Our final transcript from Day 2 of the 2019 NFL Draft is from the press conference that Minnesota Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman conducted once Friday’s action concluded. He touched on quite a few topics, including the flurry of action that the Vikings had to close out Round 3 and the players that the purple have selected thus far.
Thank you to the Minnesota Vikings’ PR department for making this transcript available.
Pretty active tonight, I felt we really got some very good football players to help our football team. I know Jamaal [Stephenson] came down to talk to you about Irv Smith, Jr. and the type of H-back/tight end/fullback that can be another mismatch guy for our offense. We got very active moving back in the 3rd Round. There were a lot of players still on our board that we think can help our football team. We moved back, one of the areas we thought we needed to make sure we covered was at running back, and a different type since we lost Latavius Murray. Alexander Mattison is a big back that is very productive, can catch the ball very well out of the backfield. I know when we went to our meetings our scouts and our coaches felt very strongly about him and what he can bring to this team. Looking forward to getting him here. Tomorrow I think we have nine picks, a four, a five, four sixes and three sevens. Was that the final total? It should be a very active day tomorrow. By having all that we’re going to have a lot of draft picks and draft currency to pretty much move up and down any way we want to go. We can move up in the fourth, up in the fifth, down, so we’ll see how it all unfolds. But I know we do have a lot of good football players on our draft board and a lot of players that can come in and help our football team.
Q: How do you feel overall about your roster right now?
A: I think this definitely helped, especially on the offensive side. I think that was a big boost for our offense. I know we’re going to still add a lot of players that I think can come in and help this football team tomorrow, so we’ll just continue to do what we’re doing and continue to keep adding to this roster, get the best 90-man roster that we can put together. Let everybody come in and compete and we’ll go from there.
Q: Was Irv Smith Jr. a guy that you targeted heading into the draft? Did you think he’d be there at that spot?
A: Yeah, we were hoping, for sure. Holding our breath a little bit. We had a lot of activity when we were on the clock, but just like Garrett Bradbury, he [Smith] was just a player that we were not going to trade out of. He was too valuable to us for what he can bring to the offense.
Q: Does the selection of Smith change Kyle Rudolph’s status at all?
A: No, Kyle Rudolph is here. Two different styles, what Kyle does and what Irv can do. Just totally two different types of tight ends.
Q: What about Alexander Mattison is special to you?
A: I think his in-line vision. I know his ability to go forward on contact, a lot like Latavius did for us. I know his ability to catch the ball. I know his ability in pass protection, and I know we have to have multiple backs in this offense. We wanted something that was similar to a [Latavius] Murray type, and we felt that Alexander can definitely do that.
Q: Were you impressed by the workload Mattison received late in the season?
A: We watched all the tape on him, and it seems like the more carries he gets, the more work he gets, the more he gets lathered up. To have that type of one-two punch along with the current backs we also have, we’re going to have a pretty good stable of running backs.
Q: Is a contract extension potentially on the table for Kyle Rudolph?
A: You know I never talk business.
Q: Was addressing the offensive side of the ball the primary objective today or did it just break that way?
A: I think there were some defensive players there, but I also know we have some young guys that we took last year that we’re very excited to see in the progress that they made. We had a couple guys coming off injuries. I know Jalyn Holmes has had a tremendous offseason. I think he’s up to 300 pounds right now. We feel very confident about the guys we have. Since Ifeadi [Odenigbo] came back he’s totally changed his body in what he has done. We have a lot of guys that I think it’s going to be a very competitive roster on the defense. I think tomorrow we’ll be able to even add some more on the defensive side with what our board looks like right now.
Q: How is Coach Zimmer doing, with only offensive players being selected?
A: Coach Zimmer was actually very happy we got the offense going, but also every time we do trade back it’s irritating to him. But he knows we’re going to get some really good players tomorrow. He was ready to unplug the phones again, like he is every year.
Q: Does the high number of draftable players available this year make it easier to trade back?
A: Yeah with nine picks, like I said, this is a very deep draft class and a lot very good football players that are still on the board for Saturday. I think it was one of the more unique classes and there are guys that we already have targeted, that with all the currency we do have we’ll be able to move up and down, I think as we see fit – if we want to do that.
Q: What’s the strategy behind moving back?
A: As long as we have four or five options that we feel are equal in ability and can also fill a need, why not move back and get the currency? We did the one trade back-to-back and then I can’t remember who we traded with first before we did the Baltimore trade. The Jets. Teams guys and they want to come up and get their guy. Once Baltimore found out who the Jets took then they were willing to do that trade, but as long as I know we have options and feel very strongly about those players that can come in and help us and not lose out on a good football player. The first two rounds there was no way we would trade out of those slots. As we get deeper in this draft, with the depth of this draft class it gave us an opportunity. Now, would I have predicted we’d have nine picks tomorrow? No, but that’s the way it unfolded tonight.
Q: Did you feel like there were a bunch of running backs that were similar at the stage you drafted Mattison?
A: Yeah there’s some good running backs up there. There was kind of a running back run in the third round and there’s still some very good backs up there. We felt [Alexander] Mattison was just a unique back and a back that fit all our traits we were looking for, especially with the run game that we’re going to have and the workhorse that he can be.
Q: With Irv Smith Jr. being in the younger side, what’s his path of growth to becoming a mismatch player?
A: I know we spent a lot of time studying him. He was another one that I believed the last time we really had much communication with him was at the combine – knocked it out of the park. Great kid. We kind of let it go after that. I think when you watch the Alabama tape and see how you can utilize his skill set in many different ways to create mismatches. Because I think he can create mismatches with linebackers or if safeties get on him. At tight end, that type of tight end we haven’t had here and I know that’s a big part of Gary Kubiak’s offense and Kevin Stefanski’s offense right now. The other thing I thought was, don’t want to put him there yet, but he has a lot of [Jordan] Reed like traits in Washington and that’s why he was very appealing to us.
Q: Do you see Smith and Kyle Rudolph on the field at the same time?
A: Yeah. I don’t want to put what we’re going to do offensively. That’s more of a coaching thing.
Q: Are two tight end sets part of the offense that’s being put in?
A: I think what they want to do, I don’t know the stats but we were predominately three-wide, almost every stat. Don’t quote me on that but I think getting the athletes we have you can do a lot more different with types of personnel to create mismatches.
Q: With all the capital you do have, is there a point where you talk about capital for the following draft?
A: That’s always a possibility.
Q: Does age factor in to the evaluation of a player?
A: Not at all. In fact, when they’re that age they don’t have a lot of tread on their tire and we feel their upside is just tremendous going forward as well. We’ve had a lot of success – Brian O’Neill was that last year, Danielle Hunter when we drafted him. We’ve been pretty good at taking these types of guys that are young and putting them with our coaches and letting them develop their talent.
Q: With Mattison, was there any contact with him after the combine?
A: Not much. No. Once they check all the boxes and we’re good with them, we’re not going to tip our hand. The guys that we do bring in on a Top 30 there may be some things that we have questions on, whether it’s medical, whether it’s character, whether it’s intelligence. Some of them may be smoke screen. Some of them are late round guys that we try to recruit at college free agents so we utilize that Top 30 in a variety of ways.