moving from outside to middle linebacker at NCSU because he enjoyed the responsibility, but he's ready to play wherever he's needed at the next level.
Finally, Cole said that he has a lot of experience playing special teams. During his first three years, he played on nearly every special teams unit, so he feels that he's prepared for it in the NFL.
Audie Cole Conference Call
Trevor Guyton won't get much publicity for being a seventh round pick, but he's sort of used to it by now. He spent his first three seasons at Cal in a supporting role, backing up the likes of future first-round picks Tyson Alualu and Cameron Jordan. But Guyton really came into his own his senior season, starting all 13 games while recording 46 tackles and 5.5 sacks.
While Guyton wasn't sure if his name was going to be called on Saturday, he's sure that he likes the team that picked him. He's a hunter and has been on a fishing trip in MInnesota in the past so he thinks Minneapolis will be a good fit.
Guyton played all over the defensive line for the Golden Bears, but his size (6'2" 285) makes him undersized compared to your average NFL interior lineman. Guyton will be happy with wherever he ends up, as long as it's on the field.
I just feel comfortable on the field so whatever I have to do to get on the field and play, that's where I'm going to feel comfortable. I can make an impact on a team wherever they want me at. I honestly don't have a certain position I feel like I excel better at so I'll let the coaches decide that and I'll just be out there playing football.
Trevor Guyton Conference Call
Ted and I would like to extend a very sincere thank you to the Vikings organization for allowing to the draft from the front lines all weekend. Hopefully you guys enjoyed our three days of coverage from Winter Park, and hopefully we'll be able to do more of it in the future.