EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) When Toby Gerhart left for Jacksonville in free agency, the Minnesota Vikings were in the market for a new backup to Adrian Peterson.
They think they found their man in the third round in do-everything Jerick McKinnon from Georgia Southern.
The Vikings chose McKinnon with the 96th overall pick on Friday night and also added Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton earlier in the round at No. 72.
McKinnon played quarterback and running back in Georgia Southern’s triple-option offense and also played some defensive back as well and wowed Vikings GM Rick Spielman at a pre-draft workout in which he performed drills for running back, defensive back and return man in what Spielman called ”the most interesting workout I’ve ever seen.”
”He’s elusive, he has great speed in the open field,” Spielman said. ”He kind of gives us that dynamic third-down type back that will give us a little spark when he comes in.”
Crichton had 22 1/2 sacks in 38 career games for the Beavers and gives the Vikings another pass rusher in the pass-happy NFC North.
”That was my thing,” Crichton said. ”I love to get after the quarterback.”
The Vikings chose UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr with the ninth pick and Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater with the 32nd pick in the first round on Thursday.
They addressed needs all over the roster in the first two days of the draft, including McKinnon, who could fill the void created when Peterson’s backup, Toby Gerhart, went to Jacksonville in free agency. McKinnon rushed for 1,050 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. He racked up 125 yards and a touchdown on just nine carries in Georgia Southern’s victory over Florida last season and said he can’t wait to learn from Peterson.
”Just the way he plays the game, with passion, with physicality, he’s one of the best in the game,” McKinnon said. ”I think he’s the best in the game, as a matter of fact. It’s definitely a dream come true to be able to come in and watch him and learn from a guy like that.”
The Vikings did not have a choice in the second round after sending the 40th overall selection and a fourth-round pick to the Seattle Seahawks to back into the first round on Thursday night for Bridgewater. Spielman made calls to see what it would take to move up from his two spots in the third round, but wasn’t able to swing a deal.
So the Vikings grabbed Crichton first as they look to fill the void left by the departures of veterans Jared Allen and Kevin Williams.
With defensive-minded head coach Mike Zimmer determined to upgrade the league’s 31st-ranked defense, the Vikings grabbed pass-rush specialist Barr in the first round and then Crichton, who is described as a relentless end that fits perfectly in a 4-3 defensive scheme.
”I can watch tape all day on this guy,” Spielman said. ”His motor is non-stop. He’s constantly moving to the ball, very instinctual.”
Crichton left Oregon State after his junior season, a decision motivated by financial concerns for his family back home in Tacoma, Wash. His grandfather’s recent passing put greater stress on the family and so Crichton headed for the NFL to try to ease the burden.
”It was just crazy right now, full of emotions,” Crichton said. ”My mom and dad are crying right now. I’m a little teary-eyed myself. It was just full of emotions, a lot of joy, too. This was a big step for me. I just can’t wait. I can’t wait to be in Minnesota right now.”
He comes to a Vikings defense that is loading up on the defensive line in a division where they see Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford twice every season. They moved on from the aging Allen and Williams, who anchored the front four together for the previous six seasons.
Minnesota gave Everson Griffen $20 million guaranteed to be a featured pass rusher, signed veteran Brian Robison to an extension and signed Giants tackle Linval Joseph and Bears free agent Corey Wootton in free agency to revamp the unit. They then added Barr, who had 23 1/2 sacks in two seasons on defense at UCLA, and Crichton, who set the school record for forced fumbles with 10.
”Me and Anthony, we’re just going to try to create havoc, create sacks,” Crichton said. ”Just do what we do.”
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