Vikings turn to players prized for upside on draft’s second day
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings had to wait a while before selecting anyone on Day 2 of the NFL Draft on Friday.
When Minnesota finally made two third-round picks, it focused on players they might have to wait on as well.
The Vikings were left without a second-round selection on Friday after trading with the Seattle Seahawks to get back into the first round in order to pick Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. So, Minnesota was left to wait out the second round before picking Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton and Georgia Southern running back Jerick McKinnon in the third round.
If the Vikings stick to their plan, Bridgewater — who was formally introduced to the Twin Cities in town on Friday along with No. 9 overall pick Anthony Barr — won’t have a 2014 impact, either.
Sticking with his "best player available" philosophy, general manager Rick Spielman added Crichton, who could end up as a situational pass rusher or depth defensive lineman for Minnesota next year, after the team added Linval Joseph in free agency and re-signed Everson Griffen to go with Brian Robison and Sharrif Floyd along the defensive line.
Crichton (6-foot-2, 273 pounds) has the ability to play both ends and also move inside the line for the Vikings.
"He is one of those guys as you sit there and watch tape, and you’re like, ‘I can watch tape all day on this guy’ by the way that they play, and that describes Scott," Spielman said. "His motor is nonstop. He’s constantly moving to the ball, very instinctual. He can hold the point when he has to play in a base end. He’s not the elite speed-rusher off the edge, but he has very good hands, very good quickness and can play multiple positions up front."
Crichton entered the draft as a junior after amassing 22.5 sacks and 51 tackles for loss while starting 38 games the past three seasons. Crichton had met with the Vikings at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, the only connection he had with the team. So, Crichton, who felt he might have been a second-round pick, wasn’t sure about the possibility of landing in Minnesota.
"I’m just grateful for this opportunity," Crichton said. "I’ll show what I can do on the field and show teams they should have picked me earlier."
One area Crichton can make opponents pay for passing him is by stripping the football. He had 10 forced fumbles in his three years, with four fumble recoveries.
"Yeah, he is not very nice on the field, which you kind of like to see," Spielman said. "He’s always stripping the ball, scratching, fighting. He gives you everything he has every play."
Curiously, McKinnon gave NFL teams everything he had during a busy evaluation period.
A former prep cornerback, McKinnon played quarterback his first three seasons at Georgia Southern and even played defensive back. He switched to running back last season and had 1,050 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns.
But teams were still interested in seeing the total package with McKinnon, who worked out at running back, returner and defensive back at his Pro Day.
"He had the maybe most interesting workout I’ve ever seen in the spring," Spielman said, later adding: "I’d say the NFL teams got their money’s worth . . . His must have been the longest Pro Day I’ve ever seen for the amount of time they spent with him on the field and he didn’t blink an eye. He just kept going."
McKinnon’s chances to see the field as a rookie will come as a third-down running back with Adrian Peterson and Matt Asiata handling early downs. Toby Gerhart signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency, and the Vikings need to find a replacement for Gerhart on third downs.
"(Offensive coordinator Norv Turner) mentioned (Brian) Mitchell who he had in Washington when you’re trying to make some comparisons," Spielman said. "Norv has always kind of had that burst, sero-to-60 type back. Not that he’s Darren Sproles but those type of guys that can come in and do some things electric with the ball in their hands when they come in in certain situations."
McKinnon only caught three passes last season for Georgia Southern, but showed the capability to catch the ball at the Senior Bowl and the combine, with Spielman calling McKinnon a "natural hands-catcher."
"Very comfortable," McKinnon said of catching the ball. "We don’t throw the ball a lot down there at Georgia Southern. But I think catching the ball is an asset that I have."
Spielman said the team did try to make other moves on Friday but "just didn’t have a deal that we felt comfortable with." Minnesota has four picks on Saturday. It gave up its fourth-round pick to acquire Bridgewater, but has two picks in the fifth round and one each in the sixth and seventh.
The Vikings are still looking to add at defensive back as well, after skipping the position the first two days.
"Yeah, that will come, and you have to also remember you are not done when the draft’s done," Spielman said. "There’s going to be some things that happen through the rest of the offseason. I know we don’t play until September. So there could be a lot of things as we go through, and I know where we feel where some of our corners are right now that can definitely may be addressed tomorrow or at some point after the draft, as well."
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