EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson finally made their way to Minnesota on Friday morning, finishing a whirlwind NFL draft tour started at Radio City Music Hall in New York City the night before.
The trio — the newest Minnesota Vikings after being taken with the 23rd, 25th, and 29th selections — were picked up from the airport in a limousine. They were whisked to the Mall of America, where they witnessed the appreciation of Vikings fans before heading to the team’s facilities at Winter Park. Greeting them there were owners Mark and Zygi Wilf and the rest of the Vikings’ staff.
The excitement over Minnesota’s newest additions had an almost tangible feel around Winter Park.
“The energy was ecstatic,” said Floyd, the big defensive tackle who was the first of the Vikings’ picks. “Everyone was happy and greeting us with open arms, and we felt like we were part of the family as soon as we walked into this foundation; we’re just glad to be here.”
Adding three first-round draft picks to a playoff team is unusual. The Vikings had two first-round selections but couldn’t resist the chance to trade up to get Patterson with a third. Only 15 months ago, this team seemed old and tired and was finishing a 3-13 season that tied a franchise worst.
These days, running back Adrian Peterson is the league’s best player instead of coming off an ACL injury, new uniforms and a new stadium are on the way, and the team is even headed to London for game next season. Now the three first-round picks have many national pundits calling Minnesota the big winner of the draft, and things couldn’t be more positive in the NFL’s northernmost outpost.
“The energy is crazy,” Rhodes said. “There was one guy, we saw him twice (at the Mall of America) I think, he almost fell (over). It was kind of funny, but I could tell the fans here love Minnesota, they love the Vikings. I love it, I completely love it.”
Vikings GM Rick Spielman hasn’t stopped smiling since his first press conference Thursday night to talk about selecting Floyd and Rhodes. He was called away in the middle of the meeting when New England got interested in trading the pick used on Cunningham. Spielman joked that he almost pulled a hamstring in his sprint to the team’s draft room.
“That’s what makes this job very exciting,” Spielman said of the ebb and flow of emotion. He was so patient in the first round in letting value picks Floyd and Rhodes fall to the team’s original spots and then so aggressive in trading up.
When Minnesota finally convenes with the entire team for OTAs later this spring, Floyd, Rhodes and Patterson will blend in with the rest of the Vikings, who feature the likes of Pro Bowlers Peterson, Jared Allen, Chad Greenway, Kyle Rudolph, Jerome Felton, Matt Kalil and Blair Walsh.
For now, though, the rookies have the spotlight and have brought energy and enthusiasm to an organization that seems to be feeding on those two things. When the three players arrived at Winter Park, a staff meeting was just finishing up in which the team’s owners announced they were taking everyone on a trip to London this offseason.
“You could feel that energy and all that momentum,” Spielman said. “And I think from building off of last year’s energy and being able to accomplish what we’ve been able to accomplish so far, and then you’ve got the new uniforms and you’ve got the new stadium coming, there’s a lot of positive here in Minnesota; looking to continue to build on that.”