If you haven't checked out the first press conference from Rick Spielman and Leslie Frazier along with the conference call with Matt Kalil, check it out here.
UNDERSTATEMENT ALERT: The Vikings had a very busy first evening of the 2012 NFL Draft. Rick Spielman and the rest of the front office wheeled and dealed their way into two first round picks, nabbing tackle Matt Kalil with the #4 pick and safety Harrison Smith with the #29 pick.
Although the Vikings gave up their 35th and 98th overall picks to trade back into the first round for Smith, Minnesota still has ten draft picks remaining for the last two days of the draft thanks to
swindling trading with Cleveland at the beginning of the first round. As of right now, they're scheduled for a third rounder today and nine more picks on Saturday, including 3 fourth rounders, 2 fifth rounders, a sixth rounder, and 3 seventh rounders. All but two of those picks are tradeable--their last two selections in the fourth round are compensatory so they're not eligible to be swapped.
While there's a very large possibility of the Vikings making more moves on Friday and Saturday, let's take some time to reflect on how the Vikings arrived at their second selection of the draft--Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith. Since Ted and I are moonlighting as legitimate members of the Twin Cities media this weekend and covering the draft live at Winter Park, we thought we'd give you both Rick Spielman's press conference and Harrison Smith's media conference call in their entirety.
Join us for some highlights of the conversations and the full audio after the jump.
Spielman said that Smith caught the eye of the Vikings' staff at the Senior Bowl:
"We got to know Harrison down at the Senior Bowl...he's an extremely talented safety who has very good range and very good size."
The numbers back up Spielman's claim. Smith is just under 6'2" and weighs in at 213 pounds so his size should translate well to the pros. He also runs a 4.58 40-yard dash.
While cornerback is also a pressing need for the Vikings, Spielman explained the thought process behind choosing a safety at the end of the first round:
"The depth at safety in this draft was very slim. We wanted to make sure we started in the secondary and tried to improve that area. We feel very strongly that Harrison will definitely do that."
Of course if the Vikings didn't get the extra picks from trading with Cleveland earlier in the first round, there's a good chance that they wouldn't have traded back into the end of the round to get Smith.
That trade with Cleveland kind of set the tone in this draft. That was a huge, huge thing to get done right before the draft started.
Smith didn't play safety exclusively at Notre Dame--before moving to the secondary full-time, he played 15 games at linebacker for the Fighting Irish. After Spielman joked that the team was "almost at their quota of Notre Dame players," he explained how he believes Smith's versatility will help him in the Vikings system.
"The one thing with our safeties is that they have to be interchangeable. They have to be able to play both strong [safety] and free [safety]. He's very effective in the box. When you look at him, you see that he does have range when you look at the Michigan State game last year and some of the big plays he made in that game."
"He's a hitter, and he enjoys playing the game of football. You get that sense when you're watching him on tape."
"I think he can do both [defend the pass and run]. That's what's appealing. I know he's very aggressive in run support, a very smart football player and smart with his angles. He's a big safety that plays fast, but I also know how smart he is in coverage."
While Spielman knows he only has one pick on Friday, he also hinted that the Vikings could still be busy with more moves with all the late picks they currently hold.
After Spielman's press conference wrapped up, the media got to chat with Smith himself via conference call for a few minutes. Although the Vikings didn't have any contact with him after the Senior Bowl, Smith said he enjoyed being coached by the Vikings staff there. Smith explained that he played a variety of coverage during his tenure with the Irish:
I ended up coming down in the box covering tight ends and also playing against the deep pass in the middle of the field. It was really both the strong safety and free safety type roles.
Minnesota's system shouldn't be too much of a change from what Smith played in college--he played a lot of Cover 2 and Quarters at Notre Dame. While Smith was known for making big plays, he also acknowledged that there could have been more. When asked about why his interception numbers dropped off his senior year, he was very honest about it: "I dropped a couple balls that I should have caught."
The leadership factor also played a role in the Vikings selecting Smith. He was a two-year captain in South Bend and understands the importance of being a team leader:
The sense of pride that I have for the school, for the guys I played with, for the guys that coached me, it means a lot to me. It's a great honor for the players to have that much confidence in me to vote me as captain.
You can listen to the press conference and conference call below in their entirety. Stay tuned for more as Draft Day Two develops!
Rick Spielman - Smith Press Conference
Harrison Smith Conference Call